Oregon’s Chris Boucher on the cover of the November 7, 2016 pre-season edition of Sports Illustrated magazine.
This had been an historically great season for the University of Oregon’s Men’s Basketball team. Another regular season Pac-12 championship, a place in the conference tournament championship game, and the prospect of a possible No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA tournament. The Ducks appeared to be a team of destiny, with a roster of remarkable athletes, most notably first-team all-American and Pac-12 player of year Dillon Brooks, Pac-12 defensive player of the year Jordan Bell, and the uniquely skilled, game-changing senior classman Chris Boucher.
The bad news first spread via social media on Saturday afternoon, later to be confirmed by the major sports networks and news outlets just hours before the Pac-12 conference title game versus Arizona. Chris Boucher had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees during the first half of Friday’s semi-final game against Cal. He was done for the season. He would not play in the conference championship game Saturday evening nor would he be available for the NCAA tournament. Given his backstory, the end to Boucher’s collegiate career seems particularly tragic.
Without Boucher, the Ducks looked lost and undermanned during the first half against Arizona, a team Oregon had dominated during their only regular-season contest. They clearly missed Boucher’s spark off the bench (though gifted with talents of a starting player, he was Oregon’s game-changing “sixth man,” presenting matchup problems and a change of pace for opponents to contend with). The Ducks did rally in the second half, and came tantalizingly close at the end, but ultimately succumbed to Arizona’s superior depth and size.
They say sports is a metaphor for life. Ideally, we all may be blessed to win more games than we lose. Sometimes though life is like the three-point shot attempt that fails to drop. In the real-world arena of business, not everything goes your way. There will be both losses and wins. The keys to success are to give everything your best shot, mastering the fundamentals of your field or industry, being focused, never permitting yourself to become too involved in things you cannot control, and learning from experiences, both good and bad. As legendary coach John Wooden said “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
Throughout my career as an architect, I’ve suffered my share of “losses.” Projects have gone sideways for any number of reasons: inadequate design coordination, budgetary setbacks, project delays, disgruntled clients. I like to think I’ve learned from these setbacks and, with the help of my mentors and teammates, managed to make the appropriate adjustments in each game plan. Turning to the words of coach Wooden again, “failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” Given the mutability of the world in which we work, architects must be resilient and welcome the need for change. Rather than make excuses, we should also embrace adversity by accepting its inevitability and building our resolve to overcome future obstacles.
The Oregon Ducks still have important games to play. How will they respond to Boucher’s absence? Like any good team, the Ducks will move on, adjust, and prepare themselves both mentally and physically for the rigors of the NCAA tournament. They will not give up, however much they may miss having Chris Boucher on the floor. They will persevere. They will give it everything they have. They may come up short but it will not be because they did not try. Duck fans cling to the hope the team will surprise the pundits and oddsmakers by navigating its way through March Madness all the way to the Final Four in Phoenix. Without a doubt, Chris Boucher would have eased the path to the promised land; alas he can now only watch and cheer his teammates on.
For better or worse, Oregon fans will ultimately judge the 2016-2017 men’s basketball season by how the team performs when the bright lights are turned on this coming week. Like I said, the players will give it everything they have. The fickle finger of fate has dealt the Ducks a bad hand and the loss of Chris Boucher is devastating. Regardless, the season may still prove to be truly historic. What’s most important though for the team and all of us who are fans, is to adopt the correct perspective and look for the learning opportunities in an adverse situation.