It’s a must-see for college basketball fans. It’s a must-see for Lebanon Valley College backers.
But there are more universal elements to it – things like unwavering camaraderie, overcoming adversity, David-versus-Goliath themes – that make it attractive to a broader audience.
On Saturday evening at LVC’s Miller Chapel, the first public showing of “The Dutchmen” opened to rave reviews. The 82-minute documentary film takes a deep, behind-the-scenes look at and chronicles the Flying Dutchmen’s 1993-94 NCAA Division Three men’s basketball national championship season, nearly 30 years after it happened.
More than 300 people showed up for the anticipated event, including Lebanon Valley College dignitaries, professors, fans, members of the community and of course, the coaches and players from that legendary squad.
“When we get together, it’s pure enjoyment,” said Mike Rhoades, the Flying Dutchmen’s unquestioned leader and the current head men’s basketball coach at Penn State. “For 30 to 35 years, since we were freshmen, it’s always been about the joy of being together. It truly is a brotherhood. Coach (Pat) Flannery always preached, ‘Let’s make this a family.’ Tonight, the family was back together again. We’re very lucky. We should never forget that.”
“This was such an important event for the college and the community of Annville,” said Sue Jones, LVC’s director of Alumni and Family Engagement. “National championships don’t happen every day. This wasn’t just about a team. Everybody was part of this. Everybody was on that ride with them.”
Much in the same way he contributed to Lebanon Valley’s run to the title, former forward Jason Say was the driving force behind the making of “The Dutchmen.” He teamed with long-time friend Garrett Heath, Heath’s OkieJoke Media company and LVC to produce the film.
“The Dutchmen” is built around 17 in-depth and sometimes emotional interviews of the players, coaches and community members involved with the rare national championship that LVC won with two overtime victories in Buffalo, New York, on the weekend of March 18-19, 1994. The documentary is spruced up with old newspaper clippings, grainy footage from the coverage produced by WLYH-TV, Lebanon and the college’s archives.
“None of us saw it before tonight,” said Rhoades. “We wanted it that way. For me, the biggest thing was getting everyone to come back. It was bigger, better, more enjoyable with everyone together. By doing it that way, it brough back great memories. That, to me, was really cool.”
“There was so much that went into this,” said Jones. “You laughed. You cried. I was on the edge of my seat. I wanted more. It was so good. There’s a lot of back story. You don’t get to the top easily. That’s why victory is sweet. You don’t have to be a sports fan to like the movie.”
Lebanon Valley College currently controls the rights to the documentary. The film could be made available to the public in the early parts of 2024, quite possibly through a streaming service.
“We own it. The college will have it,” said Jones. “The hope it to put it out in a more controlled setting. It will be made available likely in the spring. It hasn’t been decided exactly how yet. But that’s what our plan is.”
“I was the leader,” said Rhoades. “I was the extension of Coach Flannery on the floor. But this story is much bigger than an orange ball. Over all these years, after building all these relationships, it comes back to Lebanon Valley College.”
The Flying Dutchmen didn’t set out to win a national championship at the start of the 1993-94 season. More often than not, those things just happen, with a little bit of luck and a lot of good fortune.
But when it got close enough to visualize it, Lebanon Valley went for it, with a Why-not-us? mentality.
It was an experience that would later help shape the men they would become.
“It’s affected me every day of my life, my relationships, the teams I was on,” said Rhoades. “It set my standard in my profession. That’s the standard I now coach by. My greatest takeaway is that when you’re part of something bigger than yourself you realize you have more in the tank, because you don’t want to let your boys down. When you get on a team like that, it turns into something special.”
“It’s something to be celebrated 30 years later,” said Jones. “It’s a feel-good story. When you see it the first time, it isn’t the story of a national championship team. It’s about overcoming adversity, enduring hardships, building a team. We do think it has the implications of what Division Three has to offer student-athletes. We definitely think there are uses there. But we think the community will celebrate with us.”
“It was a vision, it was an idea, and Jason Say and Garrett Heath brought it to life,” concluded Jones. “It’s just an amazing story. Every single one of these men, they’re good people. They’re successful.”
A national championship is something that no one will ever be able to take away.
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