Pierre Pierce will not go away. Not Pierre Pierce the person, necessarily. But the Story of Pierre Pierce? The cautionary tale?
In 2002 Pierce, a star guard under Steve Alford at Iowa, was charged with sexual assault when a woman accused him of forcing himself on her (and holding her mouth, stopping her from screaming) at a party in Iowa City. Alford publicly defended Pierce at the time, but he went further -- allowing Athletes in Action campus representative (and unofficial team chaplain) Jim Goodrich to arrange an informal "prayer meeting" with Pierce and the victim. As the university report later stated, "The female student's reaction to this contact was concern that the University was improperly involving itself in trying to resolve the matter," a contact that "confirmed her fears that the University would act to protect its athlete," at which point "her response was to pursue criminal charges." The meeting itself seemed seedy enough, but the religious invocation put it over the top -- and when Pierce was charged again in 2005, this time for allegedly choking, forcibly stripping and threatening his ex-girlfriend with a knife, it marked the beginning of the end of Alford's tenure.
A decade later, when Alford was introduced as the new head coach at UCLA, his role in the Pierce sleaze-fest was among the first questions he faced. When he answered it as poorly as possible -- he blamed the Iowa administration and lawyers for his marching orders, and said he "did everything that I was supposed to do at the University of Iowa in that situation ... I followed everything that I was told to do" -- an already unimpressed L.A. media noticed UCLA basketball just long enough to register its immense disapproval.
Alford may have thought turning New Mexico into a perennial winner and landing one of the most coveted jobs in college basketball would be enough to put the Pierce baggage away once and for all. He was wrong.
But hey, that's a coach, right? A person. Not a school. Iowa has no association with Pierce, and by and large the university -- particularly the community of protesters that sprung up around the situation -- acquitted itself fairly well. When Pierce left the school to serve his 11 month prison sentence, a chapter of Iowa hoops history was closed, one the resurgent Hawkeyes program and its re-engaged fan base would vastly prefer to forget.
All of which is why Monday night was so very, very awkward.
What happened Monday? The Hawkeyes were in Toulon, France, just one more picaresque stop on their summer exhibition tour of England and France, and they were preparing to play Hyeres-Toulon, an LNB Pro B (second-division) French club Monday afternoon, when Pierce tweeted the following:
Playing my former college tonight in a friendly #hawkeyes
— Pierre Pierce (@pierre_pierce) August 19, 2013
Which is exactly what happened. Iowa media relations director Steve Roe told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that the Hawkeyes didn't schedule the teams themselves (such schedules are usually drafted by outside agencies arranging the trips) and weren't aware of Pierce's affiliation; you get the feeling they would have done just about anything to avoid it.
But the game went on, and not only did Pierce play against his former college, he led his team with 19 points in 35 minutes. He also handed the Hawkeyes their first loss with a game-winner in the closing moments of overtime.
Yep. That happened:
Felt pretty good hitting my first game winner today lol wish the #hawkeyes best of luck this season and safe travels back
— Pierre Pierce (@pierre_pierce) August 19, 2013
Needless to say, the hilarious Iowa die-hards at Black Heart Gold Pants are still processing this trauma:
Maybe what happened was inevitable from the moment when the perverse cosmic screenwriter crafting this tale decided to throw Pierre Pierce, one of the most notorious and reviled figures in Iowa basketball history, into this yarn. If you're going to drop a bomb like that, it might as well explode in spectacular fashion, right? Pierce had played for H-T in the past (in December 2012, specifically), but he hadn't played there in months; of course he would make his return to that team for their exhibition game against Iowa. Of course Pierce would go 7/14 from the field and 4/7 from long range, scoring a game-high 19 points. And of course Pierce would not just play well against his former team, but he would hit the game-winning shot, to boot. [...]
The fates are cruel. The whole story is so improbable, so implausible, so Hack Screenwriting 101, it's almost impossible to believe that it's true. The whole situation is like a direct-to-DVD sports movie -- or, rather, a Bizarro version of a direct-to-DVD sports movie, since the villain ends up winning in this story.
BHGP called it the "most memorable Iowa hoops exhibition game in recent memory," which is like saying Jamaal Franklin dunked that basketball pretty well that one time. They also raise a valid point, a more positive takeaway: At least Iowa was challenged for the first time on its Eurotrip, giving the players some experience in a tight (and even emotionally fraught?) game in regulation and overtime.
Which, hey, sure! That is a positive. Is it enough to outweigh losing to Pierre Pierce on a game-winning overtime shot? I'm going go ahead and say no.
(HT: The Dagger)