Hardwood Apparitions By Michael Krumholtz Tad Boyle, that aw-shucks country boy from Greeley, is caught in a rolling dream. There are visions of him as a skinny young boy playing for Greeley Central in the state championship game. Taking place in the CU Events Center, the game goes like a fantasy and the Boyle-led Wild Cats are champions. The Colorado Player of the Year has found what he was meant to do. Poof. The dream cloud vanishes as another emerges from black and gold spattered dust. Now the young one has grown into a man. He is the captain for Larry Brown’s bannered Kansas Jayhawks. The shaggy-haired guard is an immediate champion again, this time for the Big Eight Conference. Surrounding him are the likes of Brown, Danny Manning, and Mark Turgeon – each of whom will have greater success awaiting them. They are rooted here, together in a vision. Poof. In the next dream, he sees himself older and suited more formally, making a speech in front of the Flatirons. He is the new coach for his home state’s flagship university. He uses the phrases “Destination job” and “Dream job.” Leading off his pointing finger is the arena where he won that high school championship, where he first saw his basketball lessons culminate into realized justification. All of these moments immerse timeless upon the dreamer’s lucid head. Another, more recent history is accessible even to those awake in a CU basketball world. There was a time, at the end of last season, in which the Buffs dropped three of their final four games. They headed into the postseason as the sixth seeded team in the Pac-12 tournament. Then something happened, as if out of a dream. Boyle’s Buffs ripped off four straight wins, including three as the underdog, to win the conference crown. The lifetime goal was conquered. He had won. College basketball’s old cliché of cutting down the nets implies some celebratory end, an ultimate frame to bind a team’s season. But for the champion Buffs it was an open commencement for youth – a warning to the west that this will continue. The program that was once served for easy feasts has only begun it’s systematic barrage of it’s new Pac-12 home. The lamb has become the machine. And it really didn’t take that long. Boyle lost three-quarters of his offense from a record-setting 2010 team that got snubbed from the NCAA tournament. (I could insert an obligatory “arguably,” but there was, in fact, little argument from anyone other than headless NCAA authorities that the Buffs deserved a bid. The money-obsessed fascists had won again.) Still, the second year coach managed to match his own school record of 24 wins in a season. His teams have also produced a 32-4 record at home, making Coors Events Center a non-stop winter party. The games remain more worth while than attending those weekly candlelit vigils at the graveyard that is Folsom Field. Most pertinent to his sustained success, Boyle continues to draw an unprecedented flow of talent to Boulder. Names of incoming CU freshmen, like Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, will start to litter the lists of All Pac-12 teams. His young frontcourt, though it lacks a true center, should be one of the premier groups in the league. While travelling Europe, Boyle’s boys played five exhibition games against semi-pro teams. By rule it is an opportunity that teams may only have once every four years. Though they finished 2-3, the newcomers and veterans got a chance to mesh against high-level competition. Back home, once November paves way for the beginning of season, they will all be celebrities again. But none will receive the same adulation as the head coach, the Norman Dale of non-fictitious basketball. The man who has 3 feet cutouts of his head haunting opposing teams from the stands. The man who’s so beloved that Twitter is flooded with hash tags of #RollTad or the more festive #StTaddysDay. Still to this day, his successes on every level haven’t seemed to alter his chivalrous modesty nor has his growing frame deterred his ferocious work ethic. Back in a nameless part of rural Colorado, a kid drains midrange shots on a steel-net hoop as dairy farms make up his backdrop. This could be his beginning. Only the dreamer really knows.