Lasting legacy

IOWA CITY – You didn’t have to be a Hawkeye fan to root for Chris Street.

And you don’t have to bleed black and gold to remember the exact details from the night of Street’s tragic death.

His sudden passing was a ”where were you when” moment for most Iowans – regardless of allegiance or even interest in sports. The 20-year-old Street was the kind of player you’d like to have on your favorite team, and the kind of person you’d love to have by your side.

Jan. 19, 1993. I was a freshman in high school, getting ready for bed when I heard the breaking news on the radio. I remember slowly walking down the hallway and telling my dad that Street had reportedly been in some kind of car accident and died instantly.

Being just 14 years old at the time, I couldn’t fully comprehend the severity of the situation. Today, as a father of three with two more decades of life behind me, I now understand the sadness and despair that pours from each old article I read.

It was hard enough to lose Street the basketball standout: a relentless, hard-nosed kid who obviously had a bright future ahead of him. Just this past week, Hall of Fame basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski called the former Indianola prep ”one of my favorite players. He had the type of attitude that you would want to inject in everyone that has ever played for you. He just was a warrior.”

Saying goodbye to Street off the court, though, is what hurt most. This young man seemed destined for greatness in the real world, regardless of whether or not the NBA came calling.

Street was buried just two weeks before his 21st birthday – a tragedy that will forever seem unjust. As Iowa head coach Tom Davis said at the time, ”Chris represented all that is good about the Midwest and the state of Iowa. He was open, caring, honest, loving and lived life to the fullest every day.”

Today’s Hawkeyes gave a stirring tribute to Street’s legacy with a 70-66 upset of Big Ten leader Wisconsin on Saturday. Carver-Hawkeye Arena resembled the days of yesteryear, with a vibrant energy that Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery had ”never seen before.”

”I’ve been to a lot of buildings in my playing and coaching career. There’s been nothing like that,” McCaffery said. ”There’s no doubt in my mind that was the difference (in the outcome).”

Could this be a turning point in McCaffery’s rebuilding project? The kind of signature win that becomes this program’s modern-day defining moment?

If so, the timing couldn’t be better. Street’s gold No. 40 jersey covered the first chair on the Iowa bench Saturday. Fitting that he was with the Hawkeyes in spirit on a special night like this.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at