Coach Greg Kampe has been at Oakland for 28 years. (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News)
The day after becoming just the 21st head basketball coach to win 500 basketball games, Greg Kampe was not chasing win No. 600. Oakland University's leading man was chasing Carolina blue.
He's already Oakland's highest-profile guy ever. He's the king of Walton Boulevard but has goals that would inspire school scholars to build a statue of him.
Kampe hears snickers when he tells people he's chasing Carolina blue. But people laughed when he talked about moving the Golden Grizzlies from Division II to Division I and going to the NCAA Tournament. Well, guess what? He has won Summit League titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times, winning one game.
"I don't care if people make fun of it, especially non-Oakland fans," Kampe said. "Our goal is not to become Gonzaga. Our goal is to become North Carolina. Every day we go to work that is what we try to do. You can laugh at me for saying that. That does not mean we are not going to try to do that. The day I don't feel that way is the day I will go off into the sunset and play golf."
He's been at Oakland 28 years but Kampe isn't even 60 years old yet. He's one of the few people in sports who got to build a program in his image and is still at it. Jim Boeheim at Syracuse has been able to do that. So has Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Kampe is as big to Oakland as Boeheim and Krzyzewski are to Syracuse and Duke.
He wants to compete against these men and beat them. He was inspired by Gonzaga turning from mid-major to major power and Butler's Final Four runs. Now, he wants to chase these programs and pass them. For Kampe 500 is not a defining number. It's just a number he needed to get to chase more important goals. Kampe was more thrilled about beating first-place Western Illinois, 67-60, than getting win number 500.
There are two things Kampe wants that are more important than numbers. He wants to advance to a Sweet 16 and he wants a top-25 ranking at the end of the season.
"I feel I have a long way to go. I feel like I am a pretty young guy," Kampe said. "You ask what I have to give. I don't know if that is giving but that is what I want to get."
The Golden Grizzlies have a run in them. It might not come this season. But Kampe has much of his team returning next season. They are 5-4 in the Summit League and are doing it without a true point guard. Next season, Detroit Pershing's Kahlil Felder steps in as the team's quarterback. He's a terrific passer but is working on his shooting, and Detroit Public School League fans are seeing it with big scoring nights.
Kampe knows the future is bright but he has not given up on this group. Kampe also plans on chatting about win 500 and any goals that are to come when he's old, slow and in a nice wooden rocking chair.
"You don't focus on 500," he said. "To me, that's kind of shallow. You focus on that stuff when you are dead or darn near, when you are telling stories about the way it used to be. I think that is when it will settle in. Right now, I am trying to make this team the best it can be."
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera was the most refreshing part of TigerFest Saturday at Comerica Park. Cabrera is the Tigers' best everyday player and he should be the face of the franchise.
The thing missing is charisma and a better command of the English language. We saw some of the Cabrera charm as he joked with fans and became Miggy the Jokester. He hugged babies, fired one-liners and seemed more at ease with fans than at any point of his career.
The most disappointing performance of the weekend came from Michigan State guard Keith Appling . This was a huge game for the Spartans and they needed their quarterback.
Instead, Appling got in early foul trouble and finished with three points during the Spartans' 75-70 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.
The Spartans gave a great effort but their captain should have been on the floor with them during a game of this magnitude.
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