Funny how eight seconds can last a lifetime. Just ask John Laskowski. The former Indiana sixth man was 20 when he stepped to the free throw line with eight ticks remaining, the Hoosiers down 79--78 to Purdue, the 1974 Big Ten co-championship hanging in the balance and what felt like the whole state of Indiana watching, waiting and wishing.
With two perfect flicks of the wrist, Laskowski not only won the game but also laid the foundation for his future. A year later he was on the cover of SI in the midst of the Hoosiers' undefeated regular season. And to this day people stop him in the streets, stores and restaurants of Bloomington to reminisce about those two points.
Now in his first year as vice president of sales for Marsh Alumni Services, a Chicago-based insurance provider, Laskowski, 51, also finds himself talking basketball as he travels across the country, meeting with old friends like Mike Krzyzewski at Duke or former teammate Jim Crews at Army, while offering insurance programs to colleges and their alumni. Moreover, he's in his 26th year as a basketball color commentator--he's slated to work 15 games for ESPN Plus this season--and last year he teamed with Bloomington Herald-Times sports editor Stan Sutton to write Tales from the Hoosier Locker Room.
In his two seasons playing for the Hoosiers, Laskowski averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds while forging a reputation as the best sixth man in the country. After graduating in 1975 with a business degree, he worked as a stockbroker in Indianapolis until one day his boss stopped him in the hall and handed him the afternoon paper, which said he'd been drafted in the second round by the Chicago Bulls. "I didn't even know they were having the draft," says Laskowski, who averaged 7.1 points during his two years in the league.
He ventured into broadcasting in 1979, getting one of his first tips from coach Bob Knight, who quipped, "When the red light comes on, start talking." Laskowski also worked as a commercial real estate broker until joining his alma mater in 1995 as vice president of marketing and membership for the alumni association. While in that job he met another former college basketball player, George Bon Salle of Illinois, who lured him to Marsh.
"Basketball is the thread that weaves through my life," says Laskowski, who relishes the fact that none of his four children, Allyson, 21, Drew, 17, Scott, 14, or Kim, 10, have beaten him in HORS-E. After all, he always was and still is a clutch shooter.--Melissa Segura
An Indiana Hoosier still famed for two clutch free throws, Laskowski has stayed in the game as a color commentator.