I'm glad I gave myself a day to collect my thoughts -- in part because two Gannon Hoops posters captured some of my feelings after Gannon's loss to Central Missouri State last night.
- SMS said, "I'm pretty much catatonic now." That was me for at least 5 minutes after reality slammed me between the eyes yesterday. "This isn't going to happen," I suddenly realized as time wound down. "No Final Four. No national championship. No more Lindsey, Goldcamp, Howard, Stoczynski, Knight, or Wilson -- ever. It's all over." I could only stare at my computer screen in a complete daze as the teams left the court.
- Golden89 said, "They (Central Missouri) scored on 18 of their last 21 possessions. In those, they were 12/15 from the field. And in two of those misses, they got the rebound and scored. They were also 13/14 from the line. Wow." I've watched an obscene amount of basketball, and that was by far and away the most incredible shot-clock era clutch shooting I've ever witnessed. (Villanova's 22-for-28 performance against Georgetown in the 1982 DI national championship game gets the nod for shooting the lights out pre-shot clock.)
I have a long list of personal memories from this season that really made the last few months extra special. Here are my favorite:
- You remember how the Knight starters handed out T-shirts to young fans during home game introductions? Before one early-season game, Joe Lindsey surprised my 3-year-old daughter Evelyn (and my wife and me) by scooting behind the Gannon bench to give Evelyn a shirt. For the rest of the year, she talked non-stop about Joe Lindsey. One time when she was shooting on her little hoop at home, she made a basket and I announced, "Three for Evelyn!" She immediately corrected me: "No -- three for Joe Lindsey!"
- Watching Tyler Stoczynski develop his all-around game over the course of this season was also special. Remember how much he struggled early in the season -- missed shots, turnovers, constant foul trouble? At the end of the year, he wasn't just the most complete player on the team -- making shots, handing out assists, snagging rebounds, taking charges -- he was the best all-around player in the entire region.
- The Roddy family has been connected to Cory Knight's family longer than we've been part of the Gannon family. My dad coached Chuck "Chip" Knight, Cory's father, at Westlake Middle School in the early 70's. I coached Cory and his older brother Jordan in Boys Club and Erie Red Storm AAU tournaments when they were middle schoolers. So seeing Cory grow from a scrawny, scrappy fifth grader into a heady, athletic, highly skilled -- but still scrappy -- collegian was rewarding. At the close of his career, Knight proved to be as good on the ball as any defender in Golden Knight history.
- Gannon went 5-0 this year against Edinboro and Mercyhurst, and advanced much further in the postseason than their local rivals. That's very important to me. I work with two former Laker athletes -- hoopster Dave Lanahan and football player (and former Hurst SID) Ed Hess -- and Gannon's success creates quality water cooler conversation. Well, it does for me.
- John Reilly has been a major influence on my life. He helped me walk-on at Gannon 20 years ago and then showed me by example that a coach can be friendly yet demanding and always genuine. Today, if he sees me before a game he makes sure he waves. If I have Evelyn with me, Riles goes out of his way to walk over to us to say hello. Nice guys don't finish last. At least in the PSAC and Atlantic Region, they finish first.
A big thanks to everyone in the Gannon program this year for providing lifelong memories for my family and me. When I say "lifelong," I mean it. I hope I live to at least 100, and if you would talk to me before the day I croak about the 2008-2009 Gannon basketball season, I'll recall it fondly. Expectations were high, but because of their 30-4 record, Elite 8 appearance, and their classy and team-oriented approach to the game, the Knights exceeded those expectations.
I also want to say a giant THANK YOU to everyone who made the Gannon Hoops website so enjoyable. Talk about exceeding my expectations! When I started this site on Jan. 1, it was a personal hobby that I shared with just over a dozen fellow Gannon fans. Since then, at least a hundred Knight followers have mentioned to me how much they enjoy the site -- both my thoughts and your comments. I won't be posting as frequently during the off-season, but the site won't exactly be dead until next November either. My good friend and former Gannon Knight student newspaper editor Marjorie (Radella) Metts has provided me with a bevy of classic Gannon basketball newspaper clippings that I'll share with you. Plus I'll dish out Gannon news and rumors as I come across them. If you hear a good one, please shoot me an e-mail.
Thanks again for being a part of one of the greatest seasons in Gannon Hoops history!