Home for a few days last week during fall break, Notre Dame sophomore guard Dane Goodwin didn’t get too far away from the game.
He never does. It’s hard to completely unplug. Basketball roots run deep in the Goodwin house back in Upper Arlington, Ohio. The former Ohio Mr. Basketball now plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His father has spent nearly three decades as a college head coach and is the winningest in his school’s history (389-254). The family often talks basketball during meals, watches it at night, then does it all again the next day.
Goodwin and his dad spent time during fall break doing what basketball families do — running through shooting drills.
But there was one aspect of the game, of this season, that remained relatively off limits during Goodwin’s time home. Even for much of the summer. He didn’t mention it. Neither did his father. Or his mother. Or his two older siblings. They all knew it was there, coming closer with each passing day on the calendar.
On Tuesday, Notre Dame opens exhibition play against Capital (Ohio) University, a Division III school. The Capital head coach is Goodwin’s father, Damon, a former standout point guard at the University of Dayton.
Goodwin planned to meet up with his dad when the Capital traveling party arrived on campus Monday afternoon. They would spend some time catching up (after being apart for all of five days), would trade some good hoops stories and share some laughs. Come Tuesday, they’re on opposite sides of a basketball court for the first time.
“We kind of don’t know how to approach it,” Goodwin said last week prior to practice. “One day, you’re hanging out with him, next day you’re playing against him. We’re going to talk about it for a long time afterward, but those 40 minutes will be pretty weird.”
Weird because the one guy who best knows Goodwin’s game is charged with making sure he doesn’t show it. Weird because Goodwin’s father spent the last few days developing a game plan that includes stopping his youngest son. Weird.
“People ask me, what’s your dad going to do?” the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Goodwin said. “He’s going to tell his team exactly what he knows. He knows every facet of my game.”
Purcell Pavilion now is Goodwin’s basketball home, but for the longest time, it was the 2,100-seat Capital Center. He’d spend summers and any off hours there working out and playing pickup. He first started going to games when he was around age 4. Goodwin would sit in the front row behind the team bench, then hang out in the locker room afterward. His favorite player was Jake Beck, the team’s most valuable player in 2006. Goodwin also would go on road trips to fellow Ohio Athletic Conference schools like John Carroll and Wilmington. Those would take a few hours, sometimes cutting through the middle of the central Ohio night.
To a kid that age, it seemed they’d never end. In some ways, Goodwin never wanted them to. Just him and his dad hanging out, living and breathing basketball. Those days were pretty good. Pretty cool.
Tuesday promises to offer some more cool. One Goodwin on the sideline worried about his team, and not wanting the other, wearing his dad’s No. 23, to give him buckets.
“I’ll have a pretty good scouting report on him,” said Coach Goodwin, in his 26th season at Capital. “I’m worried about our guys and he’s worried about his guys and we’ll just go play and compete.”
And, for the elder Goodwin, it offers some time to remember his time in that same arena.
Standing on the sideline Tuesday, Damon Goodwin might well close his eyes, if for a moment, and jump back in time some 35 years ago when he played this college game.
A native of St. Mary’s, Ohio, which sits a long 3-pointer from the Indiana state line in the northwest part of the state, Goodwin averaged 10.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 119 career games at UD. He played 3,300 career minutes. He played in two NCAA tournaments. He’s still third in school history with a free throw percentage of .860, including a single season record of .931 that still stands. He’s a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. Following his college career, he was a seventh-round pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 1986 NBA draft.
He was a really good college guard.
He was a bigger Notre Dame hoops fan.
In one game at the old Joyce Center, Goodwin found himself matched against another good college guard with Ohio roots — Kettering’s John Paxson. Goodwin knew well of Paxson’s game when the two were in high school at the same time. Then to guard him while playing against the school he rooted for as a kid? Whoa.
“It was a big deal,” Coach Goodwin said.
The interior of the arena has changed since those days. Gone are the multi-color lower-level seats and the bleachers that lined the upper concourse. Even the name has changed. The Joyce Center now is Purcell Pavilion, but Coach Goodwin remembers those games against Paxson, those games against the Irish, those bus trips every winter to and from Notre Dame.
He also remembers that he never won at Notre Dame — 0-for-3. That didn’t matter. Playing in South Bend sure did.
“To me, that was a pretty cool thing,” Coach Goodwin said. “We had some close games, but could never get it done.”
The elder Goodwin passed his love for Notre Dame to his kids. Goodwin’s older brother, Grant, was the first to fall hard for the Irish. He then did long before he became a high school standout at Upper Arlington with a handful of Division I scholarship offers. The way Purcell Pavilion once looked before the renovation was complete in 2009? Goodwin also remembers it. Sometimes, when the basketball stars aligned and the Goodwins had breaks in their basketball schedules, they’d swing up to South Bend for Irish hoops games. That’s when Notre Dame still was in the Big East. One guard on the floor in one game was Ryan Ayers, now an Irish assistant coach who helped recruit Goodwin to Notre Dame. Goodwin remembers seeing Mike Brey work the sideline. Now he plays for him.
It’s all weird and cool and reality for the Goodwins.
“It’s funny how everything’s come full circle,” said Goodwin, who well could be in the Irish starting lineup Tuesday.
Seeing games at Purcell Pavilion as a dad was about as far as Coach Goodwin ever figured it would go during his son’s college career. It was mentioned in passing with Brey and associate head coach Rod Balanis about the possibility of adding an exhibition with Capital sometime during Goodwin’s career. Last year when Goodwin was a freshman, Notre Dame played only one exhibition — against Central State (Ohio) University coached by former Irish forward Joseph Price — and used its other slot for a secret scrimmage against Cincinnati.
When Notre Dame returned to the traditional two exhibitions this year, Coach Goodwin called Balanis in the spring with an offer to play if the Irish had room. All parties let it sit for some time. On second thought, Coach Goodwin wasn’t sure he wanted to do it. If the Irish had someone else in mind, he understood. But then if his son was good with the game, it was a go.
It’s a go.
Capital has played exhibitions against a host of Division I schools, including Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Kentucky and Fort Wayne. Last year, Coach Goodwin took his team back to his alma mater. Later this week, it plays at Ohio University.
“We get these games because we don’t change,” Coach Goodwin said. “We don’t throw some crappy zone out there or play some triangle-and-two. We play what we play. We’re not going to change. We’re just going to try and compete.”
Notre Dame wanted to play Capital, and that was good enough for Coach Goodwin. And for his son.
“We’d always kind of talked about it, kind of like, one day down the road, get your dad in here,” Goodwin said. “It all kind of came to fruition this year. When I found out about it, I was like, ‘All right, we’ll do it now.’