By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio –A basketball coach never wants to be the center of attention going into a game, but on Friday when Capital University Men's Basketball takes the court that may be the case. The Crusaders will be traveling to the University of Dayton to take on the Flyers in their first exhibition game of the 2018-19 season in an arena Capital Head Coach Damon Goodwin first stepped foot in more than three decades ago.
From 1982-86, Goodwin represented the Flyers on the court, finishing with 1,191 career points and a .538 career field goal percentage. Over the four-year span Goodwin played in 119 consecutive games, tied for the ninth-longest consecutive games played streak in program history. He also set the program record for highest free throw percentage in a season at .931 when he missed just seven of his 102 attempts from the line in 1985-86. Goodwin holds the third-highest career free throw percentage in program history at .860.
In 2010, the former forward was inducted into the Dayton Athletics Hall of Fame and became the 58th men's basketball player to receive that honor. On his way to reaching the 1,000 career points plateau, Goodwin increased his scoring average every year at Dayton and was second on the team in points per game his senior season with a career-high 14.3. He also averaged 3.9 rebounds and a career-best 3.9 assists that season.
In addition to the individual successes, Goodwin's playing career coincided with one of the best four-year stretches in school history. The Flyers compiled a 75-44 overall record with Goodwin on the roster, including a 3-2 record in two NCAA Tournament appearances. Both years Dayton made the national tournament the Flyers bowed out to the eventual national champions; Georgetown University in 1984 and Villanova University in 1985. The loss to the Hoyas in '84 came in the Elite Eight.
"Maybe the best game of my career was an NCAA Tournament game at home," Goodwin said. "We played Villanova when they won the national championship and they beat us by two at home. I remember the crowd and the electricity and all of that. That's one that stuck out."
The Wildcats beat the Flyers 51-49 in that game. Goodwin played 38 minutes and scored 16 points while grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out two assists.
Following his playing career, Goodwin was taken in the seventh round of the 1986 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns with the 147th overall pick. After spending the summer with Phoenix, Goodwin returned to become a graduate assistant coach at UD. When he became the head coach at Fairborn High School and even when he was an assistant at Wittenberg University, Goodwin and his wife, Danielle, a UD alum herself, lived in Dayton. Goodwin's daughter, Addison, also attended UD. Goodwin makes his way back to Dayton several times a year to see family, friends and former teammates and even catches a game as a fan once every couple years.
"I've never really lost contact with the campus," Goodwin said. "That's the unique thing about Dayton. There are a lot of people that are still there from my time there. It's just a cool place."
This is the third time the Crusaders and Dayton have played an exhibition game but the first time one of those people from Goodwin's playing days will be standing just a few feet away. Anthony Grant, a former teammate of Goodwin's, became the Flyers' head coach before last season and the two have remained friends in the 30-plus years since they shared the court as undergrads under legendary UD coach Don Donoher.
"It's going to be cool to coach against him. I've never coached against him but I kind of know what he does from watching him. It's going to be cool," said Goodwin.
"I consider Damon a good friend and he obviously is a former teammate," Grant said. "Damon is someone I always respected and looked up to for the way he carried himself on and off the floor and the way he approached practice and games. Great competitor. Heck of a player. Heck of a teammate. I was only a year behind him in school but he was someone I considered one of our leaders and a guy that I looked up to."
The friendship and mutual respect that Goodwin and Grant have for each other as coaches eventually led to Friday's exhibition. When the Dayton job opened last year, Goodwin said that he immediately contacted Grant and told him he had to apply for the position. The two talked throughout the entire process and when Grant landed the gig, Goodwin reached out to see if they could schedule an exhibition and both wanted to make it happen.
Adding to the excitement is that fact that the University of Dayton Arena just completed the second phase of a three-part, $72 million renovation that neither coach has had the opportunity to experience yet. Goodwin attended a game last year after the first phase was completed and Grant and his team have been preparing for the season on their practice court on campus.
A capacity crowd of 13,455 people will be on hand when Dayton's nationally-recognized pep band welcomes the players to the floor and the vast majority of those fans will be seeing the renovations for the first time. Even if the arena was exactly the same as it was when Goodwin and Grant played in the '80s, it is a near certainty that the Flyer faithful would pack the place.
"People in Columbus don't quite understand," said Goodwin. "It's not the same as Ohio State Football in Columbus but to Dayton people, [basketball has] the same atmosphere. Because there is no big-time college football, there is no pro team, it's the thing to do. In the city of Dayton you follow Dayton Basketball."
The support from the community has made Dayton one of the best and most respected college basketball programs and experiences in the country and is why the NCAA holds the first four games of the NCAA Tournament in UD Arena every year. Dayton has hosted more NCAA Tournament games than any arena in the country. Combine that with the fact that since the arena opened in 1969 the worst national attendance ranking for the Flyers has been 35th and there is no argument that Dayton is home to one of the most hallowed grounds in college basketball.
The gravity of playing at Dayton is not lost on Capital's players, especially Dayton natives Ryan Rose and Joey Weingartner. Weingartner grew up going to Dayton games and his grandparents have been season ticket holders for more than four decades.
"It's really fun for me and exciting because it's my hometown," Weingartner, a senior guard, said. "It shows what Coach thinks of us and it's a great chance for us to go out and compete and play the game that we love."
The Crusaders don't have the chance to play in front of more than 10,000 people often and Goodwin hopes they take advantage of the opportunity to go out and challenge a Division I team. Goodwin says that if they can compete in that environment against the players Dayton has, there should be no reason they cannot handle every team on their regular season schedule. At the end of the 40 minutes though, Goodwin hopes that the team can appreciate what it means to step on that floor the way he did more than 30 years ago.
"It's a great place to play," Goodwin reminisced. "It truly is a great place to play."