Washington It was Kirk Hinrich Day here Monday, in case you missed it. No mayoral proclamation, a la John Wall. Just my own proclamation, which isn’t the same, but still.
(And before we go on, to be clear, it’s Kirk , not Kurt, as at least one media mate referred to him. It’s KIRK, as in Douglas, Captain, or the Church of Scotland. Kirk.)
The happiest people in stuffy Verizon Center on Monday probably were the campers who got to meet Hinrich. He was asked to shoot a free throw — if he made it, the youngsters didn’t have to run a lap. They eagerly surrounded him, and he made it, and his fan club had its newest recruits.
Some of us have had our membership cards a little longer. I’ve followed Hinrich through his very successful four years at Kansas University, plus seven years in Chicago, during which a lot of Kansans — bereft of an NBA team — became Bulls fans.
Hinrich said Monday it would take fans in Washington some time to get to know him. I don’t think so. Wizards fans, who’ve been a bit bereft themselves, will see quickly that Hinrich has been a winner at every level, and they’ll want him to bring some of that magic to D.C.
He’s also been a leader at every level. Sons of coaches can go in two directions on the court: They can turn into obnoxious blowhards or floor generals. Hinrich, who played for his father from third grade through high school, made it through Door No. 2. Father and son won the Iowa state championship in his senior season at Sioux City West High School.
He then polished his game at Kansas under Roy Williams. That meant running the offense as well as hard-nosed hustling on defense. He took the Jayhawks to consecutive Final Fours; fans wept on Senior Night in 2003.
The Bulls drafted him seventh overall that summer. After his first season, he was named to the all-rookie team with some names you’ll recognize: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.
In seven seasons in Chicago, Hinrich averaged 13.4 points, 5.8 assists and 2.2 turnovers, went to the playoffs five times, and was voted captain four times. In fact, at all levels of the game, Hinrich was a leader, without even trying.
“It just seems like everywhere I go, the way I play, my teammates really respect me,” he said. “It started out, I wasn’t very vocal, I tried to lead by example. I wasn’t even trying to be a leader. Guys are always looking to me for that. As I moved on in my career I knew that my teammates were looking to me for leadership. I tried to become a better leader and be more vocal and everything like that.”
Hinrich is a physical player who has had a few on-court incidents in his day.
But that’s about it. There are no DUIs haunting his past, no off-court incidents. To put it bluntly, he won’t be bringing any guns into the locker room or embarrass his team. Instead, you’ll get consistent play from a guy who never quits. He’s as steady as the summer heat in D.C.
He’d like to give Wizards fans some new happy moments. He and wife Jill, whom he has known since his Iowa days, are preparing to move here. “Our family is very excited for the change,” he said.
“I’m motivated as a player individually and as a team to bring the excitement back to town.”
— Tracee Hamilton is a Kansas University graduate