The last time Stanford played a home game holding a No. 1 ranking marked the last game at Maples Pavilion without a deluxe video board, expanded concourses or Kiss Cam. A $30 million renovation on its homecourt – which began not long after the final buzzer – had Stanford shifting gears, from showmen to traveling salesmen.
“From here on out, we’re on the road,” Mike Montgomery said after his team improved to 25-0 and completed an undefeated home record. “We’re road warriors now.”
The renovation project forced the Cardinal to relocate its lockers to trailers and practice at the Ford Center to prepare for the postseason. An unrelated reduction effort – the disappearance of Maples Pavilion’s intimidating atmosphere for opponents – occurred years later.
But on this afternoon, the old boom box was its wild and crazy self, honoring three departing seniors and hosting the nation’s top-ranked team.
Montgomery paid tribute to Joe Kirchofer by placing the veteran pivot man in the starting lineup. The fifth-year senior from Elk Grove responded with career highs of 13 points and 10 rebounds, a “fitting end” in the words of his head coach. The Sixth Man chanted “Jus-tin Da-vis” in the final minute, singling out the forward who sat out injured. Matt Lottich’s outside shooting helped the Cardinal grow its lead with an early 13-0 run.
But the game belonged to another Stanford standout making his final home appearance. Josh Childress compiled a line as unblemished as his afro, totaling 29 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Logic dictated the junior would forgo his senior year for the NBA. But before becoming the No. 6 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft (still the highest selection ever for a Stanford player), the 6-foot-8 swingman engineered one last encore at Maples.
Childress drained 10 of 16 shots from the field, making four of six attempts from three-point range. He also put the shackles on the Ducks’ top offensive threat, forcing Luke Jackson – picked No. 10 in the same Draft – to miss 12 of his 18 field goals. After missing the entire nonconference season with a stress reaction in his foot, Childress led the Cardinal with 15.7 points per game that year.
“One more year! One more year!” serenaded the Sixth Man, after Childress – in a moment of perfect spontaneity – dove into the Stanford student section to celebrate the victory. “We have the best fans in the country. I’m the type of guy who likes to celebrate,” explained that season’s Pac-10 Player of the Year.
I always pause while recalling the 2003-04 club. A second round loss to Alabama, where Childress missed 12 of 17 from the field and fouled out with over three minutes left, ruined everything. Or did it? The optimist in me would rather remember the good times: The miraculous, amazing, and downright legendary games included in Stanford’s 26-0 start.
In a rematch of a contest where Stanford overcame a 19-point deficit in the second half at MacArthur Court, there would be no such drama. After the two teams combined to miss their first 15 shots from the floor, the Cardinal displayed its trademark defense and balanced offensive attack.
Childress scored five straight points and seven total in a 9-1 spurt late in the opening half. The lead grew from single-digits to 15 points. By halftime, Stanford led by a 42-24 score, despite the best efforts of Aaron Brooks (17 points for the game.) Once Nick Robinson drained a three with 10:12 to play, the Cardinal held a 61-41 lead and Mark Bradford was ready to earn some minutes.
But when the final buzzer sounded, Stanford could no longer count on the comforts of home. “The kids are packing up to get out of the building,” Montgomery said.