NOTHIN' COULD BE FINA THAN TO BE IN CAROLINA!
Two weekends down and two to go! What a wonderful time to be a Hoya fan! This special team, coached by my personal choice for BIG EAST and National Coach of the Year, John R. Thompson, III, marches on this weekend to the Meadowlands in New Jersey for the East Regional Championships, looking for a chance to march to and through Atlanta for the Final Four the following weekend and secure the National Championship! The journey, no doubt, will be difficult, but I am confident that if we play Hoya Basketball, we can secure college basketball's coveted prize - - the 2007 NCAA National Championship! And I, proud member of Generation Laughna, yet humble servant and scribe of the squad, will continue to march in their wake, monitor their performances, and celebrate their triumphs! It's a wonderful life!
While memories of this past weekend linger most clearly in my mind, I must offer a few comments on last weekend's BIG EAST Tournament Championship, the first since 1989, when Charles Smith (C '89) led the Hoyas to their sixth BIG EAST Championship in their "dominant decade" of the 1980s. (The other five were in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1987.)
First, Jeff Green's performance in the dramatic, semi-final victory over Notre Dame, which included 30 points and 12 rebounds, was, at least, among the five single most dominant performances that I have ever seen by any Georgetown player ever! Jeff's calm and poise throughout the contest belied the most intense, internal competitive fire that stoked his play throughout the tournament and especially during the Notre Dame game. For example, when he stepped to the free throw line to take foul shots against the Irish, Jeff would calmly draw a deep, cleansing breath, focus intently on the goal, and then proceeded to sink 12 of 14 charity tosses. During pauses in the action, he demonstrated his quiet leadership, speaking words of wisdom to his teammates. It was a remarkable performance that I shan't soon forget. As the song goes, "New York, New York . . . if [you] can make it there, [you]'ll make it anywhere, it's up to you, New York, New York!"
Second, during this 100th Anniversary of Hoya Hoops, it was appropriate that Georgetown, which so dominated the BIG EAST during the 1980s, would win the 25th Anniversary Tournament at Madison Square Garden. And make no mistake, from my vantage point of having attended every Big East Tournament held at Madison Garden, except for 1986 tournament won by St. John's, the Hoyas' tournament triumph this year was every bit as dramatic and meaningful as those during the 1980s. In fact, I would assert that this year's championship title is the most meaningful of them all, since, in my view, with the coming of JTIII and his "We Are Georgetown" philosophy, this championship truly belongs to all of Georgetown.
Finally, the post-tournament championship celebration in the Affinia Hotel's ballroom was a very special and emotional time for me. As I stood just inside the ballroom's entry way, I thought of: (1) my senior year, 1971-72, when the team finished 3-23, resulting in Coach John Thompson, Jr.'s coming to Georgetown; (2) the 18 years since Georgetown last won the BIG EAST Tournament in 1989, the end of a period where the BIG EAST Tournament almost seemed to be a Georgetown birthright; and (3) my six years as President of the Hoya Hoop Club (1998-2005). I walked diagonally through the crowd and thanked every current and former member of the Hoop Club board whom I saw there for their efforts in sustaining and nourishing the Club during that period: from current President Al Bozzo, to Joe Guarriello, Bill Licamele, Tom Wong, Chris Lucey, Neil Sumilas, Payne Miller, Joe Kresse, Scott Minto, Peter Biche, Lara Drezner, Bruce Casner, Al DeRosa, Mark Guerrero, Carlo Tamburo, John Hawkes, Steve Thomas, and Brian Lonardo. I also saw and thanked Hoyas Unlimited Director Allison Rubin, staffers Tim Hogan and Nate Brown, former Director Jennifer Shaheen Montgomery, Athletic Director Bernard Muir, and his Athletic Department associates Kyle Ragsdale and Pat McArdle. Finally, I thanked many students from Hoya Blue and young alumni whom I saw at the party and have met over the last several years. Special recognition in this regard goes, of course, to Kurt Muhlbauer, who, much like Jeff Green, put HoyaBlue on his back and willed it to success through work and extraordinary energy. Once again, "WE ARE GEORGETOWN - - THE BEAST OF THE EAST!" How sweet it is!
This weekend's journey, of course, took us to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as the Number 2 seed in the East Region, for the first rounds of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championships. Easily avoiding a first round No. 2 vs. No. 15 seed upset over a game Belmont College Bruin squad from Nashville on Thursday afternoon, despite not playing our best game, the Hoyas then advanced to meet Boston College on Saturday. As all know, two years ago, Boston College, a charter member of the BIG EAST Conference, left the league for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The team from Chestnut Hill was led by Jared Dudley, the ACC player of the year, who, prior to the game, made the statement that the ACC was a better conference than the BIG EAST because it had more star power and was "so much more athletic." Even without Dudley's ridiculous assertion, I was hoping for a 30-point Georgetown win and the Hoyas appeared to be on the verge of granting my wish as they broke from the starting gate with a 12-2 lead. Jon "Money" Wallace keyed the scoring for the Hoyas during this stretch. Alas, my wish was not to be, as the Eagles came back to lead by four at half-time and then extended their lead to eight at 39-31 with 15:24 left to play.
Just after that point, the Hoyas began to impose their will and turned the game back in their direction with all players taking key roles at different times. Wallace was fouled driving to the basket and made the first of two free throws before Green grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to make the score 39-34. As he has done so often this season, Money Wallace added a clutch three pointer and Jesse Sapp tied the score at 39 with two free throws at the 12:44 mark. Georgetown took the lead for good at 46-44 on an offensive rebound and put back by Roy Hibbert.
On the pivotal play of the game, with the score at 46-44, Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green soared high above the rim to convert a Hibbert miss into a jaw-dropping dunk to make the score 48-44. Big Roy scored the Hoyas next four points with strong inside moves.
With Georgetown leading 59-55, Big Roy drew defenders to him and then he passed to a streaking Patrick Ewing, Jr. along the baseline for a thundering, SportsCenter reverse jam as Dudley gaped in awe while fouling Patrick. Patrick converted the three-point play for a 62-55 Hoya lead with 42 seconds left. The game, and the last word, belonged to the Hoyas. Next stop, the Meadowlands! Nothin' could be fina . . .!
The trip to Winston-Salem also saw two terrific Hoya Hoop Club receptions at Dudley's on the Park, a post-game event on Thursday and a pre-game pep rally with the band and cheerleaders on Saturday! Fans of all ages mingled with one another and with members of the Athletic Department staff, eating, among other things, chicken wings, egg rolls, stuffed potato skins and fried zucchini rings. Attendees also received t-shirts, compliments of the Hoya Hoop Club, proclaiming, in shades of 1984, "100 Years of Hoya Paranoia!" Kudos go out to Allison Rubin and her Hoyas Unlimited staff Tim Hogan and Nate Brown for their efforts in organizing these terrific outings. Thanks are also extended to Dudley's and its staff, bedecked in the Hoya Paranoia t-shirt, for their wonderful touch of Southern hospitality to the visitors from the North. (We forgave them for name of their establishment.)
One humorous aside, on Friday, I went with a group of very hungry Hoya fans to Winston-Salem's best known sports bar, the Fox and Hound, for lunch and hoops. Upon arrival, I realized that last year in Dayton, I had eaten in a Fox and Hound there on the day between games. The layout was identical and there were more televisions going than I could bother to count, including some of the biggest screens I had ever seen. Another exciting day in Winston-Salem, even though the Hoyas weren't playing!
WE ARE GEORGETOWN!!
Beat Vanderbilt (again)!!
Michael Karam (F'72, L'76)
Immediate Past President (1998-2005), Hoya Hoop Club
Vice-President, Hoyas Unlimited