Corey Beck almost missed the Final Four Reunion and the time with former President Bill Clinton last weekend. He would have had a great excuse to head home to Memphis, but his father talked him into staying in the Ozarks.
"That date is when I lost my mother when I was nine," Beck said. "My siblings and my father always meet in Memphis on that date. So I was going home."
There was sadness in not being with his family, but that was replaced with the joy from a out-of-this world weekend with the Razorback basketball family that started with some time at Barnhill Arena. Some forget that all of those Final Four teams did play at least some at Barnhill.
Beck said there was joking all weekend, but none more than about Todd Day's non-fight with the great Larry Johnson in front of the UA bench in the famed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup with UNLV in 1991.
"I was there," Beck said, "on a recruiting visit. That's when I fell in love with the Razorbacks. I saw the team come onto the floor and that yell. I'd never heard the Hog Call until that day. I'd never heard a crowd cheer a team like that. I wanted to be a Razorback and get those chill bumps. I had never gotten chills like that before and I said, ‘I gotta get that feeling.' "
It's a good thing Beck was in the stands and not on the floor when Day, another celebrated Memphis product, challenged Johnson in the final three minutes. Day swung and missed, most likely because he was back pedaling while swinging. That came up this past weekend, as it has forever and ever, many times from Nolan Richardson.
"Coach talked about that Friday when we were up at Barnhill," Beck said. "He reminded us all where each player had been when that deal with Larry and Todd happened."
Oliver Miller, Nolan said, was on the other side of the court grabbing Stacy Augmon to keep each of them from getting to the center of conflict.
"It was funny, but the next day in the team meeting, Coach put on the tape and ran it back and forth over and over to show Todd's fake swing," Beck said. "And he pointed to Lee Mayberry on the bench. He said, ‘Lee, you didn't move. You didn't even get out there.'
"That came up Friday. Coach asked, ‘Lee, where were you?' Lee smiled and said, ‘Coach, you know I was at the end of the bench.' "
There was the famous line issued in the UNLV runaway from Johnson, a future NBA teammate of Beck's with the Charlotte Hornets. He told Richardson, "Nolan, get you some men."
Beck said all of that came up during their NBA travels.
"I hate to say it, but I played with Larry and loved him," Beck said. "We discussed that game and what he said to Coach. He came across to someone who watched him as arrogant. But he had a big old heart. I do know that at that moment with Todd, he almost lost it. He told me it was a learning tool for him, a life lesson.
"We had our moments together and laughed about that. It probably wasn't too funny for some. But I liked Larry. He told coach to upgrade. Coach upgraded."
Indeed, and it led to the 1994 National Championship. Many from that team – and the 1978 and 1991 Final Four teams – returned to Bud Walton for a great time.
"I came out dancing," Beck said. "I just had to show that I still have the footwork. I've lost some things as I've gotten bigger, but I still got the feet – and the love. It's a great love for Razorback fans."
Beck has returned to Northwest Arkansas to start a painting business and attends many games in Bud Walton. And he's constantly around fans who shower him with attention.
"I get that, but many of my teammates are not around here and don't get that," Beck said. "So for them, this was much needed. In fact, we made a deal to do it every year because they loved being with the fans and in that arena and around the team so much.
"It was so good that we all went back up to Barnhill. I may have been in there only three or four times since I played my last game there. That's where most of us starting out playing. I may have seen a couple of volleyball games and I went over there to see Dean Weber one time. That's it.
"So that was a great idea. It was meaningful to all of us. It's still a great place and has so many great memories for all of us."
There was also a wonderful evening after the game at Mike Anderson's home.
"I think Coach (Richardson) stayed until 11:30. I think he had a great time. I talked to him a long time about that. I asked him awhile back if he missed coaching. I know he has. That night I asked him again. He said he missed it for three years, but now he's over it."
Oliver Miller and Arlyn Bowers from the 1991 team had Beck in stitches throughout the weekend.
"Big O, now that's one funny dude," Beck said. "I had not spent much time around him. And he's not really been back in 20 years. He was cracking us up. Truck (Bowers), too. He's a silly one. I took Lee Mayberry, Big O and Truck to dinner Friday night. They had me rolling."
There was just so much fun throughout the weekend. Fans got a glimpse, but Beck said from the meeting at Barnhill, to the victory over LSU and the great times in the locker room and the evening at Anderson's home, there was non-stop excitement.
"I think the best way to say it, it was BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM," he said. "Constant fireworks. The halftime was great. To have President Clinton speak, to the ovations for each player, it was all exciting. I loved the way the team fought back and closed out the victory. I love this team. They give everything they can.
"I had been around Sidney Moncrief before, but it never gets old. But I'd never had as much time around him as this weekend. He's so intelligent and just real down to earth. It was a great experience for all of us. Some of the guys had never met him or been around the older guys like Dr. (Jim) Counce.
"It's hard to break it all down. There was not just one exciting moment. I'm thankful to God that I stayed here for the weekend.
"When I first heard about it, I was just determined to go home to honor my mother's memory. My dad calmed me down. He said there will be more weekends to do that. I'm so glad he convinced me.
"I will say that there was one sad feeling. Miss Rose (Richardson) wasn't feeling well and couldn't come. Other than that, the time at Mike's house was almost like going to her house after a Razorback victory, a typical night. A lot of photos were taken."
It took him back to that first trip to Fayetteville and the UNLV game.
"You would be surprised at how often I think about that and how that made me sign to be a Razorback," Beck said. "Now we want to get the program back to where it's been before. Mike's doing that. This team is getting better. I see them improve everytime out. He just needs to keep getting more players and he's doing that."
Corey Beck did not quote Larry Johnson in any discussions with Anderson because he believes that's what Anderson's mission is all about.
There were plenty of men on the floor at halftime of the LSU game. And, none stood any bigger or prouder than Corey Beck.
Corey Beck came onto the floor Saturday with some dance moves.
Photo by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
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