Since graduating the University of Cincinnati with the record for most steals in a career in 1981, David "Puffy" Kennedy didn't spend much time keeping up with his alma mater. For the last 32 years his 189 steals stood untouched atop the record books and Puffy stopped even tracking contenders after Darnell Burton fell five steals short in 1997.
He'd certainly been unaware Monday when three steals by Cashmere Wright tied him with Kennedy, needing but one more to steal the all-time mark.
When this reporter attempted to track down the number for Puffy, the conduit ended up being his son, former St. John's point guard D.J. Kennedy, now playing in the NBADL. D.J. caught wind of the reason and provided the assist with a phone number. Only, D.J. wanted to be the first to call.
"Guess what," D.J said to open the conversation with his father. "I've got bad news."
From there, the news broke of a record destined to fall Friday night against Georgetown at 9 p.m. It'd be hard to imagine another scenario considering Wright's gone only three games this season without a steal for the Bearcats (19-6, 7-5).
"I said, well, it's about time," Puffy said. "I had it for three decades, what can I say? Sooner or later somebody was going to get it."
Barring disaster, that somebody will be Wright, who coincidentally arrives at this point in a similar mold. They both rely on their quickness from the point guard position and base the art of the steal on anticipation. Puffy held Marquette's Butch Lee, one of the nation's top point guards on an eventual national championship team, to just four points in Kennedy's freshman season. By his sophomore season he found himself guarding Magic Johnson in the Pontiac Silverdome and even added a few steals to his total at Earvin's expense.
"I was a defensive point guard," said Puffy, who also scored 1,002 points in his career, including 14.5 a game his senior season. "I was real quick, played for Ed Badger, we basically played man to man most of the games. I used to bring my man up and watch the ball and when guys would pass it I would just shoot in front of them."
Sounds familiar to any current fan of UC basketball whose watched Wright swat at passing lanes and dive at bobbled passes for four years. The closest Bearcats fans got to seeing the two styles go head to head was when Wright played against D.J., in 2009 and 2010. In three games, Wright managed but one steal. Son did his part protecting dad's record.
Unfortunately for Puffy, he couldn't stave off Wright, who fully understands the enormity of breaking a record three decades standing. Make no mistake, this record matters.
"That means a lot," Wright said. "Means you came here, you actually accomplished a goal. You did something people are going to remember you for maybe five or 10 years down the line. You put yourself in the top with those Van Exels and all the other point guards that were here."
That, of course, includes Puffy, who promises he'll be watching Friday and wants Cash to know his message.
"Tell him congratulations, best of luck," Kennedy said. "If I would have known I would have tried to get down there. That would have been something; that's a heck of an achievement. He'll probably have it for the next three decades."
That sounds like a plan for Wright, though, like anybody who accepts the passing of a torch, he'd love to advance the story.
"Hopefully it can stand up as long as the previous record, 32 years," he said. "Maybe double that to 64. It will always stick with me."
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