His face was flush; his voice muffled; each word guard David Kool uttered had been softened by the sadness that comes from seeing a career end -- a career he never wanted to see end, not end like
this; not end in 66-64 loss, not end with eyes so moist that he had to fight back tears.
tears on this public platform for Kool, the best player in the Mid-American
Conference this season.
an army of media in the room, he did his best to live up to his last name. He kept his
cool, even though his reddened face did more than hint he was fighting hard to
remain calm, an effort in personal restraint.
left everything he had to give Western Michigan and its fans on the floor
Friday night at The Q. He had been a one-man band, playing all the right chords
in trying to spring an upset on the No. 2 seed. He had the Broncos within one
break here or there from playing Saturday for an automatic berth in the NCAA
had performed like a player who wanted to leave an imprint on the MAC
Tournament, just as Kool had left his imprint on the conference's 2009-10
Had circumstances been different, he might never have been here. Kool would have been in Indianapolis these past few days, wearing the green-and-white uniform of Michigan State. In high school, he was poised to play for the Spartans, but before his senior year ended, he blew out his knee. He could forget about playing in the Breslin Center and the Big Ten. His destiny, whatever destiny he had, would have to take root elsewhere.
Maybe that was a good thing for Kool, because had he gone to Michigan State, Kool might not have become the player he is at Western Michigan. At Michigan State, playing in front of large crowds, he might not have gotten the minutes. He's 6-foot-3, not much size for a scoring guard. He's a half-step short of the lightning quickness that helps slick-dribbling point guards break down defenses to slip crisp passes to open teammates.
To look at Kool shouldn't be to judge what he doesn't have but to appreciate what he does.
Doing the latter, you find a man whose talents allow him to excel in the face of his limitations, and when you see his one talent that belongs in the elite category - his shooting touch - you discover why Kool was the best player in the MAC.
Even in the MAC, just as in the Big Ten, you can find other players with more innate skills. Those players are faster; they are quicker; they are taller. None were better.
On a so-so team with little else but Kool, the Broncos were able to keep alive their NCAA dreams deep into the game Friday. They could do so because of David Kool and his refusal to go down without throwing a few more punches.
He was the best player on the arena floor. He was their savior; he was the lone concern for Akron; he was the only man, limited as some people might see him, the Zips could not stop.
But one man seldom beats five -- not in a street fight and not on the basketball floor. And that's the way the night inside The Q ended for David Kool: in a 66-64 defeat.
"He was terrific," Akron coach Keith Dambrot said.
And Kool was terrific, not because Dambrot said he was. Kool was everything he could be, but that wasn't terrific enough.
Now with the game behind him, he was wrapping up his MAC career, struggling to remain calm and steady enough to share his thoughts about a 39-point night. In front of media that had watched him for four seasons, Kool was saying a sad farewell to the glory he had earned in a league that has seen few players like him.
But he didn't want it to end, and you could see that in his face. He had given this all his sweat and all his grit; he had left nothing on the floor, aside from pieces of his flesh that the arena floor took as a souvenir.
The night was behind David Kool now, its final, agonizing minutes he'll replay in his private way forever. Perhaps then and there, away from the media, he will trade his cool for tears.