March 4, 2011
Lobo Men's Basketball - In The Pit
Saturday: 4 p.m., Air Force at Lobos
On The Air: The Mtn. (TV); 770-AM KKOB - Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Game Story, Stats, LoboTV
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer / Go Lobos.com
The simplistic measurement of Dairese Gary as a Lobo is easy to calculate. You look at titles. You count the wins. You note the production.
You remember the fear in the eyes of the hard-court enemies, who had to go face-to-face with one of the nastier and more determined Lobo defenders ever. There is a reason Lobo coach Steve Alford calls his point guard a "bulldog."
But you would be shortchanging this special Lobo if you limited that rating to mere numbers, championships rings or notches in the win column.
There have been other statistically-grand Lobos, who reached such dazzling heights of success, but never really reached the heights obtained by Gary; never worked their way so deeply into the welcoming heart of the Lobo-loving Pit.
There are ways to measure athletes that go beyond stats and filter deeper into that stuff a man is made of -- or should be made of. You find that stuff in Dairese Gary. You hope for that stuff in all Lobos.
With Gary, you see resolve and character. You see sacrifice and unselfishness. You see a Lobo who often carried more of a burden than he probably deserved to carry, but always acted like it was an honor and a privilege to be so called upon.
Gary is the type of competitor who stands beside a teammate with a fox-hole mentality. He has your back, but would be the first to charge the enemy.
The Pit will honor and say goodbye to Gary Saturday in a farewell to New Mexico's only senior. The obvious loss is leadership, gut-check baskets in the closing minutes, and clutch free throws as game clocks wind down.
But you can't help but sense The Pit knows that it is losing so much more. Gary is an enigma of sorts. He is a Pit darling despite his quiet and unassuming ways on the court. He doesn't give you that warm and fuzzy feeling like you might have had for a Roman Martinez, a Willie Banks, a Greg Brown or a Luc Longley.
The Pit relates to Gary because of a warrior mentality embraced by quiet humility. With Gary, you see a steel will, that burning need to win and give 100 percent. You see honest effort never cheapened by court theatrics or self absorbed posturing.
He is consistent. He knows how to finish a shot and finish a game on both ends of the court.
"Every game we ask him to do all the things he does for us on offense and then we ask him to guard the best guard on the other team," said Alford. "Dairese never complains. He has no gripes. He just goes out and does it. He has the heart of a lion and plays at such a high level with a tremendous desire to win."
Of course, Gary has the numbers. He has played in 132 games as a Lobo and has started 127 - the longest active starting streak in NCAA ball. He has averaged 27.4 minutes as a Lobo and 34.1 minutes this season.
"You can't drag Dairese off the court," said Alford. "He looks beat up. He is beat up. But he just plays."
Gary takes a 14.4 scoring average at Air Force and his highest assist rate as a Lobo - 5.4 per game. That also is a mark of Gary as a Lobo. He has worked hard to get better. He is shooting 79 percent from the free-throw line and 75 percent for his career.
He has taken the Lobos to two Mountain West regular-season titles and into NCAA play. He was All-MWC First Team in 2010 and should be a lock to repeat in 2011.
"What he has done here is absolutely amazing," said Alford. "He has done things that many players only dream about."
Gary came to UNM out of Concord High in Elkhart, Ind. He was a three-star recruit and rated the No. 28 point guard in the nation by one scouting service. He committed to Alford at Iowa, but made the jump to UNM. He had the strength and the toughness to play college football, but his passion was basketball.
The self-confessed "Momma's boy," said he had some initial doubts about following Alford to the Land of Enchantment.
"I was terrified. I thought I might need a passport and all that silly stuff you hear about," said Gary. "But it's an amazing place to be a basketball player and I can't explain how much New Mexico means to me and how much I'm going to miss it.
"My time here has seemed to fly by. It goes fast. It's an amazing feeling to have the respect of so many people and it's important that they understand I return that respect. New Mexico fans are crazy about the Lobos and I want to thank them for that."
The Pit will return that thanks on Saturday. They will honor a special Lobos and it will be a joyous occasion and a sad occasion. Gary has given us so many memories to cherish in the way he produced victories and in the way he carried himself on the court, win or lose.
Gary and the Lobos are coming off one of their best wins ever with an 82-64 spanking of No. 3 Brigham Young - on Cougars' turf. You measure Gary by wins because that's the nature of athletics and scoreboards.
But just as Gary has been consistent in his resolve and in his drive and desire at both ends of the court, he also has set a pattern and a level of achievement simply through his pure effort.
And all Lobo fans who have watched Gary play know this to be a truth: He has never walked off the court a loser.