Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Record Breaking

Today's only "Homeland" reference will be to reprint here what is the greatest single comment from a reader in TigerBlog history, in response to yesterday's suggestion that Nicholas Brody - the maybe good guy/maybe bad guy from "Homeland" - and Princeton quarterback Quinn Epperly look alike, to which someone anonymously said this:
According to the Homeland wiki site, former CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1999 with an AB in Arabic Languages and Literatures. Never mind that we call the department Near Eastern Studies, if Carrie Mathison '99 is to expose or assassinate Nick Brody, at least she had the good sense to wait until Brody completed the game-winning pass to Roman Wilson '14 to beat Harvard. That's school loyalty.

No more "Homeland" today. TigerBlog promises.

In fact, TB was thinking about how at one point, he had probably seen more New Jersey Athletic Conference athletic events than he had Ivy League events, or at least covered more.

Back in his newspaper days, TB covered Princeton and Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) more than he did any of the other schools (Rutgers, Rider, Mercer County College) in the area.

The New Jersey Athletic Conference is the Division III conference in which TCNJ competes.

Since the days when TB was around, the conference has changed in many ways, most notably adding four non-New Jersey schools (Western Connecticut, Morrisville State, Brockport and Cortland) as football members.

Like TCNJ, a few of the colleges have also changed their school names. Jersey City State then; New Jersey City State now. Glassboro State then; Rowan now. Stockton State then; Richard Stockton now.

TB has nothing but great memories of his time covering the NJAC. The coaches and administrators were almost all universally nice and thankful to have the media support. The athletes were also appreciative and accommodating.

As for the games themselves? TB saw some epics, with so many events that he'll never forget, with players and coaches who competed so hard against each other, often renewing rivalries that began in elementary school.

TigerBlog spent hours crammed into a TSC van, driving around the state of New Jersey with then-Trenton State SID Pete Manetas, to events like a football game at Ramapo that was played in the heaviest rain TB has ever seen or a baseball doubleheader at Montclair State where the media sat on top of one of the dugouts and was in direct line of more than one foul ball or a basketball game at Rutgers-Newark, which was the last place TB ever saw that did not have phone jacks and therefore required something called acoustic couplers to transmit a story postgame. Manetas, the mess on his desk not withstanding, was very organized and was able to produce the couplers almost on cue.

TB remembers the first time he ever saw a basketball game at Stockton. As a way of warning him what to expect, Manetas told TB that the fans would be literally on top of the court.

And he was right.

Back in Stockton's old gym, there was a catwalk over the court, and fans could ring the walkway and look straight down at the action. It was a tad intimidating - and all TB was doing was writing a story.

Stockton's men's basketball coach back then was a man named Gerry Matthews. As it turns out, Matthews is still the coach for the Ospreys.

TB confesses to not having paid that close attention to Stockton basketball much through the last few decades, so it wasn't until late last year that he realized that Matthews was still coaching there.

It was actually called to his attention by Stockton's marketing director, who informed TB that Matthews was closing in on Pete Carril's record for wins by a college basketball coach in New Jersey.

Carril won 514 games in his 29 seasons with the Tigers, and TB knew that number off the top of head. He wondered if Carril knew the exact number.

TB remembers when Carril won his 500th game at Princeton and was asked by the media to name his biggest wins. When the coach said: "well, you have to start with the Georgetown game," it was left to TB to respond: "uh, Coach, you didn't win that one."

Whether or not Carril knew of the number, TB is fairly positive that he didn't know that Matthews was on the verge of catching him. In fact, TB gives the people at Stockton a tremendous amount of credit for thinking to look it up, since such milestones are so easy to miss.

Anyway, Matthews caught Carril earlier this season and is now New Jersey's leader in career coaching wins.

To TigerBlog, the milestone is significant because of a few reasons, not the least of which is that Matthews had to beat a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame to do so.

More than that, it's a reminder that you don't always find the best coaches wearing the most expensive suits in the games that endlessly roll across ESPN night after night after night.

Just as Carril committed the majority of his career to being part of the program here, Matthews likewise has chosen to do that at Stockton as well.

The challenges that each faced in the name of education, recruiting, logistics and everything else might have been completely unique and far different.

But the basketball is still the basketball.

TB has no idea whether or not Carril has ever spoken to Matthews or gotten to know him at all. Maybe they've been close for decades; maybe they are strangers.

Either way, TB does know that Matthews is the kind of person who earns Carril's highest respect. Hard-working. Committed. Obviously a strong coach.

And now the owner of a record that was Carril's for, well, TB has no idea how long, since unlike the people at Stockton, it never dawned on him to check.

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