Staring down the end of his basketball career put Joey Lane in a sentimental mood. As senior day approached, and then ultimately the win-or-go-home finality of the NCAA Tournament, the senior walk-on for Ohio State made the decision to reach out to every coach he’d ever had to express his thanks.
He thought he’d exhausted his supply of tears about his career coming to a close. That is, until the replies started flooding into his phone.
“It was mostly texts, and it was a lot of texts,” Lane told The Dispatch. “I deserved it, but I got bombarded right after because I sent eight or nine and had paragraphs to read of them saying some nice things. I thought I was done crying, but those were the last tears until the season probably starts again.”
>> Video: Ohio State’s Joey Lane addresses the crowd on senior day
A native of Deerfield, Illinois, Lane joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on when recruiting coordinator Christopher Spartz spotted him at Ohio State’s summer team camp. Otherwise, Lane would have likely played Division III basketball. For his first two years, he played for coach Thad Matta and then was thrust into a position of importance when Chris Holtmann replaced him in the summer of 2017.
Both would play significant roles in his development.
“Obviously I give so much praise to this (current) staff for helping me because they’ve been instrumental in so, so much,” he said, “but the other staff, once I got time to reflect and thank them I realized, wow. Not only did coach Matta and coach Spartz and all these guys give me the opportunity to live my dream, they also shaped me into the guy that I was in order to help this staff as a junior when they came in. I can’t thank them enough.
“You see all the success of those guys, guys like (Jeff) Boals and (Dave) Dickerson who are now head coaches, they’re outstanding coaches but they’re also awesome, awesome dudes who really impacted my life in a positive way on and off the court.”
Before senior night, Lane said he received phone calls from former staff members Greg Paulus and Jake Diebler. Since, he’s heard from everyone from Matta to Verne Reich, who coached him from second through sixth grade for Highwood Small Fry.
“We were such a close team, but we would run if you didn’t point at the guy after he made a good pass to you or if you didn’t say ‘nice pass’ when someone gave you an assist for a layup,” Lane said. “We would run for that stuff. Stuff like that, you think it doesn’t mean a lot but then you reflect on that nine years later or whatever it’s been and you’re like, wow, that stuff matters. Even now, coach Holt preaches the same thing: nice pass, nice shot, it’s for every level. Learning that was such a benefit to me.”
Matta, too, sent a message that Lane described as “unbelievable.”
“He was just saying about how special of a guy I was and how obviously anything he ever could do for me, he would,” Lane said. “He’s the man. I miss being around him because he was like no coach I’ve ever had before, but I’m excited to see, if he decides to coach again, how successful he makes that program.”
Upon graduation, Lane will begin an internship at Nike this summer. His playing career is over, but with so many coaches having played prominent roles in his life, Lane didn’t rule out eventually finding his way back to the sport.
“I have a buddy who played on Gonzaga and he took a year off and was working a regular job and said he missed it so much that he went and now he’s a (graduate assistant) at Baylor,” he said. “He always tells me, ‘I know you. You’re going to say you don’t want to coach and then two years from now you’ll miss basketball.’
“I just love basketball, and I want to be a part of it. Everything is interesting to me right now and I’m not closing any doors.”