Bob McKillop just wouldn't have handled it well. Or maybe, his presence would have changed everything. We'll never know.
In the spring of 1972, following a stellar college basketball career at East Carolina and Hofstra, the 6-foot-1 guard defied the odds and signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. On the cusp of realizing his dream of playing in the NBA, McKillop never made it out of training camp. It might have been a blessing.
"I was cut from one of the worst teams in NBA history," McKillop has long joked about the 1972-73 Sixers team that finished 9-73, four-thousandths of a percentage point off the most fruitless season of all time.
Plan B was coaching, which McKillop took up that fall at Holy Trinity High School on New York's Long Island. In six years, he went 86-25. After spending the 1978-79 season as an assistant in the college ranks, McKillop felt a different high school head-coaching opportunity was a better fit than his job at Davidson College. So back to New York he went to take over at Long Island Lutheran High School, where he promptly turned LuHi into a Goliath, winning five New York state titles in 10 years.
A return to Davidson in 1989 followed, this time as the man tasked with rebuilding the Wildcats program, and with the exception of some lean years early on, all McKillop has done, once again, is win.
A total of 622 times, to be exact, following Tuesday's dramatic victory at VCU. It was the Cats' 14th consecutive win, tied with Auburn for the longest active streak in Division I. At 71 years old, McKillop is in his 33rd season at Davidson, the fourth-longest-tenured active coach at one school in Division I behind only Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Oakland's Greg Kampe. McKillop is 18th on the all-time win list among active Division I coaches and barring any postponements will coach in his 1,000th game on Jan. 29 against visiting La Salle, on the court that bears his name.
Of course McKillop's most famous ex-pupil is Steph Curry.
Liberty's Ritchie McKay coached Steph's brother, Seth Curry, for one season, and now McKay has himself another undersized scoring machine with unlimited range.
"He's not Steph," McKay said, "but he does for our team what Steph does for his."
He is Darius McGhee, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, who set a school record, an Atlantic Sun record and a Division I individual high this season with a 48-point explosion in Saturday's road win over FGCU.
"Just pursuant. The entire game," McGhee said of his relentless effort. "It's great when you feel like you're making the correct reads and seeing the ball go in, but it's even better when we're all in sync."
The reigning ASUN player of the year pumped in 37 of his 48 points after halftime, including a personal 13-0 run to open the second half, turning a 40-31 deficit into a 44-40 lead. After Liberty fell behind again 52-51 midway through the second half, McGhee scored eight consecutive points in less than two minutes to give the Flames a lead they would never relinquish.
"Some of the shots he made, I was just like, 'Wow,'" said McKay, who has been on the college sidelines for nearly 35 years. "I'm coaching the game and literally enjoying watching him. I found myself amazed."
McGhee reluctantly admits he had four 50-point games in high school but doesn't exactly remember his career high: "It may be 54 or 57. I'm not one of those guys who gets caught up in the numbers."
As of Thursday, McGhee is fourth in Division I in scoring at 23.0 points per game and is the only Division I player this season with multiple 40-point games. (McGhee netted 41 points against Stanford in Honolulu in December.)
"What kind of scorer is he?" McKay said. "Any kind he wants to be."
Other mid-major mastery:
Teddy Allen matched a career high with 41 points on Saturday in New Mexico State's 77-63 win over Abilene Christian. "Teddy Buckets" scored 41 as a Nebraska Cornhusker last season, becoming just the third player this century with 40-point games at two different schools (Curtis Cobb III and Joe Knight).
Kennesaw State's 77-49 win at Stetson on Saturday snapped the Owls' 49-game road losing streak, longest in Division I. KSU hadn't won a road game since Feb. 15, 2018.
Missouri State standout Isiaih Mosley made it three straight games with 30-plus points when he went for 32 in a road win on Saturday versus Valparaiso. Mosley is the first Missouri Valley Conference player to do so in more than 25 years.
For the first time in 689 days, McNeese played a game inside the Legacy Center, after the Cowboys' home arena was damaged by Hurricane Laura in 2020. Junior guard Zach Scott posted a career-high 24 points, including an unforgettable, game-winning 3 with 0.4 seconds, in a 78-75 decision over Houston Baptist.
South Dakota State sophomore Baylor Scheierman remains the only Division I player to lead his conference (Summit League) in both rebounding (8.8 RPG) and assists (4.1 APG).
A citation is in order for VMI senior center Jake Stephens, who followed up a career-high 34-point effort in a Thursday loss at Mercer with a 21-rebound performance on Saturday in a win over The Citadel.
File the same paperwork for Air Force freshman Ethan Taylor, who went for 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on Saturday in a loss to Nevada for the first triple-double in Academy history.
KC's Mid-Major Top 10 for this week:
1. Loyola Chicago Ramblers (Missouri Valley)
Last week: 1
For the third consecutive week, the Ramblers occupy the top spot following road wins over Indiana State and Evansville, and that other poll could no longer ignore the elephant in the room. Loyola cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time all season, coming in at No. 22. In doing so, coach Drew Valentine became the youngest head coach (30) to lead his team into the AP poll since Cal's Todd Bozeman (29) in November 1993. (Having Jason Kidd helped.) You have no one to blame but yourself if you miss Saturday's home showdown with Missouri State.
Next up: vs. Missouri State (Saturday)
2. Davidson Wildcats (Atlantic 10)
Last week: 4
Friday's battle with Richmond inside the Robins Center was a gift from the mid-major gods. Michael Jones was unconscious, connecting on 8 of 9 3s, including the game winner with 3 seconds to play in an electrifying 87-84 decision. The Wildcats chased that with a stirring, come-from-behind win on Tuesday at VCU, holding the Rams to two points over the final 5:23. Davidson is now 15-2 and 5-0 in Atlantic 10 play and off to its best start since the 1969-70 season.
Next up: at Fordham (Saturday)
3. BYU Cougars (WCC)
Last week: 2
There's no sugarcoating what happened to the Cougars on Thursday in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga happened. The new AP No. 1 team shot 69%, made 11 3s, got 30 points from national player of the year candidate Drew Timme and hung 110 on BYU in a 26-point win. Yikes. But 48 hours later, Mark Pope's squad got back inside the octagon and beat last week's No. 6-ranked team, San Francisco, 71-69 in the Dons' gym. Talk about a good chin. After a few days of raw steak on the eyes to reduce swelling, BYU returns to action Thursday against middleweight contender San Diego.
Next up: vs. San Diego (Thursday)
4. San Diego State Aztecs (Mountain West)
Last week: 3
The Committee lost sleep over this move. Dropping a team two spots after it didn't play (through no fault of its own) was excruciating but warranted. Tuesday's run with UNLV was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Aztecs' program, giving coach Brian Dutcher's team just two games since the calendar flipped to 2022. That said, it's about to get real. SDSU is home to our No. 9 team Boise State this weekend, Monday is the rescheduled game with UNLV and Wednesday is a road test at Utah State. Three games in five days. Saddle up.
Next up: vs. Boise State (Saturday)
5. Colorado State Rams (Mountain West)
Last week: 7
The Rams have stabilized after that 30-point loss at San Diego State. Coach Niko Medved's squad won by 36 at San Jose State on Saturday, then scratched out a hard-fought home win over New Mexico on Wednesday night. CSU still has just one loss, to go with a Quad 1 win (Saint Mary's) and a 3-0 record in Quad 2 games (Creighton, Mississippi State and Utah State.) David Roddy remains a top contender for Mountain West Player of the Year.
Next up: at Air Force (Saturday)
6. Saint Mary's Gaels (WCC)
Last week: 8
The Gaels got back on the horse following a clunker on Saturday at BYU, with a 77-62 win on Thursday at Pepperdine. Coach Randy Bennett's team might lack sex appeal, but the Gaels sure have a great personality. Three of SMC's four losses have come at the hands of teams ranked in this very Top 10 (Colorado State, San Diego State and BYU), and the other was to Wisconsin. Wins over Notre Dame, Oregon, Utah State and Missouri State bolster this résumé.
Next up: vs. Santa Clara (Thursday)
7. Murray State Racers (Ohio Valley)
Last week: Unranked
Former Racer Ja Morant has taken home two of the past three NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors, but there's no recognition on par with a spot in KC's Mid-Major Top 10. Coach Matt McMahon's team sandwiched dominant victories over Tennessee State (Thursday) and Eastern Illinois (Monday) around an eye-opening 22-point road win over our No. 5-ranked Belmont Bruins on Saturday. Justice Hill erupted for a career-high 36 points in Belmont game, establishing an OVC season high in the process.
Next up: vs. UT Martin (Saturday)
8. UAB Blazers (Conference USA)
Last week: Unranked
There's simply no more ignoring the season the Blazers are having. Jordan Walker went for 20 points in an 84-56 thumping of FIU then established a career high with 27 points in an 11-point victory over Florida Atlantic. Coach Andy Kennedy's team has two Quadrant 1 wins (at Saint Louis and at North Texas), and if not for a puzzling road loss versus Rice, it might be ranked even higher. Missing Saturday's visit to Louisiana Tech will be seen as an affront to The Committee and an offense to your own self-dignity.
Next up: at Louisiana Tech (Saturday)
9. Boise State Broncos (Mountain West)
Last week: Unranked
Make it 10 straight W's for the Broncos, who knocked off New Mexico and Air Force this past week. It's now the second-longest win streak in program history, and only Davidson and Auburn have longer active win streaks in Division I. Coach Leon Rice's squad ranks 22nd nationally in defensive efficiency and has held 10 teams to under 60 points. But beware of the road ahead. Boise State faces Utah State, San Diego State, Wyoming and Fresno State over the next nine days.
Next up: at San Diego State (Saturday)
10. Ohio Bobcats (MAC)
Last week: 10
Saturday's run at Central Michigan was postponed, so the Bobcats' lone game of the week was Tuesday at Miami (Ohio), and they did not disappoint. Ben Vander Plas posted a season-high 23 points and helped Ohio extend its win streak to nine games in an 86-63 decision in Round 1 of the "Battle of the Bricks." Friday's clash with Toledo might be the biggest game at the Convocation Center all season.
Next up: vs. Toledo (Friday)
Others receiving votes: San Francisco, Wyoming, Belmont, New Mexico State, Louisiana Tech
Dropped out: Belmont (No. 5), San Francisco (No. 6), St. Bonaventure (No. 9)
ESPN Stats & Information researcher Jared Berson contributed to this article