MERNAGH: FANS NEED TO ENJOY THIS MAGICAL TIME OF YEAR
Quicken Loans Arena has seen its fair share of basketball “moments” over the years.
It used to be called Gund Arena but was changed to the “Q” after one rich guy paid another rich guy to buy the CAVS. I’ve been fortunate to see some of those moments. Yesterday I had to settle for watching another on TV, but it added another chapter to the book of big shots made on that particular piece of hardwood.
There’s a grit about the downtown area where the “Q” is located and I’ve spent a lot of time there over many years watching AAU ball, the MAC tournament, and early round NCAA games. Saw Leon Williams tip in a game-winner that allowed the Bobcats from Ohio University to go dancing. Watched a kid named Doug Penno bank in a 28-foot-three to do the same for Miami (OH) in 2007. West Virginia played a couple of classic NCAA games there.
Last night the court at the “Q” was again privy to a joyous celebration, this time thanks to a kid with initials for a nickname.
Marquette and Syracuse were dead-locked at 59-59 when Darius Johnson-Odom received a gorgeous pass from Jimmy Butler with just under 30 seconds left in regulation. Johnson-Odom rose up without hesitation and stroked a left-handed J so pure that all of Milwaukee knew it was going down.
It was DJO after all. That’s what the young man with the distinguished face does.
He makes big shots…because he has no fear. And Johnson-Odom is, in large part, a microcosm of his team and coach. When that shot went down a bunch of Jesuits jumped up. A basketball crazed school and their fan base once again felt the heart-pounding pride that only March success brings. The sheer jubilation that results when young men become heroes can make older men act like teenagers.
At around the same time the Rams from VCU were beating down a very good Purdue team in Chicago.
Both results got me thinking about how awesome it feels to be a fan, a player or a coach at VCU and Marquette right now. It’s like riding a great roller coaster and hoping it stops, only when it does you want to ride that sucker all over again!
Marquette has Buzz Williams pushing all the right buttons.
Ditto VCU with Shaka Smart.
Both men have been mentioned for other jobs and I’m sure that each fan base is worrying a bit about losing their coach. Having gone through this years ago while still a college student I have some advice for all of you (I know you didn’t ask for it but I’m going to give it to you anyway).
Enjoy this moment.
Hold onto it.
My wife and I, although we were still just dating at the time, went through the worrying thing.
We saw the team we bought season tickets for every year get better.
We saw them make a bit of a run.
We heard Jim Rome tell us we were lucky to have our coach (like we were a lesser form of fan for the team we supported). We spent the whole time wondering whether a grown man was going to leave rather than enjoying the ride.
When they show that old coaches face on TV my wife gives him the Bucky Dent/Red Sox treatment (He’s forever in her mind Ben “Fing” Howland for the way he looked at the camera and parsed his words during that NCAA tournament and then jumped on a jet almost the minute it ended to pursue his dream job). And that’s fine, because I’m definitely not telling my wife how she should feel.
Here’s the one thing that should matter to each Marquette and VCU fan out there right now though: Both of your coaches are focused on nothing else but beating North Carolina and Florida State.
The business is the business and will work itself out eventually. Marquette is a really good job in a really deep league that supports basketball as well or better than any other school in the country. VCU is one of a handful of mid-major jobs that coaches have to really think about leaving for a BCS league gig. Eventually, almost every coach leaves — either for another job or because he gets fired.
I have absolutely no clue about whether Williams or Smart will leave. Too many factors unknown. Too many columnists pretending they know.Too many third parties to know who to believe. Too many agendas.
But I’m trying, as a basketball fan, to enjoy the ride, because there’s one thing I do completely understand in all of this: DJO will always be a Warrior, as will Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, Jae Crowder, Junior Cadougan and the rest of their guys.
Just like Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen, Brandon Rozell and the rest of their guys will always be Rams.
And you, as fans, will always hope for the sweet taste you’re experiencing right now, at this moment, to never end.
But it will.
It might come back.
It might not…and that’s why you need to relish it right now, while its here.