Dickerson is caught in Katrina's web

Ex-Terps basketball assistant in first year as Tulane coach

Response To A Tragedy

September 03, 2005|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The one homegrown player hasn't heard from his mother, a nurse. A freshman arrived on campus early, then was told to go back home to Tennessee. His new house and all of his worldly possessions damaged beyond repair, the rookie head coach absorbs the body count on television instead of last season's videos.

After 13 seasons as a player and assistant coach at the University of Maryland, Dave Dickerson headed south for a great opportunity in college basketball, but he has no idea when his first season at Tulane will begin. The school is in New Orleans.

The majority of his players were able to beat Hurricane Katrina's landfall and make it back to their homes elsewhere, while Dickerson has found a haven in the South Carolina home he was raised in.

"Being a part of the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans, you can't help but feel devastated," Dickerson said. "There are people who have no idea about their future, people who have lost everything. My wife and I have lost just about everything we have except each other and our son.

"I have to get that in order first before I worry about other things. As far as my little place in the world, there are some things I don't care about right now."

Uncertainty prevails throughout the devastated region - and the sports picture is no different.

Tulane's football team has sought refuge in Dallas, living in a hotel near Southern Methodist University and practicing at a high school field. The Green Wave's opening game was scheduled against Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., another school disrupted by the storm.

That contest has been postponed until Nov. 26, and it is unclear where Tulane will play its home games. The school's administration has set up emergency headquarters in Houston, according to the Web site it is using to communicate with students and athletes, www.tulanegreenwave.collegesports.com.

The NFL's New Orleans Saints have been practicing in San Antonio in preparation for their Sept. 11 opener against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte. The first home game, originally scheduled for Sept. 18 at the now-damaged Superdome against the New York Giants, will now be played at Giants Stadium, though the date is uncertain. It's still undetermined where other home games will be played.

Possible sites mentioned for that and other Saints home games are the Alamodome in San Antonio, LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. Players and their family members escaped Katrina when they flew to San Jose for the club's preseason game against Oakland.

Officials of the NBA's New Orleans Hornets announced yesterday that the team will hold at least the first two weeks of training camp at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The team's first preseason game will be Oct. 13 in Denver. Some Hornets officials have been working out of Houston as guests of the Rockets. It is unclear where the Hornets would play if the New Orleans Arena is unavailable.

Meanwhile, one week ago today, Dickerson greeted freshman forward Daniel Puckett, who had checked into his dormitory early. Last Saturday, Dickerson traveled to Boston for the black-tie wedding of former Maryland player Steve Blake. Dickerson was still there Sunday morning when his wife, Laurette, packed their 4-year-old son, Dave III, and drove east to Pensacola, Fla.

Dickerson met them there that night. They then traveled to Olar, S.C., where one of his sisters maintains the house they grew up in.

"The only thing I have with me," Dickerson said, "is the tuxedo and bag of clothes I took to Steve's wedding. I don't have a clue when we'll be able to return and assess our damages."

Named the Tulane coach on April Fools' Day, Dickerson moved into a new 4,000-square-foot home in the West Bank section of New Orleans. He understands that it may never again be inhabitable, and his concerns are compounded by the welfare of his players.

Dickerson said Kory Casteen, who is from the New Orleans area, last spoke to his mother, a nurse, on Tuesday. Dickerson has gone several days without hearing from David Gomez, who lives in Baton Rouge.

The majority of his players live outside the region hit hardest by Katrina.

All are uncertain when Tulane can reopen its doors. In the interim, the NCAA is prepared to waive some of its eligibility rules, and allow colleges affected by Katrina to compete even if classes cannot be conducted.

"The best-case scenario is that we have a team up and running by Nov. 18, when we're supposed to start our season," Dickerson said. "The worst-case scenario is that we start back up on someone else's campus. The most important thing for our athletic program right now is to try to keep these fall sports intact. My basketball program and the winter sports are not important now."

Dickerson was on the staff when the Terps won the NCAA title in 2002. He was a Maryland co-captain in 1989, but he remembers his college basketball career getting off to a tragic start. He was a rising sophomore in June 1986 when Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose.

"My wife reminded me that I started my career in this game with unfortunate circumstances," Dickerson said. "Getting through that is going to help me through this."

Sun staff writer Bill Ordine and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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