In a Friday afternoon phone conversation, Marcus Smart reiterated recent claims that he had no regrets in returning to Oklahoma State for another season.
By late Saturday night, and into Sunday, regret was multiplying all around him.
Smart's frustrating season — frustrating for his play and his team's sliding reality and whatever else might be eating at him — flipped sad in the waning seconds of the Cowboys' 65-61 loss at Texas Tech.
Provoked by a fan behind the Tech basket, Smart leapt to his feet and shoved the man, 52-year-old Jeff Orr, putting the OSU sophomore far from the spotlight that had previously revealed all that was right with Smart.
Big 12 Player of the Year.
Preseason National Player of the Year.
Wooden, Oscar Robertson and Cousy awards candidate.
Captain of the Team USA U19 gold medal winning squad.
Model of survival, rising from the rugged streets of South Dallas to become all of the above.
Suddenly, the narrative has shifted.
The shove heard round the sports world happened. And Smart's flopping and kicking of chairs and on-court sulking flipped from just being irritants to being part of a perceived problem, whether fair or not.
And now his reputation, so respected and lauded by the likes of Billy Donovan and Jim Boeheim and Fran Fraschilla and others, must be repaired.
And that could take time.
“Some things are more important than winning and losing,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said Sunday. “Your respect you have, your self-image, all that, that takes a lifetime to build, can be gone in the blink of an eye.”
Cowboys coach Travis Ford appealed to OSU fans and fans across the country to give Smart another chance.
“Hopefully accept his apology,” Ford said, “understand that Marcus is a young man who made a serious mistake. But he's a young man who has a great heart.”
Holder referenced Smart's heart, too.
“He's got a big valentine beating in his chest,” Holder said. “He stands for a lot of great things. Yeah, he made a mistake, but let's not crucify him for it.
“It's an opportunity for all of us to learn.”
How did we get here, from this take Boeheim provided on Smart, from this summer in Las Vegas, where the Cowboy sophomore participated in a Team USA minicamp of almost entirely NBA pros?
“Marcus has fit into all our teams,” Boeheim said. “He knows the important thing is to win the game. And he wins games. That's what he does. He's a great, great kid to have on your team. You'd like to have him on your team no matter where you were.”
How did we get here, with Smart included in sentences with Ron Artest?
“Marcus has never lost. Ever,” said one longtime friend. “He's never lost. A game, sure. But he always made the championship games. Marcus has never seen this. Compound that losing, and the way they've lost, losing close games late …
“He's 19. He's 19. He's a 19-year-old kid who's the ultimate competitor. It happened. He's sick about it. He texted me right after to say how bad he felt.”
Texted his regret.
Now it's time for the repair.
Holder said he's all in, betting on a Smart recovery. Said he's proud Smart is a Cowboy and feels blessed to have him.
“We've got a lot more years of association together,” Holder said of Smart and OSU. “And there's going to be a lot more pride, rather than regret, in that we came together.”