May 24, 2006
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Dave Odom, the University of South Carolina head coach, made a return trip to Kuwait along with 12 other NCAA basketball coaches and sports personalities, to coach a military team in the Operation Hardwood II basketball tournament May 23-28.
Odom who coached troops from Camp Navistar, Kuwait last year, is now at the helm of one of the Camp Patriot teams located at the Kuwait Naval Base. Last year Odom’s team performed well in the tournament and made it to the final four.
“This team is more developed and my role will be to give them direction, but not get in their way,” Odom said. “I’d like to put them in a position to win the championship.”
In addition to coaching, Odom will again get the chance to a ride in a tank, a Bradley fighting vehicle and a camel.
Coach Odom coaches his team during the Operation Hardwood II basketball tournament.
The coaches will also visit troops at the Arifjan medical hospital, tour the humvee up-armor facility, stay in Army barracks, and hold a basketball clinic for Kuwait children in Kuwait City. When Odom isn’t coaching his team, he is out in the crowd signing autographs and taking pictures with troops.
Odom said he didn’t hesitate to come back saying “it is truly a life-changing experience.”
“Coming back here is like coming back home,” Odom said. “It’s like seeing how much you brothers and sisters have grown.”
“When they played the national anthem and I looked at the American flag, the building was pretty much cold … it was unlike most of the buildings that we are in today,” Odom said during his first trip in August. “You could have heard a mouse crawl across the floor … people standing at attention, their eyes were glued on that flag, and I knew we had arrived.”
The Operation Hardwood “hoops with the troops” tournament consists of 12 teams of servicemembers from the seven Kuwait military camps. The teams will play games in a one of three pools. How they perform during pool play will determine their seeding for the single-elimination tournament.
The other coaches are Tubby Smith, Kentucky, Tom Izzo, Michigan State, Gary Williams, Maryland, Bobby Lutz, UNC – Charlotte, Mark Gottfried, Alabama, Kelvin Sampson, Indiana, Rick Barnes, Texas, Reggie Menton, Air Force Academy, Jim Crews, West Point, Billy Lange, Naval Academy, and Jay Bilas, ESPN analyst.