Listen to Matt Lepay’s one-on-one conversation with host Jay Sorgi about a team which surprised the basketball world, a Wisconsin Badgers team which started the 2000 NCAA Tournament as an eight seed and ended it in the Final Four after three upset victories.
Transcription by eCourt Reporters
JAY SORGI: Who were the leaders on this squad? Who were the guys in the locker room that both could translate, if you will, Dick Bennett’s philosophy and sort of be that lieutenant, that captain on the court, but also in terms of just the overall locker room mix, the guys who could keep things loose as well as the guys who could keep things focused?
MATT LEPAY: Well, I think there were — a lot of those guys are pretty good at keeping things loose, believe it or not. That was a team of really — just good guys, good personalities. They would make fun of themselves. But the leader, I think anybody would tell you — anybody on that team or anybody around that team will tell you that Mike Kelley was the guy. And he was — he was somebody whose high school statistics were pretty modest, but Dick saw something in him, a tenacity on a defensive end, a guy who could set up his teammates, make them better, and he could distribute the ball and was a great — and still is as a matter of fact, a great spokesperson for that team and for what Wisconsin basketball has been all about, especially these past 25 years. But I think he puts it all so eloquently of what the program stands for, what it tries to do, what that team was able to accomplish in 2000. And he still follows it as closely as he possibly can today while living in Brookfield and not being able to come to every game and watch every game live, but told he told me he will DVR it and look back and is always pulling hard for Wisconsin.
But Mike Kelley, I think, was that go-to guy, not just in the locker room but certainly for those of us who were around the team. If you — if you needed someone who would give you something thoughtful in an interview — there were a lot of guys who could really, but Mike Kelley was the leader.
JAY SORGI: Closeness begets winning, winning begets closeness. How close are these guys now, 20 years later?
MATT LEPAY: I think that they seem to be. Obviously, these guys have their own families and, you know, have their own lives now, but when they got together again, you know, Mike Kelley is still my go-to guy on that team. I said, “So you guys can all act like you’re 21 again?” And he started laughing. He said, “Yeah.” It’s unbelievable how guys now who are 40, 41 years old, give or take, when they get back together they can just — they can have their back-and-forth, they can needle each other. And as he said, as the years go by, the games kind of mean less, but the stories, the memories, the bus rides, the locker room banter, telling Dick Bennett stories, that’s what — that’s what they remember. And it’s a — and I’ve heard that with other reunions that have taken place on this campus and it’s probably like that anywhere you go. We as fans, you remember when so-and-so made a big shot, but those guys who were together all of the time, they’ll more readily reminisce about somebody’s goofiness in the locker room or somebody that did something, said something stupid on a bus ride, all that stuff comes back right away when they get together