After four days watching his team work over Iowa Lakes, Penn Valley, CCC-Platte and Rose State, Don Beasley rested.
He drove 75 minutes from Danville, Ill., to the airport in Indianapolis, dropped off his national championship men's basketball team and went to look for a hotel to spend the night.
"You don't realize it, but I was emotionally drained," said Beasley, whose 34-2 team from the Community College of Baltimore County-Dundalk defeated Rose State (Oklahoma), 88-77, for the NJCAA Division II crown.
"So I took a day off," he said. Then Beasley made the eight-hour drive from Indianapolis to Dundalk, carrying the trophies from the first national title for a Maryland school in the 12-year history of the tournament.
And the day after he got back from the Midwest, did Beasley take a few more days off as a reward for a 17-game winning streak? No, he went back to his real job as an agent for State Farm Insurance.
The championship would have been impressive enough if that were the only peculiarity involving the team. It's not. With the exception of Allegany and Hagerstown community colleges, Beasley said, "the rest of us [in Maryland] live and die off kids who qualify for federal grants."
So a player like Will Chase comes here from Harrisburg, Pa., after spending a semester at Shippensburg (Pa.) an NCAA Division II school. He shows up at an open gym on the Dundalk campus, and impresses Beasley.
The coach's enticement goes something like this: "We don't have any money. We just have a place for you to play."
Chase, who set a tournament scoring record with a 29-point average and earned MVP honors, was one of three Lions sophomores who had played on the 25-6 team the year before.
With E. T. Jackson and Jaki Garrett (Woodlawn) also returning, along with newcomers such as Micah Davenport (who set a tournament rebounding record, including 23 in one game), there was reason to believe the team would have a good season.
"With those guys coming back, we knew we would be special right from the beginning," Beasley said. "I just needed role players with them."
The team's only losses during the season were to CCBC-Catonsville and to Division I JUCO power Allegany on the road in Cumberland.
A dispute over uniforms cost Dundalk its chance to challenge Allegany in the Maryland Junior College Conference men's tournament in Hagerstown last month. Dundalk's red jerseys had no numbers on the front, a rule violation. The title game was canceled.
In Illinois, the Lions were ranked third nationally, not enough to give their coach much comfort heading into the tournament. But he soon felt much better.
Dundalk cleared its first-round hurdle with a two-point win. From there, "I felt the guards would carry the rest of the week, and they did," Beasley said, referring to Chase and to Jackson, who averaged 22.5 points for the week.
At the end, the Lions were too tired to get to 100 points in the title game against Rose State. Nonetheless, Beasley said he has the perfect vantage point from which to rest on any laurels.
"I'm looking at the stats and I'm 4-0, 100 percent," he said. "Maybe I'll never go back."