First, there was the old Telly Savalas “Kojak” television detective character always sucking on a lollipop.
Now, during warm-ups before every Prairie boys basketball game, there’s the ever-dapper Coach James Moses strolling up and down the court with a Tootsie Pop planted firmly in his cheek.
“Preferably orange,” he says, to match the team’s color scheme.
In his second year at the helm of a resurgent Prairie program, the debonair coach’s pregame ritual has become such a trademark that fans are following in his suede-loafer footprints.
Prior to last week’s home game against North Scott, basketball booster club president Dave Rasmussen passed through stands with a big bag of suckers to hand out. No doubt he'll do the same thing Tuesday tonight as well when the Hawks host Mount Pleasant.
“It kind of got started last year,” said Rasmussen, whose son Garrett is a senior forward. “It’s just a way to rally around James and the team.”
Moses is tickled about the show of school spirit. But then the affable and always-dressed-to-the-nines former Iowa Hawkeye star seems always to be in a chipper mood.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” he said matter-of-factly following last week’s nail-biting loss to North Scott.
Not that he’s not serious about his basketball. The Hawks won just three times in his maiden season, following years of decline marked by 53 straight losses in Mississippi Valley Conference play. They’ve already won two this early in the campaign, and local hoops guru Scott Unash for one says they’re easily the most improved squad in the Metro area.
Moses, who spends his days working for the Department of Corrections, has his young charges playing with confidence at a fast-paced tempo. And, like their stylishly-attired coach, they have fun doing it. The somewhat comical sight of this big bear of man licking a lollipop helps set the mood.
“Actually, I’ve being doing it for quite some time,” explained the Tom Davis disciple last week, dressed in a dark suit with color-coordinated tie and pocket square but without the tiny rose boutonniere he sported for the season opener. “I started it the eight years I was an assistant at Washington, then at Mount Mercy.
“I find it’s a nice, sweet little thing that helps me process my thoughts.
“Before these games, you know, I have to do some deep thinking.”
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