Monday, March 23, 2020

Old Time Hoops

At noon Saturday, TigerBlog had on his television the replay of the 1982 NCAA men's basketball championship game between North Carolina and Georgetown.

At one point he thought to himself about the fact that he was not at the Princeton-Yale men's lacrosse game in New Haven at the same time and what he would have thought a month ago if you'd told him he wouldn't be at that game. Or, more exactly, that he wouldn't be at the game AND wouldn't be watching the videostream.

The only thing he would have come up with was that Princeton would be hosting the NCAA women's basketball tournament (a possibility) and that he would be needed there, though even so he still thinks he would have been watching the lacrosse game.

Nevertheless, in these surreal times, he was home, on his couch, watching North Carolina-Georgetown from 1982.

You could tell it was a game from a different time from how it appeared on TV. First of all, there was no three-point shot or shot clock. That alone made the game look unfamiliar.

For instance, on each possession that resulted in settled offense, TB found himself thinking about how much time was on the shot clock. Then he looked for it on the on-screen graphic - only to remember that 1) there was no shot clock and 2) there was no on-screen graphic.

Not even the score alone was constantly displayed. It was just put up after a score or going to a timeout.

Oh, and speaking of that, there was no media timeout format back then either. The first deadball after the 16:00 mark of the first half brought no immediate reaction by anyone to head to the bench.

It's amazing how conditioned you can get from watching games on TV and how viewing habits become ingrained.

TB hadn't seen that game since he watched it in his dorm room at Penn. He remembered how Patrick Ewing started the game by being the kind of dominant and imposing physical presence that has rarely been rivaled, and even his multiple goaltending violations left the Tar Heels intimidated.

That North Carolina team wasn't bad. It featured James Worthy and Sam Perkins, who would be the No. 1 and No. 4 players picked in the NBA drafts when they left UNC and who both had great professional careers. Worthy is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Perkins is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

The team also had Michael Jordan as a freshman. With apologies to every other player who has ever played the sport, Jordan is in TB's eyes the greatest player of all time. In fact, he's the greatest athlete TB has ever seen.

On that team, though, he was a freshman, and he was not the lead player, which is something that was weird to see as well. Of course, when it mattered most, Jordan knocked down the game-winning jump shot as UNC won 63-62.

As he watched, TB texted John Thompson III, whose father was the Georgetown coach then, to see where JT3 was sitting for this one in the Superdome in New Orleans. Turns out he was across the court near mid-court in the second or third row.

John Thompson III played on the unluckiest Princeton team TB can think of his senior year, at least other than the ones whose seasons were shortened by the current pandemic. The 1988 Tigers lost three straight heartbreaking one-point games in midseason and then blasted Ivy champ Cornell by 30 on the last night of the year in Jadwin Gym. The Tigers would then win the next four titles.

He then went on to be part of Pete Carril's last staff at Princeton (the one that beat UCLA in 1996) and Bill Carmody's first (the one that went 14-0 each of Carmody's first two seasons and beat UNLV in the first round of the 1998 tournament) before becoming Tiger head coach himself when Carmody left for Northwestern shortly before practice for the 2000-01 season began.

Thompson led Princeton to three Ivy titles in four years, and the 2000-01 team will always be one of TB's favorites, after the way the rookie coach and his rebuilt roster won the championship. Thompson would quickly establish himself as a calming influence in every storm that came up, and his innate ability to manage late-game situations and the resulting ability to win close games defined all of his teams.

He went from Princeton to Georgetown before the 2004-05 season, but he remains a universally loved and respected presence on the Princeton campus. He can't walk into Jadwin Gym without being swarmed by the fans who saw him play and coach.

This past weekend wasn't a great time for him to watch TV. In addition to that 1982 game that Georgetown lost, the 2013 opening round game between his second-seeded Hoyas and 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast was also reshown. In that game, which would have been one of TB's favorite games ever to watch had it not been for the fact that he was rooting hard for Georgetown, saw the "Dunk City" FGC team win 78-68 and do so in very entertaining fashion.

Thompson, of course, led Georgetown to the 2007 Final Four, defeating North Carolina 96-84. Georgetown trailed by 11 in the second half before a 14-0 run sent the Hoyas to the Final Four.

Hey, CBS, would it have been too much to fit that game in there somewhere this weekend?

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