18 Grand Finale

With the glory of the Big Ten championship behind it and the anticipation of the NCAA tournament ahead of it, the celebrity status of the players was reaching new heights as they prepared for the final home game. Balls and other paraphernalia to be autographed flooded in, piling up in Weber’s and Stalling’s office and spilling out into the hallway. Requests for interviews with the media and personal appearances were almost as plentiful.

The most unique public relations assignment fell to Mitchell, courtesy of Wood. He would go to Klondike Elementary, a nearby grade school, and read to two groups of fourth graders as part of their reading awareness program. It wasn’t exactly the sort of thing Mitchell had envisioned as a kid when daydreaming about playing college basketball. But as he had long since learned, college basketball, at least at Purdue, was more than defending Glen Rice and dunking on Pervis Ellison.

So there he was, sitting in a chair in the middle of a grade school classroom, with about 25 fourth graders spread out in front of him on the floor in a semi-circle. Mitchell was going to read to them from a book selected for him by the school: The Goof that Won the Pennant.