Lalley: Coach's lament about Sioux Falls isn't doing his team any favors in Summit League tourney

Oral Roberts Univerity's Paul Mills doesn't like the weather, or the crowds supporting South Dakota schools.

Paul Mills.PNG
Oral Roberts University men's basketball coach Paul Mills in an image taken from a video shared on Twitter.

SIOUX FALLS – This isn’t about basketball anymore.

It’s personal.

We’ve been insulted, publicly, viciously, about one of our points of pride: the weather.

Specifically, the cold.

We already know that winter sucks, particularly what can seem a never-ending series of windy, cold and – this year – snow-filled days.


That’s why we play basketball. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why we’re good at it.

And why when Paul Mills leads the Oral Roberts University men’s basketball team to the floor of the Premier Center on Saturday evening, he likely won’t be well received.

Before we get to why, it’s best to set the stage for the non-sports people among us.

The Summit League Conference basketball tournament has been in Sioux Falls since 2009.

The conference includes our fine South Dakota universities – State and the U – as well the fine North Dakota universities – also State and the U.

These are teams with a long, long history of competition on various fields of play.

Like back to the 19th century long.

They can be cantankerous affairs that at one point in time may or may not have included the hucking of animal carcasses and inappropriate behavior.


Which is to say that, over the decades, words have been exchanged. Things you can’t take back about familial lineage, professional opportunities and – saints forgive us – the quality of an opponent’s band.

It’s nice to think we’ve put a lot of that in the past as all four of the universities moved into the bright lights of NCAA Division I athletics.

But it probably still happens, to a lesser extent, and that’s fine.

It’s not fine, however, when someone else does it.

Someone like Paul Mills.

Someone from Tulsa.

It’s not unlike a family, where quarrels and insults are part of the dynamic.

I can make fun of my brother. You can’t.


Mills was doing a press interview earlier this week during which he complained about the structure of the Summit League tournament and its long-running home in Sioux Falls. A clip of which was widely shared on Twitter on Friday.

“Imagine, negative 10 degrees so everybody has to go inside and everybody is either an alum of South Dakota so they’re in red, or South Dakota State so they’re in blue,” he said.

Then he talked about the vagaries of preparation and spacing of games before ending with, “The people in South Dakota, it’s really cold, they pack themselves indoors, and they support, usually their alma mater.”

First of all, the weather looks great for this weekend. Maybe a little wintry mix on Sunday evening. Or as we call it, spring. But overall, pretty good.

Second, we don’t “huddle” together.

We spend the winter fishing, biking, running, skiing, snowshoeing and generally trying not to huddle.

So yeah, it’s a little personal.

That said, I get it. There’s a potential spot in the NCAA tournament at stake, with all the hoopla, attention, recruiting cache and money that goes with it.


For the schools, teams and coaches, the Summit League tournament is a big deal.

And Oral Roberts is a really good basketball team. They haven’t lost a game to a conference opponent all year. They’re the favorite, as they should be.

Which makes Mills’ comments all the more perplexing.

It’s possible that when his team hits the court, the first opponent will be North Dakota. From Grand Forks, one of the coldest places in the Lower 48.

Should they be fortunate enough to win that first game and then dispatch either Western Illinois or St. Thomas they’d play in the finals on Tuesday evening.

In front of a national TV audience.

Likely facing another Dakota school with a large following, possibly dressed in red, or more likely blue.

Giving those huddled masses another reason to raise the roof of the Premier Center seems like a bad idea.


Welcome back to Sioux Falls coach.

Just be happy it’s not Grand Forks.

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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