Monday, June 3, 2019

Reunions At Reunions

TigerBlog's week began with the sight of Bill Tierney in a Princeton lacrosse shirt and ended with the sight of Brian Earl in a Princeton basketball shirt.

That's a pretty good week. It's also a nostalgic week.

Tierney and Earl, of course, are Princeton legends who are now head coaches at other schools, Tierney with Denver men's lacrosse and Earl with Cornell men's basketball. It's been awhile since TB has seen either in orange and black.

This week was a week for reunions - as in the 1994 men's lacrosse team's recognition on the 25th anniversary of its NCAA title - and Reunions - as in the annual gigantic party that Princeton throws for its alums.

TigerBlog stopped by the men's basketball BBQ outside Jadwin Gym Friday afternoon, and the first person he saw was, of all people, former women's basketball assistant coach Milena Flores. It's always great to see Milena.

As he talked to Milena, he saw Brian, complete with an orange Princeton shirt. Brian was with a bunch of former Princeton players, and there were all kinds of familiar faces under the tent. They spanned a few decades.

As TB saw each face he knew, the natural question became what year did that face graduate, and therefore what Reunion was this one?

He said hi to Mike Brennan, and then a few seconds later, he followed that with this: "Wait, this is your 25th?"

It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since Mike Brennan graduated from Princeton, or, for that matter, 29 since he came to Princeton.

Brennan came to Princeton from Elizabeth High School in North Jersey, bringing with him a reputation as a blue color point guard whose greatest strength was his toughness. And that's exactly who he was.

TigerBlog remembers vividly how Brennan stepped in for an injured George Leftwich as a freshman and helped Princeton to the 1991 Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament game against Villanova at the Carrier Dome.

That game, a 50-48 Villanova win, remains one of the most excruciating losses TB has witnessed during his time at Princeton. Lance Miller, Villanova's star then, scored the game-winner on a floater in the lane with two seconds left, which ended the careers of the great 1991 class, led by two-time Ivy Player of the Year Kit Mueller.

TigerBlog was in the football press box at the end of that game against Villanova, and he was annoyed that he had to write a story about it.

After he spoke with Brennan yesterday, TB went back and checked the box score from that game and saw Brennan had these three numbers - 27 minutes, nine points, zero turnovers. He'd go on to play a lot of games where he'd go 40 minutes as his career went on.

A basketball guy through and through, Brennan was an assistant coach at Princeton and Georgetown under John Thompson III and is now the head coach at American University these days. TB spoke with Brennan for about 20 minutes, and it was great to catch up with him.

Brennan, by the way, has the exact same voice inflections and personality as he did when he was a player at Princeton and then an assistant coach.

But 25 years? C'mon.

TigerBlog also saw former players like Chris Doyal, Chris Kilburn-Peterson, Howard Levy, Jeff Pagano, Rich Simkus, Gabe Lewullis, Darren Hite among others. Oh, and Earl.

When he left the basketball group, he went over to the track to meet up with John Mack, whose wife was celebrating her 20th (it's his 19th). Mack, of course, is a former Roper Trophy winner from the track and field team who then went on to work at Princeton before going to Northwestern to work in athletics, go to law school and eventually settle outside Detroit as a lawyer.

Mack was the first person TB saw at the track. The second was former women's coach Peter Farrell, who had on an orange fedora.

When TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog were really, really later, John Mack would sometimes babysit for them. He has a lot of experience, what with six sisters of his own.

This time, TB got to see him with his own kids, boys who are 4 and 3 and a girl who is 2. They really, really seemed to like to run around the track, always pausing to get back into their pretend starting blocks and saying "ready, set, go" before heading out for another sprint of anywhere between five yards and maybe 30, all while their father said things like "come back" and "stop" and "be careful" to children who weren't listening.

It was beyond cute.

That was the extent of TB's time at Reunions, though he very much enjoyed his reunions.

He hopes you did too. 

It's always quite a show.

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