Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All These People Said I Can Have Their French Toast

The earliest TigerBlog has ever set his alarm clock was for 2:30 a.m., back on a cold morning almost 18 years ago.

Princeton played Lafayette in men's basketball at Jadwin Gym on Nov. 29, 1995. For the record it was a 62-47 Tigers win.

The schedule then took the team west, to the Coors Light Classic at Fresno State. The team flight left at 6 a.m. from Philadelphia the morning after the Lafayette game, and the bus rolled out of the Jadwin parking lot at 3:30 a.m., as TB recalls.

And so TB had to set his alarm for 2:30 to make sure he was there on time.

TB remembers a lot about that trip.

It started with the flight from Philadelphia to Dallas, before changing planes for Fresno. The first leg was a big American Airlines jumbo jet that had almost nobody on it other than the Tigers and some business travelers, and almost nobody on the plane was awake except for TB and then-radio play-by-play man Tom McCarthy.

When the flight attendant brought around breakfast, McCarthy told her "all these people said I could have their french toast."

TB also remembers that the Princeton coaches took full advantage of the sponsor's product in the hospitality room. He remembers five Brian Earl three-pointers in the semifinal win against Boise State, the last of which led to a timeout by Boise, whose bench TB was sitting next to.

TB can still hear Boise's coach during that timeout, especially when he said "they're going to build a statue of that kid on that spot."

Mostly he remembers flying home early the next day, missing the championship game win over Fresno State because his paternal grandmother had passed away and he had to get back for the funeral.

He didn't need to check the box score from the game to remember that current head coach Mitch Henderson was 6 for 15 from three-point range to lead Princeton to a 59-54 win over the home team for the tournament title.

The game against Fresno State was one of seven Princeton men's basketball games that TB missed between the start of the 1994-95 season and the end of the 2001-02 season. It was a great time to be part of the ride, that's for sure.

As TB has said many times before, he saw Princeton play regular-season games in six different time zones during those years. He saw some of the greatest moments in the program's history, got to know really two generations of players and had more fun along the way than the average athletic communications person could ever have a right to expect.

TB, as he thinks back, remembers so many details of all of those trips he went on - like the one to Fresno - and yet can't remember as vividly all of the nights at Jadwin Gym.

For instance, he has no memory of the Lafayette game from 1995, the one that preceded the long trip to California. He didn't even remember the score until he looked it up.

TB was no longer the men's basketball contact after the 2001-02 season. He did radio for a few more years after that, but his connection to the program isn't nearly what it once was.

TB spent five years covering the team for the newspaper and eight years as the sports information contact. That's a lot of years, a lot of miles, a lot of Princeton basketball.

When he first moved up the administrative food chain here, his thought was to continue to cover men's basketball, though it became obvious that that wouldn't be practical. Instead, he stuck with men's lacrosse, and continues to do so.

He misses being part of the day-in, day-out world of the men's basketball program, and it's obvious that he has nothing but fondness for his 13 years spent covering the team. He had a chance to work with head coaches Pete Carril, Bill Carmody and John Thompson in those 13 years, and the assistant coaches then included people like Joe Scott, Howard Levy, Armond Hill and Jan van Breda Kolff.

These days, most of his time spent with men's basketball is as a fan, watching from the Jadwin stands.

He figures to be there tonight, for instance, when Lafayette comes back to Jadwin Gym.

Princeton is 1-1 on the very young season, with a win Florida A&M and a close, tough loss at Butler last Saturday. After the game tonight, Princeton is at Rice Saturday and then home against George Mason Tuesday.

The Tigers have graduated the second (Ian Hummer) and third (Douglas Davis) top scorers in program history in the last two years, and as such there is going to be the adjustment this year offensively, especially without the do-everything Hummer.

Denton Koon has 18 and 20 points in the first two games, and Princeton is getting some strong contributions from all over, including sophomore Hans Brase, who has been in double figures in rebounding in both games, and freshman Spencer Weisz, who leads the team in assists.

Lafayette, one of the top contenders in the Patriot League, is 0-2, but it's losses are to Villanova and Robert Morris (the team that beat Kentucky in the NIT last year).

TigerBlog has marveled at how fast the fall seasons have come and basically gone, with only a handful of events (one football game, cross country championships, water polo playoffs) to go.

The opposite is true of the winter, where the first practice to the final game takes nearly six months.

As a result, it's not even remotely worth looking ahead to the Ivy League portion of the schedule, which is weeks and weeks away still.

For now, it's a part of the year that TB always thought was a lot of fun, the non-conference games. There's some travel. There's a chance to play old rivals and go to some places, like historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, that are new for everyone.

And to play some home games, like tonight's.

No offense to the home fans, but TB always preferred the adventure of being on the road. Then again, he wasn't the coach - just someone who was part of some pretty good times back then.

No comments: