Friday, August 21, 2020

Guest TigerBlog - David Rosenfeld With His Own "Going Back"

TigerBlog made an offer earlier this week as part of his newly named "Going Back" series about Princeton events that predate the creation of this blog.

The offer was for anyone to submit a story about their own recollections and memories of Princeton games. He hopes readers take him up this.

The first response he received came from his longtime friend and former colleague (that's way better than the other way around, right?) David Rosenfeld, who at one point was the Princeton men's basketball contact. David hasn't worked in Princeton for more than 10 years, but he has remained a huge fan of the Tigers.

Here is his "Going Back":


It was the Monday before Thanksgiving, in 2004. The No. 1 song on the Billboard chart was “My Boo” by Usher and Alicia Keys, which I just had Alexa play for me so I might remember it (I didn’t). Speaking of technology that can spy on you, the iPhone was still three years away.

And the Princeton basketball team was in…you guessed it…Wyoming.


We played a game there, and it was a good one. More on that later. But it was quite a ride to even make it to Laramie, home of the University of Wyoming.

We left the Philadelphia airport on Saturday afternoon, arriving in Denver at night. The plan was to bus it from there to Laramie, a trip of a bit more than two hours. We never made it.

Upon reaching Cheyenne on Interstate 25, you then head west on Interstate 80 to Laramie. We headed west, but were stopped by the State Police. An 18-wheeler had spun out in the snow, and the road was closed. Would be for a while. This wasn’t New Jersey; there was no way around it in 6,000-foot mountains, and the weather was bad.

It was late, approaching midnight probably. We turned around and found ourselves driving through downtown Cheyenne looking for a hotel. I believe sleeping on the bus might have been discussed. Somehow, we found a Holiday Inn. After some pleading with the front desk, our group of 20 or so squeezed into six or seven rooms.

The short trip to Laramie a few hours later on a sunny Sunday morning was uneventful. It’s beautiful country—God’s country, some would say. Sadly, God did not help us with the officiating the following evening.

Wyoming shot 45 free throws, we shot 15. Three of our starters fouled out. Still, it was a great game. Neither team led by more than seven points, and we forced overtime with a late free throw. Scott Greenman, now an assistant coach at American under former Princeton player and coach Mike Brennan, hit a three-pointer to force a second overtime. Unfortunately, the Cowboys won the game at the free-throw line in the last five minutes.

I learned a lot about our new coach that trip, though I knew Joe Scott a little bit from his time as an assistant coach at Princeton in the 1990s. This was only his third game as head coach after coming back from Air Force in the spring. Air Force and Wyoming are in the same conference, the Mountain West, which was likely why we ended up getting a home-and-home with the Cowboys.

At one point late in the game, Will Venable was at the free-throw line when radio announcer Dan Loney mentioned that Venable was a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in the team’s most recent game, against Syracuse. Venable missed and Scott turned to Dan, sitting at the scorer’s table right next to the bench, and screamed something about a jinx. It was then that I realized that Joe was superstitious about free throws—he never watched anyone shoot one—ever—always turning his head or doing something to avoid it.

 For all his sideline histrionics and his intelligence (he graduated from Notre Dame Law School), Joe is a normal guy, a dude who grew up in Toms River on the Jersey Shore with a dad who sold pizza on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

When I tell people about the “glory” of working in college athletics, I often refer back to this trip—specifically, where I rested my head every night. Saturday in Cheyenne. Sunday in Laramie. Monday in Denver. Tuesday back home. Wednesday and Thursday in Baltimore, celebrating Thanksgiving with family. Friday back home, since we had a game at Lafayette Saturday afternoon.

That 2004-05 season, despite a strong start, was a disappointment. Our gritty play in tough situations, like Laramie, became easy to forget as the conference losses piled up. Still, our Wyoming adventure was unforgettable, even all these years later.


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