Friday, April 16, 2021

For A Ride

It was supposed to rain all day yesterday, so TigerBlog figured it would be an off day for bike riding.

Then when he woke up, it was only drizzling, and the forecast had changed enough to make him think he could get out without getting soaked. By 8 am, he was out for a ride.

When he finished 11 miles later, he was feeling pretty good about things.

Then, at 10, it was time for the monthly Princeton Department of Athletics staff meeting. And who was one of the guests?

Matt Marquardt. 

If you don't remember, Marquardt is the extraordinary young man who is a senior on the men's swimming and diving team. He's headed to medical school next year.

He's also become an expert in sleep management. As part of his comments yesterday, he posted a slide with five tips to improve your sleep:

1. wake up within a one-hour time range every day
2. get your sleep at night (7-9 hours, plus one when training)
3. make your room a sleep oasis
4. only nap in 90-, 26- or five-minute intervals
5. avoid regular use of melatonin and sleeping pills

And there you have it. 

To TigerBlog, Marquardt will always be the guy who rode his bike across the country. He touched the Pacific Ocean in San Diego on Dec. 30, and he touched the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville 20 days later.

That's 2,479 miles in 20 days. That's an average of 124 miles per day. That's essentially TB's regular daily ride squared.

He did all of this to challenge himself, see parts of the country he otherwise might not have and also raise money, in this case for St. Jude's Children Hospital.

He endured seven inches of snow in Texas that forced him to take a day off. The next day he had to ride on a wet 35-degree weather with a tough headwind.

As TB rides these days, he keeps wondering how Marquardt did it. TB would have loved to be able to do something like that when he was young, and he'd still love to be able to do some sort of Point A to Point B ride one of these days.

But to go 2,479 miles in 20 days? No chance.

TB has written about Marquardt before. He's never actually met him, and yesterday was the first time he's heard him speak. He's obviously an extraordinarily impressive young man - even if he's sort of made TB feel bad about his own riding regimen.

Speaking of Princeton athletes who are riding across the country, there are two others who are currently doing so. 

Women's basketball player Maddie Plank and men's basketball player Charlie Bagin left from the Jersey Shore this week. They'll arrive in Washington state on June 17.

That's a little more than 3,000 miles (3,058 to be exact), and that's 65 days to do so. That's an average of 47 miles per day. That's a bit more manageable.

Interestingly, they both talked about training with weighted bicycles, to be ready to ride while carrying up to 40 pounds at a time. 

Plank and Bagin are doing so to raise awareness of mental health issues, something both have said they have been dealing with in the last year. 

Here is what they had to say on the subject:

"Maddie and I are very excited for this trip; we've been thinking about it and talking about it and planning it for about 8 months now," said Bagin. "It's taken on extra meaning now that we've decided to ride for mental health awareness, an issue that we have both been keenly aware of, especially over the last year.
"Upon selecting this amazing cause, I felt so willing and empowered to speak about my mental health struggles and give support to others," said Plank. "I continue to battle an eating disorder and understand that it's a huge problem in athletics and women everywhere. I hope Charlie and my journey gives hope and provides help to those who need it!"

You can read more about their trip HERE.

You can also follow their progress on Instagram at namicoast2coast.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

A Half Hour With Chris Evert

If you're in TigerBlog's age range, then it's very, very likely that your first favorite female athlete was Chris Evert.

Back then, in the time slightly before Title IX or in the early stages of the new law that was enacted in 1972, the women's athletic landscape looked much different. There was no WNBA. There was no Women's World Cup. Brandy Chastain's jersey-ripping was still two decades away.

Most of the top female athletes when TB was a kid fell into one of two categories. 

First, there were the Olympians, especially in two sports - gymnastics and figure skating. There were also somewhat well known names in track and field and swimming as well.

The other athletes were, to a lesser degree, golfers, and then the most famous of them all, tennis players.

They were all, as you might have noticed, individual sports. There weren't a lot of great options for team sports back then for girls and women.

Chris Evert reached the semifinals of the 1971 U.S. Open before falling to Billie Jean King at the age of 16. From that point through her retirement 16 years later, she was as consistently dominant a tennis player who has ever competed. 

In fact she'd win at least one Grand Slam title in 13 straight years (a record), and she'd reach at least the semifinals of 34 straight Grand Slam tournaments from that 1971 U.S. Open through the 1983 French Open. That's an incredible amount of consistency.

Among her other accomplishments, Evert is responsible for popularizing the two-handed backhand, not to mention creating the term "tennis bracelet." Seriously, you can look that one up, but it's true.

Evert was extraordinarily popular, largely due to her success and her "All-American girl-next-door" persona. Who used those words? Her biggest rival, Martina Navratilova.

The two completely dominated women's tennis through the 1980s. They had an intense rivalry, often meeting in the final of events, and one of them won 15 straight Grand Slam finals in the first half of the 1980s. There was a great "30 For 30" about the two of them, and Navratilova said this during the documentary: "Nobody ever rooted for me. You were the All-American girl next door, and I was a lesbian from Czechoslovakia." 

TB, by the way, admired Navratilova very much, especially after he met her while covering the 1985 U.S. Open.

Anyway, TB was unaware of any connection between Evert and Princeton, which is why it was very surprising when last week he received an email saying that Evert would be the next guest on the "One On One With Mitch Henderson" series.

Henderson, the head men's basketball coach at Princeton, has been doing interviews with various people during the last year or so. Among those who have been part of the series have been New Jersey senator Cory Booker, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and WNBA player Sue Bird.

Evert spoke with Henderson for 30 minutes earlier this week. She was exactly as you would expect - humble, appreciative, honest, direct and engaging.

She mentioned how she had never gone to college but how three of her four siblings had been the No. 1 player on their own college teams. She talked about her work with the United States Tennis Foundation, which runs more than 250 programs for 160,000 kids each year. 

The foundation is particularly interested in working with kids in underserved areas, where access to lessons and rackets is not always great. She also spoke about how these programs are about tutoring and mentoring and college prep.

She got her start in tennis from her father, who was a teaching pro. She told the story about when she asked him about why he'd started them in tennis when they were so young and how instead of saying "something romantic" he instead talked about how it kept them off the streets. 

"As I get older," she said, "my father gets smarter."

She talked about the evolution of women's athletics, how girls her age were taught to be seen and not heard, to be polite, to want to be models or ballerinas. She always wanted to be, in her word, "fierce."

She spoke with women's squash senior Grace Doyle, who handed in her thesis on Title IX and women's sports earlier that day. She also spoke with Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan, who talked about having watched Evert when she played and what an inspirational athlete she had been.

Evert spoke glowingly about the role that King had played in building the women's tour and getting women's tennis to be accepted the way it was, even beyond her match with Bobby Riggs. Interestingly, she said that King had sacrificed the chance to win more titles for herself with all of the time it took to find sponsorships and media deals and everything else that popularized the tour.

In all, it was a great 30 minutes, which is not surprising. 

There have been few athletes who have ever come along who have made an impact on the sporting world the way Chris Evert has.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Complete Set

TigerBlog had no way to watch the Orlando Magic game Monday night, so he had the live stats up instead.

Princeton alum entered the game in the fourth quarter. At first, Cannady's only stat was a blocked shot, which is a pretty good sign for his defensive intensity.

Then he hit a three-pointer, his first NBA career three. Then he hit another. Then he was fouled hitting a third, and he made two of the three foul shots.

That was Cannady's third NBA game. His point totals increased incrementally, going from two to four to eight.

Perhaps having seen that, TigerBlog was surprised by the news yesterday afternoon that Cannady, under a 10-day contract, had been released by Orlando. It wasn't until the Office of Athletic Communications meeting yesterday afternoon that it was explained to TB that it was very likely a procedural move, that Orlando needed to release Cannady to sign frontcourtman Donta Hall and now Cannady is likely to be resigned. 

TB certainly hopes so. If you're looking for an indication as to why TigerBlog believes Cannady can be a long-term NBA player, you need look no further than the story on the Magic's website after the game. More specifically, you need look no further than the first sentence of that story:

In the NBA nowadays, it’s hard to play well offensively if 3-pointers aren’t dropping.  

There you have it. Orlando is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA. In its last 10 games, the team is shooting less than 30 percent, which is the worst percentage in the league during that stretch. Couple that with how many three-pointers are taken in the NBA these days, and that's not a winning formula.

Cannady can definitely shoot. He has limitless range. He often took threes from well beyond the arc at Princeton, well beyond the NBA line too. He also shoots with incredible confidence, whether they're falling or not. 

As Pete Carril often said, you need guys who can take the 10th shot without hesitating even if they missed the first nine. Cannady is that guy, though it's hard to imagine that he would ever miss the first nine.

It's been great to see how Cannady has stepped in and shown what he can do given his first NBA opportunity. In case you forgot, Cannady's season included being the MVP of the G-League finals.

Cannady's NBA debut gave Princeton a "complete set" of alums in the four major professional sports. 

That's a pretty impressive fact. 

You can go beyond those four and find Princetonians in other professional leagues, including the WNBA, the National Women's Soccer League, the National Women's Hockey League and the Premiere Lacrosse League.

Princeton has a long history of sending athletes to the professional ranks. Its contributions to Major League Baseball date back to the 1800s, for that matter.

Princeton's first Major League Baseball players were Woody Wagenhurst and Dan Bickham both made their debuts in the same season (Wagenhurst played for St. Louis and Bickham played for Cincinnati). The year? How about 1888.

So when was the last time Princeton had at least one player on an active roster for the four major professional sports at the same time? Any guesses?

TigerBlog, being the historian he is, decided to look this up. 

The answer is ... never before. 

There have been times where it's been close. Take, for instance, 1980 and 1981.

Syl Apps played in the NHL from 1970-80. Carl Barisich played in the NFL from 1973-81. Both Armond Hill (1976-83) and Brian Taylor (1976-82) were in the NBA for those years as well (Taylor was also in the ABA from 1972-76). 

Princeton alum Bob Tufts, Class of 1977, pitched for three seasons in the Major Leagues - in 1981, 1982 and 1983. He and Apps didn't overlap, so there was no "complete set" at the time.

Princeton has had at least one alum on an active Major League Baseball roster since Chris Young broke in during the 2004 season. In addition to Young, that roster includes Will Venable, Ross Ohlendorf, Danny Barnes, Matt Bowman, David Hale and Mike Ford.

Princeton has had an active NFL player since 2013, when Mike Catapano was drafted by the Chiefs. He has been followed by Caraun Reid, Seth DeValve, Chad Kanoff, Stephen Carlson, John Lovett and Jesper Horsted. 

The Tigers connection with the NHL goes back further than those, all the way to 1999, when Jeff Halpern made his debut. Since then, the run has been continuous, with Chris Corrinet, George Parros, Darroll Powe, Kevin Westgarth, Mike Moore, Mike Condon, Taylor Fedun, Eric Robinson, Max Veronneau, Ryan Kuffner and Josh Teves.

And then Cannady joined the list. 

As TB has said, he thinks Cannady is there for awhile, and nothing that happened yesterday has changed that.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Really Good First Effort

TigerBlog can tell you all about his first-ever writing piece.

In fact, he has before. It was back in 1983, in his first day in the newspaper business. His friend Jack McCaffery, a longtime Philadelphia-area sportswriter and the older brother of Iowa head men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery, got him the job. 

The interview with the high school sports editor went something like this:

Do you have a car?
You're hired.
But, um, this would be the first time ever writing for a newspaper.
That's okay.

And that's how TigerBlog got his big break.

His first game was a football game between Pennington School and the Academy of the New Church. It was played on a Friday afternoon in Bryn Athyn, Pa., and TB will freely admit that he had no idea what he was doing.

When he finished writing his story, he showed it to the copy editor on the desk, a man named Harry Chaykun. When Harry (nicknamed the Hawk) finished, TB asked him what he thought. Without ever looking up, Harry said dryly "I'm still awake." 

That was the introduction to professional writing.

And by "professional," TB means he got paid $15, plus 22 cents per mile. Ah, those were the days.

Since then, TB can't even begin to calculate how many stories he's written, how many games he's been to, how many miles he's driven getting back and forth to events and how many millions of words he's put out there.

TB has told you that story before, but he doesn't mind sharing it again. He was taken back to that football game nearly 38 years ago by the first 11 words of Stephen Carlson's story that he read the other day.

Those words from Carlson:

My first ever writing piece. Let me know what you think!

Carlson is apparently starting his own blog, in what seems to be part of a program through the Harvard Business School called Crossover to Business. The first entry is entitled: "10 Guiding Principles That Have Kept Me In The NFL."

You can read it HERE and judge it for yourself.

TigerBlog's simple answer to Carlson's request as to what he thinks of the piece is this: It's way better than his story on Pennington-Academy of the New Church.

Carlson, as you should know, is a former Princeton football player. He graduated in 2019 after being a key member of the 2018 undefeated team. 

He finished his Princeton career third all-time in program history in touchdown receptions. He's also eight in receiving yards and 10th in receptions.

That's a pretty good resume for someone who was, to quote his head coach Bob Surace, the last recruit taken in his class and a two-year member of the scout team:

Carlson went from that humble beginning to now having played two seasons in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns. He has caught an NFL touchdown pass, and this past year he helped get the Browns into the playoffs by recovering an onsides kick against the Steelers to clinch a victory on the final night of the regular season. He repeated that a week later as Cleveland once against defeated Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

So how did he go from scout player to starter to Princeton star to undrafted free agent? That's what the piece is about.

In it, he goes through a set of beliefs that he has followed to get him where he is now. You can guess what the first one is: Hard Work.

That one's obvious. So are a few others. Discipline. Respect. Preparation. Humbleness. Do What You're Supposed To Do.

Some of the others aren't quite as obvious.  

One of his subheads is Doubt. That's a fascinating motivator. 

"Doubt makes me work harder," he writes. That section starts out by saying that he's doubted himself since high school.

There are some others that are just as interesting. TB won't give it all away. He'll just say that Carlson saved the best one for last.

The story is extremely well-written. It's hard to believe it's his first effort at this.

It gives great insight into what makes him tick and how in fact he's overcome such long odds to get where he is. It also shows off a young man who appreciates so much what he's achieved and how he hasn't taken anything for granted. 

To answer his question of what do you think?

It's great. That's what TigerBlog thinks. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

50 Years Ago Today

The first sentence of the story in the "Daily Princetonian" speaks volumes on the event of 50 years ago today and the times in which it was played.

The boys gathered on the hills to watch the girls behind the fences as Princeton's first women's varsity athletic team — tennis — opened with a 5-1 win over Penn yesterday.

That's a lot packed into fewer than 30 words.

First of all, there was the use of "boys" and "girls," which is a long outdated concept. More importantly, though, it tells the story of how for the first time ever, men watched women compete on the Princeton campus.

The women's tennis match against Penn on April 12, 1971, marked the third time women had competed intercollegiately for Princeton. The match did provide two firsts. 

The very first time that women competed for Princeton was in October 1970, when Margie Gengler Smith and Helena Novakova won the Eastern Intercollegiate championships all by themselves. The second time was on March 5, 1971, when Jane Fremon swam and Cece Herron dove at the Eastern championships.

The match against Penn a little more than a month later was different. 

For starters, it marked the first time that Princeton women competed in an on campus event. Second, it was the first time an official varsity women's team from Princeton competed against an official varsity team from another college.

Fittingly, it was Princeton-Penn.

When Merrily Dean Baker was hired in August 1970 to begin the women's athletic program, she was 27 years old and had one year of experience in women's college athletic administration. When she arrived in her office in Dillon Gym, she found a five-year plan for easing into sports for women, with varsity teams in that fifth year.

Of course, a five-year plan didn't do much for the women who were there then. And Baker isn't the kind who sits around and waits for things to happen.

Baker was driven to get the programs started. The women who were there weren't there to be passive. It turned out to be the perfect match in many ways. 

So when Gengler Smith and Novakova came into her office to ask about playing in the tournament in October, she said "of course." The same was true for Fremon and Herron.

By spring there were enough women to form an entire tennis team. There were a few problems still to overcome.

For one thing, there was no budget. Since varsity sports weren't supposed to begin until 1975, there was no money for little things, like coaches and uniforms and travel.

Baker, in fact, had purchased the first Princeton "uniforms" herself at the U-Store, when she bought shirts for Gengler Smith and Novakova and sewed their names on the back.

When it came to a coach, Baker recruited a local woman named Eve Kraft to lead the first tennis team. Kraft did this for no money at all. 

In addition, Kraft bought all the players orange and black mini-pompoms for their shoes. That was essentially what comprised their uniforms.

By contrast, when the visitors got off the bus that day, they all had Penn sweatsuits and travel bags. Every member of that first Princeton team with whom TigerBlog has spoken remembers that part clearly.

They also remember how Princeton rolled over the Quakers, starting with a 6-0, 6-1 win by Gengler Smith at No. 1. Novakova won her match at No. 2, and Laurie Watson won at No. 3.

The team had one senior, who won her doubles match. That senior, Podie Lynch, was the only female letterwinner in the Class of 1971, and she has gone on to be, in addition to a hugely successful businesswoman, the president of her class and a Princeton Varsity Club board member.

This was also in the Daily Princetonian story (written by Debbie Goldstein):

According to elated varsity coach Eve Kraft, the racquetwomen "won handily but not easily" over their rival.

Winning handily was something Princeton women's tennis has done a lot of, recently as the team has been a regular high up in the national rankings, and back then. The Tigers went 8-0 in the 1971 season and won the Middle States tournament championship. In fact, it would be until 1976 when the Tigers would actually lose a match, after winning their first 39.

Kraft would coach the Tigers for the first three seasons. Her career record: 26-0. Princeton women's tennis has had eight head coaches all time, and the lowest winning percentage any of them had was .594.

That's a lot of success.

Princeton women's athletics has had a lot of success across the board. It started from Day 1 in October 1970. There have been any number of historic days since, across not one by 18 varsity teams.

Of all the historic dates Princeton has had, that tennis match on April 12, 1971, is right up there near the top. It was the first varsity competition a Princeton team ever had. 

And it was 50 years ago today.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Two Points

TigerBlog would like to make two points today. 

For starters today, TB is extremely happy for Devin Cannady.

The Princeton alum made his NBA debut Wednesday with the Orlando Magic, with whom he signed a 10-day contract. Cannady played two minutes against the Washington Wizards, scoring two points and having one steal. 

His two points came when he hit two foul shots, which shouldn't surprise any Princeton fans. Cannady is Princeton's career leader in free throw percentage, having made just a shade under 90 percent for his career.

You can see for yourself. He has the same confidence at the line in the NBA that he did in Jadwin Gym, and the same results:

There are a lot of great, great college basketball players who never get to the NBA. Devin Cannady has made it. His resume will forever include achieving at the very highest level. 

Cannady's original 10-day contract still has five more games to go, including tonight, when the Magic host the Indiana Pacers. As TB said the other day, he sincerely believes that Cannady will spend more than 10 days on an NBA roster.

TB wanted to start out today with that. 

His other point is about women's athletic history. 

This coming Monday is the 50th anniversary of the first team event any Princeton women's team ever played. It was a women's tennis match, against Penn. Princeton won, 5-1. 

By that point, Princeton had already had women compete individually in tennis and swimming and diving. TB will have much more on the anniversary Monday, obviously.

He's almost at the finish line of the writing piece of his book on women's athletic history. There's still the editing and layout and all, but the challenge of writing it is almost over. 

One thing he's noticed about Princeton's women's athletic alums is that what seems like a high number of them have gone on to become medical doctors.

In fact there are more than 300 former Princeton women athletes who are currently doctors. You can pick a decade, pick a team, pick whatever you like and you'll find someone, multiple someones, who have gone on to medical school.

TB has brought you the stories of women like Deborah Saint-Phard and Vietta Johnson in the book excerpts he's posted. He's also spoken to a few other women who have become doctors.

His main question is what is the connection between athletics and medicine. He's gotten some pretty interesting feedback.

Actually it seems like there are two commonalities.

First, there is the fact that athletes are at a higher risk for injuries. Once they've been down that road, they are intrigued by the healing process.

The other is that medicine is very much a team-oriented venture. Almost every Tiger-turned-doctor that TB spoke to said this about the profession.

It's an interesting thing to think about. What you learn as a member of a team translates directly into being successful in an operating room or an emergency room or in a medical practice. That is in addition to the discipline it takes to be an athlete in the first place, not to mention the physical and mental stamina necessary.

Perhaps more than anything else, that's why so many former women athletes go on to become doctors. 

Or maybe they're just high achievers. Either way, it's a really interesting - and really impressive - part of women's athletic history at Princeton.

The first women's athletic event ever at Princeton was on Oct. 17, 1970, when Margie Gengler and Helena Novakova competed in the Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis Championships in New Paltz. 

Another hugely important day was April 12, 1971, which is 50 years ago Monday. That day was the first of so many games, so many amazing wins, so many championships and so many celebrations. 

TB has spent a year trying to chronicle that history. It's been a lot of fun to do so. 

He'll be back Monday with more on the historic occasion.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Recruiting The Class Of 1992

TigerBlog loves the new "Tiger Hero" series that has launched on and social media.

The series is showcasing different Princeton Athletics alums who have gone into careers in medicine. It is specifically focusing on how COVID has impacted them and their work.

The latest piece features Dan Slatalla, Class of 1992. Dr. Slatalla is an anesthesiologist at a hospital outside of Boston. 

Back in his college days, Slatalla was a member of the men's hockey team. He'd been drafted out of Deerfield, and he went on to have a successful career as a forward at Princeton. The highlight may have been a weekend his senior year when he scored the game-winning goal on consecutive nights in wins at RPI and Union.

TigerBlog found a great story in the Daily Princetonian archives from 1988 about various incoming recruits for a variety of sports, including Slatalla and the rest of the men's hockey Class of 1992. It focused on four sports - football, men's basketball, baseball and men's lacrosse.

Among the highlights of the story were the mention that players like Matt Eastwick, Chris Marquardt  and Jimmy Lane might make an immediate impact for Pete Carril, as would George Leftwich, who was listed as 6-3. Was Leftwich really 6-3? 

As you probably know, that class made more than a considerable impact for Carril. And that group doesn't include Sean Jackson, who would join the team a year later after playing at Ohio as a freshman.

Leftwich became one of TB's all-time favorite players. He played with a perfect poker face, and he kept the offense running flawlessly. He never tired, going 40 minutes most nights, and, most importantly, he almost never, ever turned the ball over. In the 1989 game against Georgetown in the NCAA tournament, in fact, Leftwich went 40 minutes and had one turnover.

The football recruits included Leon Newsome, Chris Theiss and Chad Roghair, among others. The best line about the football team referenced how someone in the group of recruits might replace the "steady" Bob Surace when he graduated.

The baseball story mentioned Sean Sullivan, who would become a three-time All-EIBL shortstop. The EIBL was the Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League, which until 1992 featured the eight Ivy schools and Army and Navy. 

There was also Peter Noone, a great utility player who would also be an All-EIBL pick. It also mentioned Ted Remig, a first baseman/outfielder who was the younger brother of Brad Remig, the team's leading hitter who was another All-EIBL pick twice.

Would Ted Remig become a standout baseball player? His destiny instead was to become the manager of the men's basketball team, and become one of the larger personalities that TB has met (and another all-time favorite) in his time at Princeton. 

As for men's lacrosse, little did anyone know at the time, but that class was the famous class where Bill Tierney promised them that they'd win an NCAA championship before they graduated. This came from a coach who had gone 2-13 in his first year at Princeton, a team whose last winning record had been 15 years earlier.

So what happened? That class did in fact improve each year, going 6-8 in 1989 and then reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time a year later. After a triple-overtime loss in the quarterfinals in 1991, those Tigers did in fact fulfill the destiny that Tierney said was theirs, winning the NCAA title 10-9 in overtime against Syracuse on Memorial Day 1992.

The recruiting story referenced, for one, "John" Tortolani, whose given first name is "Paul" and who actually is known as "Justin." When he graduated he was the all-time leading goal scorer at Princeton with 120. Tortolani, like Slatalla, has gone on to become a doctor.

Others mentioned in the story included Greg Waller, Ed Calkins, David Gaines and Mike Manzo. It did not mention Mike Mariano, who would be a two-time All-American. Another "Tiger Hero" in that class was ER doctor Evan Garfein.

The Class of 1992 came to Princeton right around the time that TB started covering the Tigers full time. The names in that story are among the earliest group of athletes at Princeton whom TB met and wrote about.

Seeing that story certainly took him back. 

Those were great, great times.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The First 10 Days

TigerBlog starts today with his prediction from this past January's Super Bowl: Kansas City 35, Tampa Bay 17. 

And, of course, here was the actual final score: Tampa Bay 31, Kansas City 9.

Why does TB bring that up now, two months later? Well, it's because he was so amazingly wrong on that prediction, so he can't really take credit for being pretty much spot on about another one without acknowledging that he missed on the one before it.

TB wrote this Monday before the Gonzaga-Baylor NCAA men's basketball championship game:

TB wants to see Gonzaga close out the perfect season, but turning it around so quickly after what happened Saturday won't be easy. He'll grudgingly predict a Baylor win, and he'll also predict it won't be as good a game as the one Saturday.  

And that was pretty much spot on.

The final was Baylor 86, Gonzaga 70, and it was never really in doubt after the Bears jumped out 9-0. The game went pretty much the way TB figured, with a Baylor team that flew under the radar a bit while all of the attention was focused on the quest for the perfect season from Gonzaga. 

As TB also said the other day, playing with that pressure is rough. Keep that in mind the next time an unbeaten team loses a late season game and says it's the best thing that could have happened. 

Baylor also was so much fresher after its waltz past Houston in the semifinal, as opposed to the epic overtime game Gonzaga had to play against UCLA. TB has heard coaches talk about the advantage a team has that plays the first semifinal, even if it's only a few extra hours of recovery, and that was never clearer than it was in this case. Gonzaga was a step slower than normal, and Baylor was just way too quick for the Bulldogs.

TigerBlog has made quite a few predictions here through the years. Some have worked out. Some haven't. It's the nature of predictions. They're just guesses. 

This one, though, was a bit more than a guess. This one was based on what he saw Saturday night in the semifinals.

In a similar vein, TB makes another prediction. The next 10 days will not be the only 10 days that Devin Cannady spends on an NBA roster.

Cannady, the fifth all-time leading scorer in Princeton men's basketball history with 1,515 career points, was signed to a 10-day contract by the Orlando Magic. Cannady has had back-to-back successful season in the G League, including earning MVP honors for the finals last month after leading the Lakeland Magic to the championship, with a 97-78 win over Delaware in which he scored 22 points on 9 for 17 shooting including 4 for 9 from three.

According to NBA rules, free agents can sign two 10-day contracts in the course of a season, either consecutively or not consecutively. Orlando plays six games in the next 10 days, including one tonight at home against Washington. With six games in 10 days, depth becomes important.

Here's one scouting report on Cannady:

In the world of today's NBA, Cannady can do the single most important thing that is needed - he can shoot the three (from well beyond the line, by the way). Cannady's long-range shooting ability is coupled with a tirelessness that gets him out in transition and makes him a perfect part of a modern-day NBA fast break. He is also very good at chasing down long rebounds and starting the other way. He's also one of the best free throw shooters in any league anywhere, which means that you love having the ball in his hands at the end of a close game in which your team is ahead.

Okay, that actually was from TB after the G League final, but it's true. Cannady's game is made for how offense is played in the NBA these days. He also has to be about as perfect a practice player as you can find.

TB feels like he speaks for all Princeton fans when he says he's rooting for Cannady in a big way. He also thinks that once he gets a chance, he's going to make an impact - and that these 10 days will not be his only in the NBA.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

It's All The SID

The NCAA women's basketball championship game Sunday night between Stanford and Arizona was a classic won by the Cardinal 54-53. You can't ask for much more than a one-point national championship game, right?

Arizona played its final defensive possession perfectly. Down one with 36 seconds to go, Arizona didn't foul, instead relying on Stanford to do what teams in that situation do about 100 percent of the time - nothing. The Cardinal settled for a shot clock violation, and suddenly Arizona had the ball and 6.1 seconds to win it.

Then Stanford did what championship teams do in those situations, smothering Arizona and forcing a desperation three as time expired. Of course it almost went in, but it was not to be for the Cinderella Wildcats, who had knocked off UConn in the semifinals.

One of the biggest stars of the women's tournament turned out to be Arizona coach Adia Barnes, who is also the school's all-time leading scorer (an amazing 2,237). She was a longtime professional player in both the WNBA, where she won a championship with the Seattle Storm, and in Europe.

It was her genuine emotion after Friday's win over UConn, and her use of her middle fingers to make a point in her team huddle, coupled with a refusal to apologize for being seen on camera while doing it (and mouthing the accompanying expletive) that made her even more popular. 

TigerBlog isn't advocating for coaches to drop f-bombs on national TV, but he realizes it does happen to the very best of them. And the way she handled the aftermath of it was impressive.

Also, how in the world did the NCAA, which had already had more than its share of self-inflicted wounds during the women's tournament, not include Arizona in the Final Four promotional video? Seriously, there are four teams. How hard is it to include all four? It was that slight that led to Barnes' use of the expletive in the first place, which makes it even more understandable

A lesser known breakout star from the tournament was Wilder Treadway. Who? Wilder. He's the women's basketball contact for the athletic communications office at Stanford. 

Okay, so maybe he's not quite a breakout star. But he is the athletic communications contact for an NCAA championship team.

And before he moved out West to work at Stanford, he was the women's basketball contact, among other sports, at of all places Penn. Before his team won a national championship, Treadway's biggest games each year were Princeton-Penn.

TigerBlog has been the athletic communications contact for teams that have won the NCAA championship. In fact, it's happened four times for him - men's lacrosse championships in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2001 (he was still at the newspaper for the first two). He's been there when the women have won, but he wasn't the team's contact.

It's an interesting situation to be in when you're the championship team SID. You've been with the team the whole year. You know everything about the coaches and players. You are certainly an insider, and in your own way you are very much a part of the team.

On the other hand, unlike everyone else associated with the team that closely, in the moment when the game ends, you have to maintain some sense of normalcy, as opposed to jumping up and down and being part of the dog pile. 

You need to get TV interviews. You need to get people to postgame rooms. And of course there's also the quaint old-fashioned notion of no cheering in the press box.

At the same time, you do want to celebrate with everyone else. It's a delicate balancing act.

It's also quite fascinating to be in the locker room after a team has won an NCAA championship. It's just a different sort of feel, one of a team that bought in fully, overcome whatever obstacles there were and then rose to the highest possible level.

There's also a strange feeling in those locker rooms. It's one of not wanting to let go. There's a sense you can feel that this achievement was something that took so much time and so much effort and so much sacrifice and so much hard work and now that it's here, nobody wants to walk away from it.

At least that was an observation that TB made from his own experiences in those situations. 

As much as it would be nice to think the opposite, the SID doesn't really make a team any better or worse. Mostly you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes those right places end up in NCAA championships. Such was the case Sunday night for Wilder Treadway. 

TB has experienced that before, and it's a lot of fun to be there.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Epic Stuff

By now you've seen and re-seen the ending of the Gonzaga-UCLA men's basketball game from Saturday night.

If you didn't see it live, you missed one of the great endings you'll ever see anywhere in any game in any setting. TigerBlog had the game on his computer while he watched TV Saturday, and he only went over to the game full time for the final three minutes or so of regulation and the overtime.

UCLA, an 11th seed who needed overtime to get out of the First Four game, came really, really close to reaching the championship game. No team lower than an 11 seed has ever made the Final Four, and UCLA was the fifth 11 to make it that far. The other four 11s lost their semifinal games by an average of 11.5 points. 

In case you're wondering, the other four 11 seeds to reach the Final Four were: LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), VCU (2011), Loyola (2018). 

TigerBlog vividly remembers when George Mason knocked off UConn to get the Final Four. He was at a Princeton men's lacrosse game on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, and he was keeping stadium PA announcer Bill Bromberg updated on the score of that game.

The crowd sighed mightily when it was announced that the game was going to overtime, since everyone was rooting for the big underdog George Mason. And the ovation was huge when it was announced that George Mason had won, even though that announcement came shortly after the end of the lacrosse game.

When TB saw that the game was from 2006, he could not believe that 15 years had gone by already. That's craziness. 

As you know by now, the game Saturday night also featured more than its share of craziness. Gonzaga has been blowing teams out all year, while UCLA has been toughened by playing close game after close game. How would Gonzaga handle such a difficult moment? 

Pretty well, it turns out. The Zags could never shake UCLA, and in fact the Bruins came back from seven down to take the lead in the final two minutes of regulation. They also had a chance to win it at the end of regulation before a charge was drawn by Drew Timme (a good call, TB says).

This led to the overtime, where Johnny Juzang tied it with 3.3 seconds to play with his putback of his own miss. Then Suggs took the inbounds, went one dribble past midcourt and banked in the winner as time expired. 

TB was watching with the sound off, which made it even more surreal. This shows him what he missed on mute. Which one is the best?

It was clearly one of the greatest endings to a college basketball game ever, and it's even more amazing considering three things. First, the game was a Final Four game, which adds to the pressure. Second, it was close throughout, an incredibly exciting game from start to finish, as opposed to a game that just happened to be close at the end. 

Finally, Gonzaga was playing with the pressure of pursuing a perfect season. That has to be a burden. Keep that in mind next time a team says losing a game late in an unbeaten season was helpful.

There is a tendency to anoint games, or players, as the GOAT in the immediate aftermath of something spectacular. Was Gonzaga-UCLA up there? Yes. Is it the greatest game ever played, or the greatest ending to a college basketball game? No.

TigerBlog actually was researching something and stumbled across something he'd written a long time ago. Here it is:

So even with his disdain for making the over-the-top statement, TB will still throw this out there: Yesterday's game is up there with any game in any sport he's ever watched that wasn't played by the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980.

What game was he referencing?  

It was the 2012 Olympic semifinal women's soccer game between the United States and Canada. Remember that game? The heavily favored US won 4-3 on a goal late in stoppage time of the second overtime period. 

TB re-read that as he wrote about Diana Matheson for his women's history book. Matheson was the on the Canadian team that day, and she and her teammates had the unenviable task of having to come back three days later to play for the bronze medal against France.

Outshot 28-4, the emotionally and physically exhausted Canadians nevertheless won the bronze on Matheson's goal just before the end of regulation. It was one of the biggest moments any Princeton athlete has ever had and, TB supposes, the most-watched moment any Princeton woman athlete has ever had.

As for the NCAA men's basketball tournament, it'll be interesting to see what Gonzaga has left tonight in the final against Baylor, who cruised past Houston in the other semifinal Saturday. 

TB wants to see Gonzaga close out the perfect season, but turning it around so quickly after what happened Saturday won't be easy. He'll grudgingly predict a Baylor win, and he'll also predict it won't be as good a game as the one Saturday.