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IOWA CITY — In the bowels of Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday afternoon, you could see the passion Robin Pingeton has for basketball etched on her face.
The head coach of the Missouri women’s basketball team, a Cedar Rapids native and Jefferson High School grad, Pingeton also was the daughter of local racing legend Arlo Becker. Pingeton has said on more than one occasion she gets her drive and toughness from her dad, and Becker’s trademark unvarnished intensity was personified in his daughter after her team lost to Western Kentucky in the first game of the Hawkeye Challenge, 79-76.
Mizzou was an NCAA Tournament team last year that went 22-11, and returned several contributors, so Pingeton wasn’t at all happy with how they started the season.
“I’m not a very good loser,” Pingeton said, cracking a smile.
The apple doesn’t fall far, as they say.
Mizzou made the trip to Iowa City in part as a gesture from Pingeton to her dad. As told to the St. Louis Post-Disptach, Pingeton scheduled the Hawkeye Challenge as a thank you of sorts to Becker for all his trips to watch her and her teams play over the years.
Becker died this summer in a farming accident, so the return to her home state and an arena in which her sister Lisa Porter (then Becker) played was more than a little bittersweet. She had family at Carver-Hawkeye Arena who greeted her in the tunnel after that initial loss and returned to watch her Tigers beat Quinnipiac, 61-55, on Saturday.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder also got to watch Mizzou play — mostly for the scout, because at the time her team was going to play Missouri or Western Kentucky — and after the Hawkeyes beat Quinnipiac, Bluder had kind words for her former player, and remembered Becker being ever-present in the stands at St. Ambrose when Bluder coached Pingeton.
And while Becker couldn’t be there, his memory sure was.
Pingeton’s players surprised her with long sleeve T-shirts worn during the game — a simple white shirt with an “Arlo 88” set inside a checkered flag on the back. It was a gesture that meant a lot to Pingeton as well as the family she had come to watch.
“Honest Arlo” got his nickname because he wasn’t afraid to tell anyone exactly what he thought.
He probably would have had an opinion or two about the loss to Western Kentucky, too. Becker played basketball in his youth before hopping in a racecar, after all.
“Oh, he always had lots to say,” Pingeton said. “But it’d be the same thing I’m telling my kids about. I felt like in the first half we didn’t show up. We had too many turnovers. We missed too many bunnies inside.”
All the memories shared and the outpouring from people in the Cedar Rapids-area communities have been moving, Pingeton said, and this was just the latest.
“They made the initial contact with one of my assistant coaches and said it was something they wanted to do,” Pingeton said. “Dad was around our team a lot, traveled with us and it was very touching that they would even think of doing something like that.
“It’s been so neat to hear all the stories — and there were a lot of stories — and there was a lot of laughter, a lot of tears, so many memories shared. It’s pretty incredible. Dad impacted a community. You either loved him or you hated him. At the end of the day, to see (all this) is special.”
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