Men's Basketball by David Kiefer

Anatomy of a Miracle

The oral history of Nick Robinson's buzzer-beater that defines a Stanford basketball era 20 years later

As told to David Kiefer

Photos by David Gonzales

AFTER THE SHOT, and after Stanford players, students, fans, and a Tree blended together in a celebratory frenzy, David Gonzales dared to check his camera.

Gonzales had no idea if he captured Nick Robinson’s 35-foot buzzer-beater that beat Arizona and triggered an on-court party in the greatest finish in Maples Pavilion history.

On February 7, 2004, Stanford was at the top of the men’s college basketball world, or close to it. The No. 2 Cardinal was 19-0 going into a Pac-10 showdown against No. 12 Arizona and its five future NBA players. Both Stanford and Arizona finished first or second in conference play the previous six seasons.

Tiger Woods, at the height of his celebrity, was on hand with his wife Elin. So were Jim and Gerry Plunkett and Bill Walsh. Dick Vitale and Brent Musburger were calling the game on ABC. And the Sixth Man cheering section camped outside of Maples to be first for available seats.

It was Stanford flexing its muscles for all to see.

Gonzales took pride in his timing. He knew the image would capture the drama, anticipation, and gravity of the occasion if his strobe lights fired from the rafters. He pulled himself into a quiet place and checked his display.

I got it!

Befitting the moment, the image helped tell a story that bears retelling 20 years later.


Dan Grunfeld (sophomore forward in 2003-04): We were at the Final Four in ’98, No. 1 in 2001, first or second in the conference eight years in a row, and went 24-9 the year before … That was our standard. That reflected how we prepared.

Josh Childress (junior small forward): We spent that entire summer before that season on campus. In other summers, you’re just racing to get back home. This time, everybody stuck around and worked their butts off. We played a lot of pickup together. The collective buy-in in being a successful team was higher than it had been in my three years there.

Chris Hernandez (redshirt sophomore point guard): You build a lot of that camaraderie, relationships, and trust in each other during those times.

Justin Davis (fifth-year senior power forward): There was a very genuine and very transparent sense of: No one cares about the playing time or who starts. Will you show up and be your best? We would root for each other in practice, drills, whether you were a walk-on or came in as an All-American. There was no difference in terms of what your value was to the team. Everyone believed that.


Childress: The entire preseason, I had a stress fracture in my foot. In a preseason game, I realized it wasn’t right and ended up sitting out nine games. The team didn’t miss a beat. Everybody stepped up. It was a collective buy-in that really set the tone for the rest of the season. When I came back, there was no pressure for me to jump in and be Superman. We were undefeated.

Matt Lottich (senior shooting guard): I tell people all the time, we had one superstar. And when you look at who Josh was as a player, he was never selfish. We probably learned to play without him, but then you add a guy like that and, all of a sudden, you can really take off.

Nick Robinson (junior forward): When Josh was down, it really wasn’t me replacing him. We all had to step up. That really doesn’t have anything to do with me. We knew the expectations that Coach Montgomery and his staff had placed on us and we had our own internal expectations as a team.

Grunfeld: Every single person you talk to will say that Nick is one of the best teammates they’ve ever had, one of the smartest players. He helped our team so much that year playing out of position.

Davis: Nick knew what he needed to do. We also had Dan Grunfeld and Matt Haryasz who had to step in.

Robinson: My role was the same as through my Stanford career -- do whatever it took to help our team win and be successful.


Mike Montgomery (head coach): The whole was better than the sum of its parts. They just fit together really well. The team with the Collins twins and Casey Jacobsen in 2001 was probably our best. We probably should have won a national championship with that team. The Final Four team was not our best, but we ham-and-egged it all the way to get to the Final Four.

The 2004 team just had great chemistry. It was not a bunch of high-priced kids. Josh was a very good player and highly respected. With Rob Little at center and Justin Davis at power forward, we were fairly physical. Lottie at the guard could shoot the ball and was a tough kid. And Chris Hernandez was a tough kid and a really good leader at the point. But it wasn’t the most talented team we had.

Hernandez: Coach Montgomery really helped me to slow down – to control a game. I came from a high school where we were run-and-gun. We were pressing the entire game and it was fastbreaks all the time. So, when I first got to Stanford, I wanted to push. That wasn’t Coach Montgomery’s style.

Stanford opened with a No. 20 ranking, won its first three games, and then knocked off No. 1 Kansas, 64-58, at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim. In 2002, Kansas routed Stanford in the NCAA tournament second round, 86-63.

Davis: I took that game personally. Two years before, I’ve never been beat in the first four minutes of a game … we’re not going to win this. That still stung. This is the game where we get payback for that loss. We weren’t going to lose that game. That was my mentality.

John Platz (radio commentator): What Mike Montgomery did at Stanford was excellence in the highest order. The environment was right and the time was right to have that coach with his ability to identify talent and put it together with a low-post base offense.

Davis: That could have been one of Montgomery’s easiest years of coaching since he had been at Stanford, in part because he somehow learned and figured out that with this group, he could be hands off. The staff all knew, you don’t need to coach this group. You just need to develop a gameplan.


Stanford was ranked No. 4 when it played No. 3 Arizona in Tucson. It was no contest. Stanford led by 20 on the way to an 82-72 victory, which tied for Arizona’s worst Pac-10 home loss of the Lute Olsen era to that point. Said Arizona associate head coach Jim Rosborough after the game: “They were just tougher than us. I don’t necessarily like saying it, but they were tougher.”

Platz: This is burned in my mind: Arizona had just six baskets in the first half. Just six. It was because of Justin Davis. His defense and rebounding were right near the top in Stanford history. You put his defense with Nick Robinson’s natural defensive skill and Lottich with his underrated defense …

Montgomery: Matt was a three-sport athlete – a football quarterback, played baseball and basketball – in high school. He was very competitive. His face would get red and he would just get after people. He was a winner, one of those kids who just made things happen.

Grunfeld: That was probably the toughest team that I ever played for. Just down the line, the refusal to quit, refusal to back down, being really physical, putting your body on the line. That was part of our ethos, but I think our backcourt really led the way. When you talk about Chris and Matt, that was as tough of a backcourt as you could find in college basketball.



Stanford, now No. 2, rallied from a 19-point deficit on the road to beat Oregon, 83-80. Hernandez scored all 22 of his points in the second half, including 12 consecutive Stanford points. However, two days earlier, in a 62-48 victory at Oregon State, Davis was lost to an MCL sprain to his knee and would miss 12 games, including the Arizona rematch. Robinson, having played the three in Childress’ absence, would replace Davis at the four.

Hernandez: That was killer. Justin was playing so well, really dominating, and then he got hurt. I know, because it happened to me the year before, you get hurt and miss a couple of weeks and you lose the rhythm. It’s hard to get back to that groove.

Montgomery: Nick was so versatile. At 6-6, he wasn’t a physical inside player, but he was very smart. And so we moved him around a little bit. It made us different, but still allowed us to be effective.

You adjust to your team’s strengths. We had a system where I had an idea of how to win games. It was low-post oriented. I liked people in the paint, I liked to be physical, and we were very detailed. But it wasn’t an equal opportunity deal. You couldn’t make a shot, you didn’t take a shot. Through practice, you figured out who could make shots and what kinds of shots they needed to get. And you ran your offense so they get those shots.

Childress: I was having a terrible game at Oregon. I remember (6-10 sophomore power forward) Matt Haryasz and Chris Hernandez had fantastic games. We weren’t supposed to win given we were down as much as we were, but we were gritty and we came back and won because two guys put the team on their shoulders.

Davis: For us, the idea of ‘don’t lose,’ wasn’t the mindset. It was, ‘let’s keep getting better.’ Let’s keep improving, and the outcome will be the outcome.

Grunfeld: If you look at that Pac-10 that year, UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Oregon … these were powerhouses and we were just running through everyone. It’s almost a case study in overachievement. Not that we didn’t have talent -- we had plenty of it. But to be that dominant was incredible.

Lottich: College athletics has changed so much – the amount that players are moving these days. But we played together a very long time in the same system with the same coach, and really learned to play together and for one another. We were an extremely unselfish group with high talent and high connectivity, and that’s a really hard team to beat.

Davis: I remember this vividly. We were doing our 1 o’clock practices and just enjoying each other. We were in the locker room, and it was just good energy. We were laughing, joking. The coaches came in, saw what was happening and felt we didn’t need to start right now. ‘Give them 15 more minutes of this. They haven’t lost, they’re playing well. They’re really enjoying this journey.’


David Gonzales (Stanford Athletics photographer): The Arizona rematch was the one everybody circled on their calendars. There was so much hype, rumors start flying that Tiger’s coming back. When the biggest athlete on the planet walks into your gym, you know that’s something special. I knew the one picture I had to get, beyond game action, was Tiger celebrating a big basket.

Grunfeld: The lead up was insane. We would go out to the tents and start chanting, and they would be cheering. We brought them pizza … After shootaround, we brought them donuts. It was madness. Campus was ablaze. You could feel it.

Montgomery: I encouraged my guys to socialize. I always felt that was part of college. You should go to a party, you should have a party, you should have a beer, you should date. I think that helped, that the athletes didn’t separate themselves from the rest of the students. Once you got it rolling, once they came to Maples, the enthusiasm was kind of infectious, then others came because the environment was fun. It was a fun place to be.

Lottich: There was a lot of excitement going into that Arizona game. That team started to garner a lot of attention and a lot of buzz on campus. Maples Pavilion was such a special place. It was so hard for teams to come in there and win. It was electric. The students were phenomenal.

Platz: Not only do you have another soldout crowd, but we’ve got Vitale and Musburger in the house, and Tiger’s coming to the game, Jim Plunkett … It was the place to be and that game was the result. There was a lot of hype going into the game and the game met the hype and exceeded it. That’s rare in sports.

Lottich: You know what’s funny? Andre Igoudala. This is crazy what confidence does. Igoudala’s from Illinois. We played on the same AAU team. I remember his freshman year, I’m a junior, he came off the bench for them. He comes in and I’m thinking in my head, this dude cannot guard me. And I remember I got a foul on him real quick, like a shooting foul, and Lute Olsen subbed him right out. Now, you go back and think about it … that’s one of the best defenders in the NBA. This guy ended up guarding Lebron James in the NBA Finals. Wow … confidence really does do a lot for you.

Robinson: We really felt like we were the team to beat in the Pac-10. In previous years the championship had gone through either Stanford or Arizona. We knew it was going to be extremely important that we defend our home court.

Montgomery: Any notion of coming in with less than your best wasn’t going to happen. They knew how good Arizona was. They prepared themselves.

Brent Musburger (ABC play-by-play): I had a little bit of background with Montgomery, I had met him when he was the coach at Montana. He did a great job with the Griz. I’ve always thought he was one of the better college basketball coaches I was around. He did a great job there at Stanford.

Childress: Arizona was always a good matchup for us because it allowed individuals like myself and Justin, who like to play a little more fast-paced, the opportunity to get out and get active. A slow game was more suited to our team’s style of play, but we could play both sides of the tempo. I loved matching up with guys like Channing and Igoudala because it was a chance for me to challenge myself against guys who might be going to the next level. It always was a fun time.

That game we played at Tucson, we weren’t expected to go in there and do what we did. I know they had motivation to come back to our home and beat us. But the energy and the excitement in Maples was probably the best that I’d ever seen. That gets you amped as a player. It was one of those kind of moments in time where you look back and you’re like, Man, everybody’s out here rooting for us, we’ve been on this unbelievable run. Now is the time for us to show out.

Jim Plunkett (Stanford’s 1970 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback): We had season tickets. We went to almost every home game. I like Mike Montgomery. We played golf together occasionally. We knew Mike and his wife, Sara, and enjoyed their company, enjoyed going to their games, and we became friends over the years.

The atmosphere at Stanford allows you to do that. You go to a school with 30,000-40,000 kids, and so many professors, it’s so big. But here it’s more intimate. You get to know people in ways you may not be able to do at another university.


Lottich: We had a way we did things and it didn’t change based on who you were guarding. We had rules defensively and you had to execute those rules. That’s why it took so long really for young players to play, because there was an expectation. If you messed it up, you couldn’t play. You had to be trusted in those moments.

I could run back every single play we ran that season. I know them all still. And I could definitely tell you all the defensive rules we had. Specifically, Salim Stoudamire would be a guy you’d have to take away. You knew if he got going from three, he was really hard to turn off. We wanted to run him off the three-point line. Nothing easy for him.

Robinson: I was matched up on Andre Igoudala most of the game. It was really just a battle. My responsibility was to be a voice on the floor to make sure that we worked together defensively.

Hernandez: The majority of the time, I was guarding their point guard, Mustapha Shakur. Sometimes, I would switch up on Salim.

Montgomery: Channing Frye was not a physical player. He was skilled, but not physical. Rob Little’s size could have hurt him a little bit, but Rob took the challenge. Sometimes people would complain about our physicality, which was great, because I loved the fact that we were getting in their heads. We weren’t afraid to bang a little bit.


Grunfeld: It was my 20th birthday. We’re going for 20-0. I wear No. 20. This is a moment. This is what you train for. This is what we do.

Musburger: I honestly did not know until the game started that Tiger Woods was at the game.  I was busy doing things, I come back, I talk to coaches. I wasn’t paying much attention. During the game, they took a shot of him over there and I did a double-take. He was very close to me, with his wife.

I’d known Tiger for a long time. I’d known his father. We never actually talked because there was such chaos at the end of the game. We kind of nodded at each other during one timeout. That was kind of the extent of the cordiality with Tiger. That brought a different scene. The crowd at the stadium was so excited about him.

Stanford built a 13-point first half lead and led 67-58 midway through the second half.

Lottich: That Arizona team really underperformed relative to their talent. What we caught was probably a team with their back against the wall. They were going to fight and claw to get back into it.

Robinson: We really felt like we were playing amazing basketball. We’re 19 games into the season. We’re a month away from the NCAA tournament. Arizona’s in our house. We came in with a lot of confidence, with a lot of energy.


We just knew we could play with them. Obviously, we had to play well to beat them. I don’t know if we felt like we had their number at all, but we’re not looking at them on this pedestal.


Arizona rallied and Stanford went cold.

Lottich: I remember … Man, we need this game to end. We need this clock to go down faster than it is.

A long rebound of a Stanford miss led to a Wildcat fastbreak that ended with a Shakur lob to Igoudala for a slam to cut Arizona’s deficit to 67-65 with 6:51 left.  

Vitale (on ABC): “He is up baby! Grand slam bam! There we go! Dipsy-doo Dunkaroo! Up up and away!”  

Platz: Stanford’s offense was doing its job. The problem was that Arizona had Salim Stoudamire.

Lottich: He really got cooking. It’s tough to turn guys off like that.

Arizona pulled ahead, 72-67, on a putback slam by Frye to cap a 21-4 run. Though that lead shrunk to 74-73, Arizona responded with a Stoudamire hit a three with 58 seconds left for a 77-73 Wildcat lead. “Ohhh, what a dagger!” Vitale shouted. “That’s a dagger my friend.”

Gonzales: As the clock winds down in a tight game, there are a couple of things that go through my mind. One is, if someone hits the winning shot, I’ve got to make sure I get that picture.

If you sit on the floor, you have players and referees running in front of you constantly. You might get blocked out. One of the great things about being at every game is you build relationships with the other photographers. I knew that if I decided to move from the floor, if somebody hit the game-winning shot, we could always ask to share pictures.

I decided to move upstairs with about 2 ½ minutes to go and shoot from the stands, so I would be unimpeded. I was using a Canon 400 2.8 and a Canon 70-200 zoom lens. With the 70-200, I could get more of a wide shot and capture more of the environment, the packed stands, the court, and all the players. I still hadn’t made that classic Tiger Woods celebratory photo. I knew I had to focus on him just as much as on the players.

Childress was fouled on an offensive rebound with 44 seconds left and went to the line, missing the first free throw off the front rim and hitting the second to cut the deficit to 77-74.

“A couple of Arizona guys were saying the game was over when Josh was shooting,” Little said postgame.

Grunfeld: I remember, when we were down, that brotherhood, like we’re all right no matter what happens here. There was a really positive feeling. We had battled, persevered, and weren’t giving up. It showed in the Oregon game. It showed in this game. We just kept fighting.


Musburger (on ABC): They go to tie him up … No whistle … Stoudamire bringing it back now … Crowd unhappy that a jump ball wasn’t called … They got the arrow … 

Oh, they turn it over … Lottich’s got it … Back down to Hernandez … Here’s Robinson … They go to Childress … Corner three … Yes! … Childress ties it! … Oooh Baby!

Hernandez: They were going to try to run the clock down and we knew we needed to put a little bit of pressure on. Matt went and doubled and caught Salim off guard.

As Arizona inbounded, Lottich went for a steal in the corner. Childress got his hands on the loose ball, but Arizona wrested it away. Stanford continued to pressure in the frontcourt and Hernandez forced a bad pass. Stoudamire tried to save the ball from going into the backcourt, but his pass was intercepted by Lottich, sparking a break that led to a Childress three that tied the score, 77-77, with 23 seconds left.

Lottich: We weren’t a big pressure team. We weren’t used to playing from behind. I think the pressure was something Coach just kind of threw together, to be honest with you. We doubled the ball and Stoudamire got caught at the halfcourt line and threw an errant pass that I was able to get my hand on.

Robinson: I was to be active on the ball and see if we could get a deflection, maybe a steal. I’m pretty sure one of us, Matt or I, fouled early in the possession, and all of a sudden we were able to put them in a really tough situation close to halfcourt.

The late Bob Murphy (on Stanford radio): Ball’s thrown away … It’s in the backcourt … Intercepted by Lottich … Lottich is bringing it down ... Lottich to Robinson … Hernandez with a dribble ... Childress three-pointer … It’s good! … It’s good! … It’s good! … It’s good!

Platz: I love the play that happened there. All the other players sort of fanned out into their right spots. The ball movement was quick, efficient, no wasted dribbles and it set up an open three for Childress. When you’ve got Igoudala around there, he can close. But if you’re moving it quickly, and you’re using your left hand, it makes it even faster, you’re going to get an open shot for a teammate. It happened so fast, Childress didn’t have to worry about the pressure.

Robinson: It was a really impressive everybody’s-in-this-thing-together possession.

Lottich: I remember dribbling down the court thinking, If I have a look, I’m going to shoot it. I just couldn’t get a great grasp on the ball.

Childress: You had three other guys who could have taken that shot. Lottie comes down, he gets the steal. He probably could have pulled it if he wanted to. Passed to Nick. Back to Lottie, went to Chris. In all those scenarios, nobody felt like they had the right shot at the right time. But we waited for the best shot that was in rhythm. And it just so happened to be me.

Grunfeld: I’ve watched the play a jillion times, but if you ever watch it back, look how Chris delivers that ball with his left hand. To a casual observer seems like a basketball player making a pass, but every day, we’re working on that in practice.

Hernandez: Angles are really important when you’re playing point guard. And being able to make certain types of passes at certain speeds to have it arrive on time without it getting tipped or give someone enough time to get their shot, that’s something I worked on a lot.

Montgomery: What we would have worked on, the left corner’s going to be open, so how are you going to get it there. Some guys could never throw the ball with their left hand. But if we had Josh in the left corner and he was open, it was highly likely that Chris Hernandez would be able to deliver the ball. People don’t really realize how important it is to deliver the ball on time with some pace and in the shooting pocket. That’s huge in terms of the shooter getting rhythm.

Childress: Missing that free throw and coming back to make the second and being focused on the next play, that mentally came from a previous game in which I was struggling and we were struggling as a team.

We were in the locker room and it was a players-only situation. My teammates said, “Josh, we need you to be aggressive and assertive at all times. You’re a leader on this team. You’re a guy that we lean on to make plays. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to mess up. At the end of the day, you’re our guy and we need you to lean into being that.”

That trickle-down effect carried over after I missed that free throw. I said, “All right, I’ve got to make this next one and I’ve got to make the next play. That led to that swing-swing-swing corner three. It wasn’t anything else other than I knew my teammates had confidence in me. They put the ball in my hands at that moment to make the play, but mentally I was already locked in from four or five games ago.

Davis: You knew the momentum swung in our favor. There was this sense that we’re about to pull it off.

Gonzales: Tiger jumped out of his seat, gave the fist pump, high-fived his friends, and I made the shot. I knew that was the photograph that captured what it meant to be a Stanford fan that day. After that, I was clear to focus on the action of the game.


Murphy (on radio): It still hangs in the balance John because the Wildcats have the ball. They’ll probably save it for a last shot. They’ll probably drive it in and put a lot of pressure on the officials.

And they could win it at the foul line. We’ll have to watch this very carefully. I think they’ll waste a lot of time out in front. Maybe Stanford will put pressure on them. I wonder if they will.

They can’t afford the foul. Just can’t afford the foul.

Platz: I don’t think you go man because you isolate Stoudamire. He’s almost always gotten a bucket or a free throw. This has got to be zone and I think you have to make Arizona beat you from outside.

Murphy: If that’s the case John, Stanford needs to pray for a missed shot. Because they will get the shot. They will get the shot. Arizona will try to win it with the outside shot. They will not leave Stanford with any time on the clock. So, we’re looking at an Arizona win or overtime.

Platz: Probably.

Gonzales: I had four strobe lights set up – one in each corner of the court, up in the rafters. With strobes, you have to wait for the lights to recycle. So, if you take one picture, you can’t take another for three seconds because there would be no flash. That’s always on your mind if you’re shooting in a gym -- your timing. You only get one chance to make a photograph when you use strobes.

Sports Illustrated sent out its No. 1 basketball photographer, John McDonough, and John was sitting under the Arizona basket. He was banking on Arizona winning. I knew if Stanford won, it would be up to me to provide coverage for the magazine.

Childress: We knew that the ball was likely going to go into the hands of Salim, he was their best pure scorer. But make them take a tough shot and don’t let anybody get an offensive rebound.

Davis: Hit the boards.

Childress: Yeah, that was probably (assistant coach) Russ Turner yelling that in our ear.

Vitale (on ABC): Right now, you’ve got to think of Stoudamire … And be very very careful of the offensive rebounds … They’re going to take the clock right down … They’re not going to give Stanford a shot … Stoudamire’s the guy … Very dangerous … But watch the offensive rebounds.

Musburger: Lottich jumps him now.

Vitale: They want to get it to Stoudamire …

Musburger: They’ve got to hurry now … Seven seconds … Here he comes … It’s one on one with Lottich … Lottich stays … Almost stolen … They’ve got it! …

Lottich: We had a foul to give. The refs didn’t remember that because I was fouling the heck out of him. I mean, I was trying to get a foul. Refs are not really going to want to be the ones that decide the game. So, I’m able to be extraordinarily physical.

Platz: Stoudamire already scored 24 points. Matt Lottich is defending him. That should tell you the regard that Coach Montgomery and his staff had for Lottich as a defensive player and late-game competitor.

Grunfeld: We talked about Matt Lottich and what he brought to the team: his intensity, his fight, his ferocity. Matt won’t back down from anyone. He doesn’t stop, he doesn’t quit.

We weren’t backing up, we were moving towards. We were aggressive. We were the aggressor, even though it was their moment. You want to cause a little bit of confusion. You just want to muck it up a little bit for them, and that’s what happened.

Montomery: We were aggressive, we were attacking, we needed the ball. And we got it. We got a turnover.

Robinson: I started in the corner, guarding Igoudala away from the basketball. I went into the ball screen that was set up at the top of the key. Igoudala lifted from his position up to the wing, which allowed me to raise up and essentially create a triple team. Matt was in a great position defensively and was being very aggressive. We were able to put Salim in a really tough spot and all of a sudden this thing was loose.

Hernandez: I was in the back. I got to see everything. Shakur was running the baseline, so I was just kind of staying almost underneath the hoop watching everything unfold.

Coach Montgomery worked with us on a lot of special situations. You get the ball at halfcourt and we have under three seconds left. We practice these things.

I saw the steal happen and immediately I’m thinking like a coach. I’m trying to call timeout. I know that we can execute in a special situation and get a really good shot off. I’m trying to call timeout so we can do that. I didn’t run to the ref. I was just trying to look at them, jumping where I was trying to call a timeout. Luckily, they didn’t see me.

Montgomery: It happened very quickly. We were free and on the move. The likelihood of us getting even that good of a shot uncontested was pretty unlikely. But I would be lying to you if I said that all of those things were running through my mind in terms of, Let’s taking a timeout, we’ll run this. In this situation, taking a timeout probably would have been a bad. Maybe if you’re writing a book, that’s what you do. But I don’t think it would have been the highest percentage.

Murphy (on radio): So, Arizona … Igoudala. Stanford’s putting pressure on him … They are putting pressure on him.

Platz: It’s token … They’re going to fall back Murph into a man-to-man and that means they’re going to isolate Stoudamire.

Murphy: Stoudamire’s out there with Lottich … They’re going to have to help him … 12 seconds ... 10 seconds … Almost lost it.

Stoudamire …. Dribbling … Dribbling … Dribbling … Dribbling … Five seconds … Four seconds … Ball’s loose! … The ball’s loose.

Stanford’s got it! … Nick Robinson … Shot … HE HIT IT! … HE HIT IT! … NICK ROBINSON HIT IT! … IT’S OVER! … Stoudamire’s on the floor … Nick Robinson hit it! … It is unbelievable!

Platz: Murph went bananas because he loved Stanford sports like no other. And when Stanford won, he went crazy, verbally and otherwise. And when they lost, it was a gut-punch to him. He was great for the moment. I just let him go.

Musburger (on ABC): Two seconds! … Robinson at the buzzer … Yes! … Yes! … Yes! … Robinson at the buzzer! … He nails it! … Stanford stays unbeaten! … It’s a mob scene … An incredible ending! … Childress ties it on a three and Robinson on a steal! … It’s a runner at the buzzer! … Pandemonium in Palo Alto! … Whoa baby! … We have been watching a classic!



As Stoudamire was triple-teamed, Robinson, nicknamed ‘Pops’ for his maturity by former teammate Michael McDonald, got a hand on the ball. Stoudamire regained control and tried to pass as he fell. Lottich deflected it with three seconds left and Robinson picked it up, turning upcourt and racing toward the basket. With 0:00.03 on the clock, Robinson released a twisting runner from 35 feet as Igoudala flew by, that swished as time expired.

Childress: I was surprised that Salim tried to throw that pass. That was kind of shocking. He was very much capable of breaking the defender down.

Robinson: The ball pops up. I grab it. First instinct was to look at the clock. There was nobody in front of me. So, just reacted. Started dribbling. I was on a full sprint. I took off on one foot from 40 feet and let it go. It really felt like it had a chance. It looked like it was on-line.

Childress: It looked like it came off good. And then when it drained … unbelievable!

Robinson: I don’t know if I lost my balance or just let everything go. I wanted to see it go all the way through. My focus was on the basketball and does it go in or does it not. To see it go through the net was really really exciting. And then to see my teammates on top of me, was super exciting. Matt was the first one there, and everybody else was very close behind.

Grunfeld: When Nick took the shot, it happened so fast, but there was a minute where it was like, no way … And then it was mayhem.

Platz: I remember thinking, it’s a low trajectory. Usually when you’re flinging it with one hand, they have kind of a majestic arc. I thought, he’s probably going to miss … And then it goes in. I froze because it just dawned on me what had happened.

Davis: I couldn’t believe it. What just happened? You cannot tell me that confetti didn’t fall. There’s no way someone’s going to tell me otherwise. It seemed like confetti fell. It was unreal.

Lottich: Nick was willing to do anything it took to win and that’s why it’s awesome that he could have a moment like that, because of how much self-sacrifice he made.

Robinson: My wife Meaghan was at the game up in the stands and stayed there when everything turned to pandemonium. She was eight months pregnant. Our daughter was born March 1. She was introduced to all the guys on a bus before we left for the Washington trip.

Gonzales: When Nick grabbed the ball, I took a picture because I thought the turnover was the biggest play of the game. But he kept dribbling, and I knew I had to wait three seconds. When it became clear he was going to take the shot, I knew I had to wait until the last split-second, because if I took the photograph too early my strobes wouldn’t fire.

The moment is when he launches the ball from 35 feet away. It’s not after the ball goes in, that’s too late. Really, the one moment that personifies the action is him leaping up and the ball just leaving his fingertips.

In my head, I was counting to three, but when I saw he was going up to take the shot, I had no choice but to fire the camera whether my strobes had recycled or not. I went back after the celebration and checked, and luckily all four strobes had fired and I’d made the photograph, with the ball just on his fingertips.


Lottich: Oh man! This was crazy actually. I’m first to Nick.

Right before this, we had a male volleyball player who got paralyzed in one of those moments. I remember this happened, right before we got piled on.

The night before, Joe Kay, a Stanford men’s volleyball commit and two-sport star at Tucson (Ariz.) High School, suffered devastating injuries after the crowd rushed the court after a big basketball victory, leaving him partially paralyzed.

Lottich: I remember being scared because it was so flipping heavy. I remember ripping into people: “Get off!” It was intense. You feel like your body’s just crushed. It was awful.

Jim Plunkett: We had a great time and it was a great game, and the way it ended was incredible, just an incredible moment for Stanford basketball.

We all stood up. Watching the ball go into the bucket. And then the place went crazy. I’m too big to run over. I just pushed people out of my way. But my poor wife got run over.

Hernandez: The magnitude of how loud the arena was after that shot went through … It’s hard for me to imagine a more electric situation that I’d been in than that one. Then the dogpile happens and you’re really excited, but then all of a sudden when 16 other people start to jump on top of you, you start getting a little bit scared. Then you get relieved because everyone’s kind of coming up, and then you’re excited going back to the locker room.

Grunfeld: Once we all got off that pile … Euphoria! And I mean euphoria … It was the greatest.

Platz: My mind was quick enough to know this was such a rare confluence of events that it would be remembered for a long time and probably nothing would equal it in that sport in that arena.

When else are you going to be undefeated in February? When else are you going to beat a team like that with that kind of ending? When else are you going to have that kind of luminary power? This was rare high-water mark all-time forever stuff. 

Musburger: That shot by Robinson, honestly, was one of the more memorable game-winners that I was around. I’d been around great games that stood out and everything, but that was the definition of a buzzer-beater. Just rewatching the clip brought chills back when he came across that line and fired.

Grunfeld: I’ve had chills for the last five minutes just talking about it. Honestly, I’m reliving one of the greatest moments of my life. It doesn’t of course compare to my kids or my wife, but it will always be one of the greatest moments of my life.

It was just something that transcends the normal human experience. We all got to go through something that was so big, for us personally, and for us as a community … we’ll never forget it.


Lottich: My seat was really right by the door to the locker room, there was a little doorway. In walked (associate athletics director) Mike Izzi. He goes, “Coach, You got a minute? We have someone who’d like to say ‘hi’ to the guys.” In comes Tiger Woods.

Tiger’s sitting right there. I’m right next to Tiger.

Grunfeld: We were hugging, and just losing our minds. And then Tiger Woods comes in. Monty finally got us settled down in our seats, and Monty hands it over to Tiger.

“Guys, I stay up late if I’m on the East Coast to watch all your games. We’re all inspired by what you’re doing. I’m proud of you.”

Can this day get any better?

Lottich: When everyone calms down, he leans over and says, “Hey, good game, Matt.” And, I’m like … dang! Tiger Woods knows my name!

Montgomery: I’d known Tiger for a while. When he was a freshman, he came into the coaches’ locker room and asked if he could putt on the Maples floor. He was getting ready for the Master’s and preparing for the speed of the greens.

I said, “Sure, Tiger.”

Childress: Tiger was smiling. He was genuinely happy for us, which is pretty cool to think about.

Davis: He was enamored by us and what we just did. He’s excited to be in our locker room and to have had that experience … That was really incredible to see.

Lottich: The best moment I have, after the shot itself, was walking out of the locker room and seeing the party on the Maples floor.


Musburger: If you’re going to end a game like that, there’s honestly no one you’d rather do it with than Vitale. He’s one of a kind. And when you work with him as a play-by-play man, you’d better be quick, because he’s not going to give you a lot of time. You’ve got to move fast because Vitale’s right there.

He and I go way back. Actually, I covered him when he was coaching in the NBA. There’s no one that I ever worked with in college athletics who got along with the students better than Vitale. Stanford was just like any other school, kids coming around, wanting to have a picture taken. When you saw Vitale, the kids, you always smiled. And that was great.

Of course, he wasn’t going to show up unless you had a decent team. That shows you how good the Cardinal was.

Grunfeld: There was a big party that night and when we showed up, you could just hear screaming and yelling. A friend of mine said, “There were a couple of people who couldn’t be in Maples, and weren’t at the game, but they were on campus. When the shot went in, it was almost like an earthquake. You could almost feel it, because in every dorm room and in every classroom, people went nuts.”

Gonzales: After the game ended, I said to John McDonough, “I got the shot. Do you need me to send it to New York?” He said yes. He was out of position.

That night, I transmitted the picture. When the magazine came out, we had a double-page photograph, with a picture inset of Tiger Woods celebrating. Everybody saw it. To be able to preserve that memory is one of my greatest contributions to the university.

Platz: The David Gonzales photo was as brilliant and frankly as improbable as Nick Robinson’s shot. Why is he on the second level? Why is he in that corner? Aren’t photographers supposed to be under the basket. Is it a sixth sense?

It has to be one of the great sports photos ever, given the magnitude of the game nationally, the ending and the moment, the luminaries in the background, and the uniqueness of the photographic location. It’s brilliance. It is the greatest sports photograph in Stanford history.

Robinson: The thing that gets me excited and warms my heart every time I see that picture -- I’ve got multiple copies -- is everything else going on besides me and the ball. To see the faces of everybody on edge, the announcers, Tiger, your teammates … It’s really incredible to be able to say, yeah, I was in that game.



Hernandez: We had our fun and it was immediately back to the grind. We had Cal next to prepare for.

Davis: We went out that night, and it was great. But Stanford’s such a special place in the sense that people show they love you, but you’re going to remain humble. If you think what you just did is incredible, let me tell you what that person did.

Childress: After the game, I was in the laundry room doing my laundry for the week. Yeah, we played a great game, but we’ve got to be focused on the next one. I’ve got laundry to do.

Stanford kept winning and moved up to No. 1. The Cardinal trailed 61-56 at Washington State with 25 seconds left only for Grunfeld to convert a four-point play and Lottich to nail a 25-footer at the buzzer to give Stanford a 63-61 victory and improve to 26-0.

However, the streak ended in the conference finale at Washington, 77-63, depriving the Cardinal of becoming the first Pac-10 team to win all 18 regular-season conference games, though Stanford won the Pac-10 tournament and entered the NCAA tournament at 29-1 and as the No. 1 seed.  


Stanford’s season ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 70-67 loss to Alabama in Seattle. Alabama shot 44 free throws to Stanford’s 11. Childress fouled out with 3:16 left and the Cardinal failed to maintain a 13-point lead despite having 10 more field goals and 20 more rebounds. “We couldn’t defend the foul shot very well,” Montgomery said after the game. The Cardinal finished 30-2.

Lottich: Obviously, you’d like to have a better ending. Here was the thing about us: We were really physical. And in that game, the refs were calling really touchy stuff. Look, they’re from a different league. They’re not used to reffing our league or our team. That’s how we played all year and that’s what helped make us good. You can’t control that.

Was our group talented to win a national championship? Our connectivity was. Were we talented enough? Who knows.

Grunfeld: I missed the shot against Alabama. I felt euphoria and I felt heartbreak. But nothing will ever take away from what we achieved and from what this moment meant to us and will always mean to us. It’s too big.

Robinson: What made that year so amazing was each of the guys on the team. We started this in the spring and summer with high expectations. We fought through some adversity. We had a coaching staff that believed in what we were capable of doing and set high standards for all of us.

Childress: We wished we would have had a longer time in the tournament and didn’t have that defeat by Washington. But it’s part of the game. We busted our butts all year, put ourselves in position to win and we just didn’t.

We all feel very proud about that season, what we accomplished, the bonds we made, the impact we had on fans. You still go out to campus and that’s still something that’s talked about. We’re talking about it now. It’s something we’re all proud to be part of.


Childress: I played 15 years professionally and never experienced a team like that, where you just enjoy showing up to the gym every day. Every day wasn’t always great, right? But you still enjoyed putting in work alongside your brothers.

I don’t think I had another game or another moment like that in my career.

Vitale: It was a game filled with hoops hysteria. Nick Robinson hits a miracle shot to keep Stanford unbeaten. It was a magical moment.

Lottich: One of the things that I tell the young men I coach now and relate it to my experience at Stanford was that, as soon as you start playing professionally, the game isn’t really fun anymore. I get a lot of raised eyebrows with that. It’s a job, especially if you take the path that I did and you play internationally on one-year contracts. It’s real-world experience. So, I tell people to be present and live in the moment. That team did a really good job of being present every single day.

Grunfeld: This was the moment. If you have one of these in a long career, you’re very very lucky.

Robinson: As a coach, what I took away is that each individual has to maximize their strengths, to be willing to help and serve and hold accountable the guy next to you. We were all about the team. Everybody made it about the team. We were a team on the court as well as off the court.

That’s really what made that season so special. The shot versus Arizona was really a combination of the togetherness and the love that we had for one another. We were willing to raise each other to the highest possible level that we could, and it was absolutely amazing.


The 2003-04 season was the last at Stanford for Montgomery, who left after 18 seasons to coach the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, where he spent two seasons.

Montgomery: I felt bad leaving that team because they were very good. I loved those kids. Going to the pros … it was a Bay Area team. It was a bad move. It just seemed like the only choice I had at that juncture. It was not preplanned. It took a long time to make that choice.

Childress declared for the NBA Draft and was picked sixth – Stanford’s highest pick ever – by the Atlanta Hawks, where he was teammates with Stoudamire and Frye.

Childress: It definitely came up a bunch of times. “Dude, why’d you throw that pass with your opposite hand?” I got a chance to talk trash with both those guys.

Justin and I are business partners now. We talk about the team dynamic a lot, about how we want to replicate that in our business. Anybody that we bring on is part of our team. That game and that season has remnants now 20 years later for us in our lives and our business.

We learned a lot that year. Had some great moments, had some not-so-great moments. But we learned valuable life lessons that have carried over to us now being co-founders of a business together.

Davis: Absolutely agree. It was such a defining time for all of us.

Lottich: I’m living in Columbia, Missouri, now. I don’t get to see them all that often, but those are the types of relationships you have where if someone said, “Hey Lottie, I need you here,” I’d be on the first plane out. And I know they would do the same for me.

Grunfeld: I’m turning 40 on February 7. Every birthday, I watch the YouTube clip of the Miracle at Maples and I get chills every time. I watch with my wife, and I will forever. That’s how big of a thing it is.

We’re all still very close, we have text chains and a What’s App group. Some of my closest friends to this day are some of the guys that were on that pile with me. We have a brotherhood that will last forever. That’s very close to all our hearts.

I feel great right now because I got to relive this moment.

My wife, when I come upstairs, she’s going to say, “You’re hyped up.” And I’ll say, “I was talking about the Miracle at Maples for an hour, what’s not good about that?”

Robinson: It was a great moment in time and one I will cherish forever. It’s not very often you get to live a childhood dream of making a game-winner, and to do it in that fashion was really special. I cannot believe it’s been 20 years.