I call them bookmarks, those mark-this-moment events you want to save for future reference.
One of those moments came during last week’s Lakota Nation Invitational, when new Red Cloud High School boys basketball head coach Christian McGhee guided his Crusaders to the boys championship game.
The ‘Saders dropped their season opener to Spearfish, but rode a wave of emotion to wins over Hill City and Cheyenne-Eagle Butte in the opening rounds of the 36th annual LNI.
Red Cloud then prevailed over archrival Pine Ridge in the semifinals to face White River in a championship game abounding with ironies.
Red Cloud went on to lose to White River, but McGhee made his mark with a young team forced to overcome the death of the mother of two of his players on the first day of the tournament.
White River head coach Eldon Marshall took note in his post-game comments.
“Christian does a great job with them considering it’s his first year. They did everything they had to do to get here and once they got here they were ready to go,” Marshall said.
Just five years earlier McGhee had played on the 2007-2008 Crusader squad that won the 2007 LNI title over Marshall’s Tigers.
Red Cloud went on to finish third in the boys state Class A tournament the following March. McGhee was a first-team all state and all-tourney selection that year and took his talents to Chadron State, where he starred for the Eagles on the hardcourt and earned a degree in sports and recreation management, graduating in four years.
His goal after graduation was to return to Pine Ridge and open a sporting-goods store. But fate intervened and led him back to his high school alma mater.
He was hired as Red Cloud’s new athletic director and head basketball coach at the ripe young age of 22,
Watching him take the court with the Crusaders, you get the idea that he could still be playing, not prowling the sidelines following in the footsteps of his former coach Matt Rama.
“No one can fill the shoes of Matt. I’m just trying to keep the winning tradition alive, staying intense all the time and just being there for the kids,” McGhee said.
McGhee now has the goal of helping kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation find their path to success just as he has done.
“I want to try to make an impact on the kids, try to let them know that people are here for them. People have done it before and they can do it also. No matter where you come from or who you are, you can succeed in life. That’s my job is to help these kids both on and off the court,” he said.
“I grew up in the same situation so I know I can relate to them,” he said.
Some of my bookmarks don’t stand the test of time, but I have the strong feeling that we’ll be looking back on last week’s LNI as the start of something special for McGhee and the Crusaders, both on and off the court.