Sour ending won't spoil the legacies of Michigan basketball captains Zack Novak and Stu Douglass
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The moment was almost surreal.
Almost 10 minutes after their final games in a Michigan basketball uniform, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass emerged from the Wolverine locker room one last time — and neither one of them quite knew what to do.
Douglass, eyes puffy and red from the tears that welled inside them moments earlier, and Novak, wearing an emblematic bruise on his cheek and bump across the bridge of his nose, walked a lonely hallway inside the bowels of Bridgestone Arena to meet with the media one final time.
"I don't know," Douglass said in a somber tone. "I just didn't think this would happen today."
With that, Novak and Douglass were gone.
The two senior captains, who combined to play 270 games, start 197 games and log 8,264 minutes during a four-year period that saw the Michigan basketball program go from a Big Ten bottom-feeder to league champions, saw everything end far earlier than they had anticipated.
OHIO 65, MICHIGAN 60
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A day earlier, Douglass had said an early exit in this tournament would be "crushing," something that would probably linger on with him forever.
Novak wasn't as firm, but said the finality of everything was beginning to creep up on him, even though he tried his best to run away from it.
Friday, against a Mid-American Conference team, the end finally caught up with Novak and Douglass.
It was in no way what most believed their final moment at Michigan to be like, but there it was.
Unorthodox, odd and unexpected.
Just like their Wolverine careers.
"I guess it's the one blemish in our career, we never got to a Sweet 16," Novak said after a long pause. "But coming in, personally, I was the fat kid from Indiana.
"And (we were) able to make three NCAA Tournaments, win the Big Ten in a year when it was the best conference in the country and win a lot of games. You have to keep things in perspective."
Douglass and Novak explained a wide array of emotions following Friday's upset loss. Disbelief, anger, frustration, sadness.
But regret never was said.
Sure, they'll look back on their final game and wonder what might have been. Novak was 1-for-6 from the floor and almost fouled out. Douglass went 2-for-7 and missed a pair of crucial layups during two Wolverine comeback attempts.
It was far from their finest hour.
But for two guys that weren't really supposed to be here anyway, it wasn't all bad.
"They put this on their back and they turned it around," Michigan sophomore Jordan Morgan said of his senior leaders. "They didn't score every point, but they inspired all of us, motivated all of us, pushed all of us to be as good as we can."
Their stories, parallel in nature, are well-documented.
Two lightly recruited kids from Indiana, who couldn't sign a letter of intent to play at Michigan fast enough, spend four years proving people wrong and becoming unlikely heroes for a program that desperately needed new life.
For John Beilein, they were two last-minute recruits who ended up as once-in-a-lifetime leaders.
A story most couldn't make up if they tried.
"They've been the heart and soul of this team for four years," he said. "Through so many good times and certainly some low roads at times."
They didn't have many signature individual moments at Michigan. Neither averaged double figures during one single season. Both consistently played out of position and spent time deferring to others.
In the end, a freshman (Trey Burke) and a sophomore (Tim Hardaway Jr.) had fully passed them as go-to performers.
They never made it beyond the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and they even lost on senior night.
But to their teammates, none of that matters. They'll be impossible to forget, no matter the path Michigan heads down next.
"They're going to leave a great legacy here," Hardaway said.
To their peers, they were leaders; to their coach, they were sons; and to the program, they were indeed saviors.
Novak and Douglass never got their Cinderella ending.
But it doesn't matter. They spent most of their career living in a fairy tale anyway.
Though it ended bitterly, their time in Ann Arbor won't be remembered as such.
"I know I won't have any regrets," Novak said. "I went out there every time and played my ass off."
Zack Novak and Stu Douglass.
Unique, strange and unprecedented. Sometimes awkward and sometimes inspiring.
And forever unforgettable.
Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.
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Wally the Wolverine
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.
I hope this loss finally puts to bed the childish tactic of using the Ohio name as a punchline when making reference to osu. The coaches (Brady & John) are doing themselves and - more importantly - the players a great disservice in teaching them to blatantly disrespect an opponent. Frankly, I'm a little disappointed Dave B hasn't put a stop to it. Clearly, the matchup with ohio u was clearly one of karma. Our ill-fated attempt to be cute had the the unintended consequence of disrespecting another school and came back and bit us in the form of a national embarassment. Namecalling is better left to the fanbases.
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.
actually yes it will...
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.
The audacity; they did not "win" a Big Ten Championship, they merely backed into it with some uncanny luck and timely contributions from the B1G zebras!!! Reality is, with unbiased officiating, Sparty would have defeated Scum in AA this year, admit it, that game was handed to them by Balentine and crew. Enough said, the NIT would have been a better fit and another banner for Scum to hang.
Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.
Wolverines . . . over-rated from beginning to end; losing to a MAC team, let us not forget Appalachia who??? So what night this week is U of M playing ??? Just curious, I couldn't find them in the brackets anywhere??? From the B1G, I saw Indiana, and Wisky, Ohio State, and the SPARTANS!!!!!!
Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.
The refs handed to sparty in the bres so what is the diff Home cookin always happens in BB. That is why it will always take second to football! GO BLUE!!!!
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.
The late coach Jim Valvano said "in this tournament(NCAA) win or go home."That's the way it is. Uni M lost.So they sit home in Ann Arbor and watch. It happens to all teams but one in the NC 2A Tournament. You were one of 72 teams.Those odds aren't very good.
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.
i was pissed off but in the end zack novak and stu douglass have done so much for the program 2 years ago we were a below 500 team they took over as leaders last year to a team predicting last in the big ten and went to the round of 32 almost beating duke then to a 4 seed this year for a couple of ymca players theyve done alot i dont have a doubt we will be better next year but i will miss zack and stu
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.
The "Ohio" schtick has run its course. Irony is that Ohio just beat Michigan and not Ohio State.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.
Thanks Douglass and Novak.. ..brought a banner to Ann Arbor, Go Blue! v
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.
well recruiting hasn't been great, but the basketball program has taken a long time to get over the blemish of the really bad violations that Freiders and Fishers classes had given to the programs. His recruiting for the next class has looked pretty darned good though. And their record keeps improving every year. As far as the fact that we should never have lost to the MAC...maybe so...but what are they saying to the coaches of Missouri and Duke as they lost to Norfolk State and Lehigh??? My guess is that coach K is gonna get a pass. This is what the NCAA tourney is all about. There always are big upsets!
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.
you're sort of taking the easy way out aren't you? Coach K probably will and should get a pass.His record speaks for itself.If Beeline reaches these heights he'll get a pass to or at least should.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.
It is ashamed that Beilien did not recruit more talent to go with these guys. The fact is the talent Beilien has brought in in his first several years has been MAC level. RR and JB have never understood what makes Michigan the premier university in the country and a destination desired. Hoke gets it and therefore is able to sell it. That is why he has landed great recruits while JB and RR have not. JB is improving but he has been given a country mile leash in getting there. Michigan should be embarassed by this loss. No way should Michigan lose to a MAC school. That is why Boreseth should also be gone!
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.
RR is but an ill gotten memory.Thank goodness let sleeping dog lie. Bee Loser is not a recruiter and it shows. Maybe it's time for him to exit.
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.
How exactly did you expect him to get elite talent when Michigan had just gone through a ncaa scandal and haven't been to a ncaa tournament in 10 plus years add on to the fact that Michigan had worse facilities then most mac teams. As soon as Dave Brandon came and decided that basketball was serious Michigan was good.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.
two seniors that is...not seasons
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.
As I watched the season come to an abrupt end. I was quite disappointed. Then I thought of the two seasons who played their hearts and and to theire maximun potential for these last four years and how they must have felt to have it end like this. To you guys I totally applaud you for your inspiring careers. As always though with the exception of the classy comment from one classy MSU fan there are always the other negative comments from the others that will always be a blemish on their respective universities. You should be proud. Thanks Zack and Stu!
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.
BaHaaaaHaaaaa,. Over-rated Michigan! Go STATE!!!!!
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.
Really? You can't just congratulate them after reading a feel-good article? Therein lies the difference in class between MSU and Michigan, and why I cannot stand their fanbase.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.
The title of this article sums it up the best. I feel sorry for the seniors but the team really crash landed at the end of the season. They almost blew a 19 point lead at Penn State at the end of the regular season (I'll take the win). They had to pull one out of fire against Minnesota in the Big 10 tournament then as tired as they were, blown out by the buckeyes and finally blew a chance to win against the Bobcats. Let's move on.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.
"I know I won't have any regrets," Novak said. "I went out there every time and played my ass off." And that's all you can ask of them (or anyone). And for that, I applaud them. Fortunately, in the end, it's just a game.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.
How do these 2 have a legacy?? They SHARED ONE Big Ten Title. They never made it past the 1st weekend of the NCAA tourney and never won the Big Ten tournament. The fact is that without Morris or Burke, they never did anything worth remembering.
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 3:23 a.m.
Not going to answer your question, but it is worth pointing out that one of the more obvious facts here is that you really don't know what you're talking about. You do know you don't actually have to put every thought you have into your online legacy, don't you?
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.
Michigan was horrible and now they're not. Just because they aren't at the level of the elite national teams yet doesn't mean they didn't accomplish anything.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.
As an MSU alum and fan I must admit I have great respect for the pure shooting Zack Novak. I said to my son many times this year. "He is a great shooter and I'm glad he is finally graduating." I've loved watching him stroke those three pointers...except against the Spartans. Best wishes to a fine young man!
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.
It's not just about shooting. Grit, defensive play, rebounding against bigger men, and pure leadership and (as Morgan called it) inspiration to the rest of the team define Zack Novak.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.
"tears that welled inside them" "emblematic bruise" "bowels of Bridgestone Arena". WOW!
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.
Thanks for comic relief Ted! You cannot sum up these kids' legacies to the final two games of their career. What they did for M basketball is immeasurable. Wish them well with wherever life takes them! GO BLUE!!!
Sun, Mar 18, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.
Yes you can! What have you done for us latly? answear NOTHING.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.
I said it before...Getting Ty Isaac depended on Trey Burke. the more Isaac feels sorry for Tre , the better the chances of landing Isaac. This loss bodes well.