A part of the "America Supports You" campaign which showcases America's support for the men and women in the Armed Forces, "Operation Hardwood" includes a basketball tournament in which NCAA basketball coaches and sports personalities travel to Kuwait to coach military basketball teams at Camp Arifjan. It is intended, according to a release sent out by the Armed Forces, to "boost morale among U.S. military men and women serving in the Middle East and give thanks to the people of Kuwait for their continued support."
The eight men participating include Alabama's Mark Gottfried, Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, South Carolina coach Dave Odom, UNC Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz, former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, former St. John's coach now ESPN commentator Mike Jarvis and former Duke player turned ESPN commentator Jay Bilas.
"I'm excited," said Gottfried who begins his eighth season as Alabama's head basketball coach. "It's an honor for me to be a part of it. I've got, and always have had, a great respect for our military, and for us to be able to encourage them and support them through the game of basketball is a tremendous thrill. I think we take for granted our freedoms in this country, and this is a way for the college basketball coaches to participate and show how much we appreciate what our men and our women are doing for our country. Our mission will be to serve our troops in a positive way. I don't think there's any question that we'll all probably get as much out of the trip as the troops will just from maybe changing our perspective on our world that we live in. It's going to be a tremendous time and a great honor to be a part of this event."
The men will each coach eight 13-member military basketball teams from camps throughout Kuwait August 27-31. In addition to working with the soldiers, the coaches are planning to visit a local sports clinic to meet and coach Kuwaiti children who are learning the game of basketball. The double elimination tournament will feature the best military players in Kuwait who have honed their skills in their off-duty time for a chance to work with these coaches. The tournament will take place over a three-day period and will include a 3-point shot and slam dunk contest prior to the start of the championship game. NIKE Inc., assisted with recruiting the coaches and has donated shoes and uniforms for the teams. ESPN is also sponsoring the event and will chronicle it in a show tentatively set to air in November.