Skip to main content
Publish date:

Pranked high school hoops coach gets Final Four tickets after all


Joel Branstrom is getting his Final Four tickets after all.

The Kansas high school girls basketball coach became an instant Internet celebrity after making a half-court shot while blindfolded to foil a planned joke by students at Olathe Northwest High School. Branstrom was told he would win tickets to April's college basketball Final Four in Indianapolis if he made it. However, the students, who never anticipated Branstrom would hit the shot, didn't have the tickets they promised. They bought him a gift certificate to a Mexican restaurant as a consolation prize.

But an anonymous donor stepped in to give Branstrom and his family their prize. Branstrom, a former University of Kansas basketball walk-on who also teaches biology at Olathe Northwest High, isn't divulging where he's getting the tickets from, saying only he's been told his family will receive them in addition to lodging and transportation. He says the donor will be revealed soon.

The shot, which was videotaped by the school's multimedia department, quickly became a viral sensation.

SI Recommends

"When they took me out of the gym, put me in the school uniform with a skull cap, I thought I was going to get hit in the face with a pie," Branstrom told the Kansas City Star. "That's why I put the ball in front of my face when it was first handed to me. I was trying to protect my nose.

"I didn't know for over a minute that I actually made it. [Olathe Northwest boys coach Mike] Grove was being overly adamant that I had made the shot. I even told him to give it up, but he was so insistent. Honestly, if it wasn't on tape, I probably still wouldn't believe it."

The prank was supposed to be a takeoff of a similar stunt pulled by at the University of Maryland last year. The catch is fans are told to cheer wildly when the prank victim presumably missed the shot. In the practical joke at Maryland, the contestant was told he would win $500,000 for making the half-court heave. The shot missed badly.