Dave Krider had his dream job. Every sportswriter who ever covered a high school basketball game in Peoria would kill for the deal that Krider was offered. It was so good that he gave up a prestigious job at USA Today to jump on the dot.com bandwagon.
In 2000, he was hired by a start-up dot.com company called Highwire.com. To entice Krider to leave USA Today, he was paid $100,000 plus a $30,000 signing bonus, a new car lease for two years and a five-week vacation. The company had $30 million in the bank so he figured he was in heaven.
Eight months later, while sitting at courtside and covering two future NBA players, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, in an all-star event in St. Louis, a company vice-president handed Krider and four other writers a pink slip. The dream had turned into a nightmare.
"It was a shock to everyone. It was at the height of the dot.com boom. They went through $22 million in eight months. I was numb. I wasn't going to call my wife about it. The company was run by intelligent people but they changed their plan for making money three times in eight months," Krider said.
"I went home and sent out about 20 resumes. I still have the rejections. In 2000, it was a bad year for everyone in the newspaper business and a bad year for the economy. I had unemployment twice. I called someone every day for a job. I tried to free-lance. I had no full-time job for seven years."
But Krider landed on his feet. He always has. A Christian with a deep and unflappable faith, he firmly believes God has a plan for him. And losing that job with Highwire.com was only one of the chapters.
"I'm blessed," he said. "I'm a strong Christian. I believe God changed my life from 11 years ago. I felt it was God's plan."
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During his hiatus, Krider wrote seven books, including one on former Indiana high school basketball stars Greg Oden and Mike Conley. He did work for Basketball Weekly, Basketball Times, SI.com and Street & Smith. Today, the 73-year-old Krider is a national columnist for MaxPreps. Life couldn't be better.
"When CBS bought MaxPreps 5 1/2 years ago, I called the publisher. I said I could do a better job on their ratings than their computer," Krider said. "They hired me in May 2008. I did football and basketball rankings and picked All-America teams.
"Now I am a super sub. I've written on 20 different sports, a little bit of everything...hockey, girls sports, gymnastics, what nobody else does. It's the best high school coverage on a national basis. I file eight or nine stories on weekends and two long feature stories during the week. I'll do it until I die."
Krider is one of the pioneers in high school sports coverage. He has covered and observed high school basketball in Indiana for 60 years. He is a member of the National High School Federation's Hall of Fame and the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.
Born in Elkhart, Indiana, Krider attended Western Michigan, then graduated from Indiana with a journalism degree in 1961. He was assistant sports editor of the Elkhart Truth for four years, then was sports editor of the LaPorte Herald-Argus for 28 years. He worked for USA Today from 1994 to 2000.
"I still play pickup basketball two days a week, two hours a day. I've been playing pickup basketball since I was in ninth grade," said Krider, who will be 74 on June 30. "I run for two hours and don't get tired. Noon hoops at the YMCA, that's what we call it. Thirty guys play in two full-court games."
But he insists his whole life is "a God story." As a kid, he worked at a supermarket. He thought he'd stock shelves when he grew up. He never planned to go to college. But he took a writing lab course as a senior in high school and told his mother that he wanted to go to college and write about sports. He couldn't type. But he loved sports.
His family bought a black-and-white television set. He cheered as Elkhart advanced to the Final Four of the state tournament in 1954 before losing to Muncie Central. Then he watched Bobby Plump make his famous game-winning shot to lead tiny Milan past Muncie Central for the state championship. In 1955 and 1956, he was awed by the performances of Oscar Robertson, who led his team to two state titles.
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"After that, I always wanted to know who the next Oscar Robertson would be," Krider said.
His quest is never ending. Later this year, his book entitled "Indiana's 20 Most Dominant High School Basketball Players" will be published. You can bet that Robertson, George McGinnis, Glen Robinson, Greg Oden, Larry Bird, Rick Mount, Marion Pierce, Damon Bailey, Kent Benson, Jimmy Rayl and Bobby Plump will be included.
Krider insists high school sports are as good as ever. "I write about records every day. New records are being set every day. I get excited about this kind of stuff, kids setting records in a all sports," he said.
He wrote the first national stories on Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing and Chris Webber.
But he admits his beloved Indiana state high school basketball tournament isn't what it used to be, just as Illinois' tournament isn't what it used to be. They both have expanded from one class to four classes and the interest and caliber of competition have waned.
"Kentucky did the right thing," he said. "They went to a small-class system in the middle of the year for basketball. Then at the end of the year everybody goes for the state title. Kentucky is the only large state that has a one-class tournament."
What about Indiana? Is Hoosier Hysteria still the best brand of high school basketball?
"It varies from year to year," Krider said. "Interest isn't what it used to be. People would go all over the state to see good teams. They don't do that anymore. They don't sell out the state finals anymore."
In Indiana's old one-class system, they sold out the tournament for 61 years in a row. As a senior, Damon Bailey drew a crowd of 41,000 to the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.
"From top to bottom, the caliber of competition isn't what it used to be," he summed up. "But the biggest thing about covering and watching high school basketball is the friendships, the people you meet. That is something that hasn't changed."