Devils' Advocate

ASU coach Rob Evans rocks his world

The lucrative offer represented more than money. Being a New Mexico native, Evans knew that the Lobos' basketball coach is as recognizable in that state as the governor.

But Evans had told his Sun Devils time and again since he'd moved to Tempe that you have to finish what you start in this life. And his Sun Devils hadn't even gotten yet to the promised land of the NCAA tournament, much less won any games there.

Evans said no thanks to New Mexico.

Irvin Serrano
Rob Evans led his New Mexico State team to two NCAA tournaments in the late 1960s.
Rob Evans led his New Mexico State team to two NCAA tournaments in the late 1960s.

Last September, he spoke about that decision during a 6 a.m. gathering at a church in east Mesa. He was guest speaker at the weekly meeting of the "Ironmen," a group of about 100 guys who sing songs about Jesus, give testimony, and eat breakfast.

"I don't believe in so-called ghosts," Evans told them. "But I was in bed with my wife in Atlanta during the Final Four, and I could have sworn I heard the phone ring. Guy asked for Bob. My dad was the only one to call me Bob. Then I was talking to him, my dad. He died a few years ago, but I was talking to him. He told me to do the right thing, that I'd know what that was."

Evans' voice broke as he continued: "I've never shared this with anyone before. Later, I told Carolyn, I talked to my father this morning.' She said, That's not unusual. It happens.' I don't know if my dad knew how much of an influence he was on me."

ASU added two years to Evans' contract last May (the school already had tacked on two years in 2000). He and his staff anxiously awaited this season, excited about the incoming freshmen and a junior-college transfer, and hopeful that the team's seasoned veterans could move their play up a notch in their final years of eligibility.

This was to be the breakthrough season, the year in which the Sun Devils could make the leap from Pac-10 patsy to NCAA tournament participant. As he spoke to his staff on the eve of the first practice of the 2002-03 season, Coach Evans invoked a hard lesson from his past.

"Guys, we have to remember at all times, we're not in a sprint here," he told them. "If I had thought I was racing my whole life, I'd be dead right now, and I sure as hell wouldn't be here. This is a marathon, a long-distance race. But it's a race we're bound to win."

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