In the Bondi Room at the Grand Sheraton Hotel, on the evening before his team’s game against Kansas, Stanford basketball coach Jerod Haase leans toward the MacBook Air to see his namesake for the first time.
On the screen, Jerod Dyke — a 20-year-old KU student — is talking about Haase in a video interview recorded two weeks earlier. At the KU-Stanford game in Allen Fieldhouse last December, Dyke’s family arrived hours early and changed their seats, hoping to flag down Haase before the game. They didn’t have much of a plan — other than screaming loud to get his attention — but Dyke still relayed what it meant to see the former KU player in person for the first time.
“I was just frozen,” Dyke says on the video. “I was like, ‘Whoa. That’s him. He’s real. That’s who I’m named after.’”
So what would he tell Haase if he ever got to meet him?
“It would just be one of those things like, ‘Hey, 20 years ago, some random lady met you in a restaurant and said someone was naming their kid after you,’” Dyke says. “That’s me. I’m that kid.”
When the video ends, Haase keeps his eyes on the screen for a few seconds. When he starts to speak, his voice chokes up.
“That’s pretty cool,” Haase says. “The goal as a coach is always to impact your kids. The fact that I impacted some people when I was at Kansas is a neat deal. Pretty special.”
Though Dyke has no idea, Haase is about to personally reach out to him.
And for the first time, the baby boy referenced in pages 153 and 154 of Haase’s book, “Floor Burns,” is going to meet his favorite KU player.
Marilyn Sell built up the courage after her second margarita at Carlos O’Kelly’s.
It was Feb. 1, 1997, and though the Lawrence native had thought about not approaching KU guard Jerod Haase at the restaurant … well, she figured there was something she had to tell him.
After getting to the table and asking for an autograph, she quickly explained her story. Her son was expecting his second child, and if it was a boy, the family had already decided to name him “Jerod.”
A few months later, after Jerod Dyke was born in May, Sell saw Haase again at his book signing in Allen Fieldhouse. After retelling her story about meeting Haase at the restaurant, she was told her conversation had made it into the published document.
Sell knew what she had to do. She stepped out of line, picked up another copy, then made her way back to the main table.
The signing request was two words Haase had never written before:
Jerod Dyke remembers times wishing he was like the other kids — especially in gift shops.
Each store would have custom keychains with common names available. While friends were buying a new knickknack, he’d keep searching though he knew it was pointless.
“Jared” was always available. “Jerod” was not.
It was only part of life with a unique name. At one point, Dyke met a boy at a church camp named “Jerrod.” Their spellings weren’t identical, but close enough.
“It was like an instant bond, because we both knew everyone’s like, ‘You spell your name weird,” Dyke said. “Instant friends, just based on that. It’s like the common struggle.”
His father, Quinn, was the one to suggest the alternate spelling. A lifelong KU basketball fan — one who records games and saves them on DVDs he keeps in a large binder — he wanted to put a different spin on the standard “Jared” and said he respected Haase.
“Just his ‘floor-burn’ attitude that he played with was awesome,” Quinn Dyke said.
There were still times when it was tough for his son to relate.
When Jerod Dyke was old enough to understand where his name came from, Haase’s playing days were over. The only memories available were through archived video clips.
And when the family moved to Owasso, Okla., few people understood his unconventional name.
There was always the book, though. On bad days, Dyke would pull “Floor Burns” off an office shelf and open it up to the page bookmarked by an old pair of KU tickets. He’d read, in Haase’s own words, that the player couldn’t believe that someone was going to be named after him.
It was a connection that lived on through time. Dyke, through those words on the page, had a reason to feel special.
“Hopefully, one day, I’ll get a picture, shake his hand,” Dyke said earlier this month. “At least tell him, ‘Hey I’m Jerod. You wrote about me in your book. Nice to meet you finally.’”
Thirteen days later, from his team’s hotel in Sacramento, Haase nods his head.
He’s ready to make the FaceTime call.
Dyke answers the video call in his room, a circus-font No. 35 Kansas jersey displayed on the wall behind him.
He thinks he’s going to answer a few questions for a follow-up interview. The surprise comes, then, when Haase appears on the screen in a black Stanford jacket.
Dyke takes a second to respond to the first question: “Hey Jerod, what’s up?”
“Hey!” he says with a smile.
Haase asks if Dyke is going to watch the game, then tells him, “If you talk to any of the guys, tell them to take it easy on us tomorrow.”
“Maybe,” Dyke says with a chuckle.
The topic soon turns to their shared name. Dyke says he’s never met anyone else with the name “Jerod.”
“I like to joke with my mom, because she’s not a very good speller,” Haase says. “I thought she probably misspelled it on the birth certificate. If you have a weird spelling, you can blame my mother.”
Others soon enter Dyke’s room. His older sister, Jenna, recognizes the face immediately and puts her hand over her mouth.
“Hey coach,” she says, waving her hand to the phone.
Quinn Dyke then walks in, believing that his son is talking to a reporter. When he gets closer, he realizes his mistake after seeing the Stanford logo on Haase’s jacket.
“Oh, this is Jerod,” he says, backing away a step before letting out a laugh.
The conversation is soon over. The Dykes are celebrating Christmas later that night with Sell. Haase, meanwhile, has to get to a team dinner. Later, in the same conference room, he’ll try to scheme up a way to beat 14th-ranked Jayhawks.
For a few minutes, though, Haase fully realizes the impact he’s had on others.
“It’s what makes Kansas basketball so special,” Haase says. “ … Everybody feels very, very connected. It’s not a removed situation like a professional team. It feels like it’s a family in so many ways.”
It was enough that, two decades ago, Jerod Dyke was given the name of a KU guard his father admired.
And now? The boy on pages 153 and 154 has a new Jerod Haase story to tell — for years and years to come.
“That was amazing,” Dyke said. “Best Christmas surprise ever.”