Steve Palermo, the American League umpire who was shot in the back July 7 as he attempted to foil a robbery outside a Dallas restaurant, was introduced before the game. Palermo, who was walking with the help of crutches, said he was at the game at the invitation of KU coach Roy Williams.
During a short interview before the game, Palermo, 41, who lives in Overland Park, said he was impressed with the Jayhawks and with Allen Fieldhouse.
"Coming to this basketball gym, it's so legendary, it's like walking into a Fenway Park or a Yankee Stadium. There's so much charm to this and so much history behind it," Palermo said. "Coach Williams has got a very well-coached team. He's an excellent coach and he's just got a lot going for him."
Palermo and former Miami Dolphins defenseive lineman Terence Mann both were shot when they came to the aid of two waitresses they saw being robbed at about 1 a.m. July 7 outside Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant in Dallas.
Palermo said that although he must walk with crutches, he is now able to get out more. But he's impatient with the rehabilitation time.
"It's not coming as fast as I would like, but it's coming," he said. "It's coming in millimeters, instead of in yards. It takes a whole lot longer time. And I'm an impatient patient and I just want to get it done as soon as possible."
He said he was hospitalized for a week at Bucklin Hospital and was transferred to Dallas Rehabilitation Institute for three months.
"For the last two months, I've been in Mid-America Rehabilitation Hospital as an outpatient," he said. "It's been pretty steady."
Palermo said he has not attended very many sporting events since he was injured, although he did attend the World Series.
"It is a little bit difficult getting around," he said. "I get embarassed by all the recognition, so I kind of avoid a lot of that."
Three members of the Kansas Board of Regents were attending Saturday night's game: Jo Ann McDowell, Cherryvale; Charles Hostetler, Manhattan, and the newly appointed regent, Frank Sabatini, Topeka. Sabatini, 59, chairman, president and director of Capital City Bank, was appointed in December.
A KU law school graduate who also played football for KU, Sabitini said during the game he thought the Jayhawks were Final Four material. But he didn't think KU's shot at another national title would have much influence in Topeka to get funding to rebuild fire-ravaged Hoch Auditorium.
"Not at all," he said. "I don't think there's any relationship."
Also attending the game, sitting next to Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, was Mike Johnston, secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Also sitting in the stands was Bill Hougland, Wichita, who is the incoming president of the KU Alumni Association. Hougland, a retired Koch Industries executive, was a KU basketball standout from 1950-52.