Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A Tiger In Salzburg

The big game in college basketball this past weekend was supposed to be No. 1 Gonzaga against No. 2 Baylor.

The game was to be played in Indianapolis. It was going to be televised by CBS. 

And the announcers? Bill Raftery was to be the color commentator. And the play-by-play was to be done by Tom McCarthy, the Philadelphia Phillies/NFL announcer whose roots are in Princeton football and basketball and whose son Patrick does play-by-play for, among others, Princeton men's basketball.

TigerBlog was excited to watch. He was looking forward to Raftery's call after the opening tap, in which he will mention the team that falls back and defense and throw it to the play-by-play guy in something of this manner: "And Tom McCarthy, Baylor goes man-to-man" in his very, very emphatic style.

And then TB was looking forward to hearing Tom on the game.

Unfortunately, a positive COVID test forced the game to be postponed just before it was to begin. For his part, McCarthy was already sitting courtside at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

As always, McCarthy's attitude was positive and upbeat. Still, that was rough, flying out to Indiana but then not being able to do the game, any game, let alone a game between No. 1 and No. 2.

The game would not have been McCarthy's first college basketball game in Indianapolis, of course. He was the play-by-play man for Princeton when it beat UCLA in the old RCA Dome in the opening round of the 1996 NCAA tournament.

When Toby Bailey's last-chance jump shot went long, ending the Tigers' 43-41 win, McCarthy's call was "there'll be a new champion in the NCAA!" It was picked up by pretty much every radio station around the country, including leading "The Mike And The Mad Dog Show" on WFAN in New York.

By the way, every time TB has seen a replay of Bailey's shot, he's had the same reaction - he thought it was going in when it left his hand, and that would have forced overtime.

That game was in 1996, as TB said. A few weeks later, there were four winners of the Roper Trophy as Princeton's top senior male athlete. One of them was Jesse Marsch, a men's soccer player.

Marsch went on to a long career as a player in Major League Soccer, and since then, he has gone down the path of coaching on the professional level.

Today is a huge day for Marsch.

He is currently the head coach of FC Salzburg, a team in the Austrian Bundesliga. This year, under Marsch's direction, FC Salzburg won both the league title and the Austrian Cup.

The win in the Austrian Bundesliga advanced the team to the UEFA Champions League. Today is the final day of the Group stage for FC Salzburg, who takes on Atletico, from Madrid.

That game will be played in Salzburg and begins at 3 Eastern time (that's 9 pm in Salzburg). It's basically a play-in game into the knockout round of the final 16 teams.

Salzburg is Group A, which has already been won by Bayern Munich. Lokomotive, from Moscow, cannot advance. That leaves Salzburg and Atletico.

Salzburg currently has four points to the six for Atletico, so a tie would put Atletico through to the knockout round. Atletico beat Salzburg 3-2 in their first meeting.

No matter what happens, Marsch has established himself as an extraordinary coach, something not easy for Americans to do in Europe. TB found an NBC Sports article that included this in advance of the game:

Jesse Marsch will match wits for Diego Simeone in what will be one of the highest-profile club matches managed by an American in the history of world football.

The article also mentions three other American coaches who have succeeded in Europe. One of them, obviously, was another Princetonian, Bob Bradley. You can read the story HERE.

Marsch is definitely cut from the same mold as Bradley, and current Tiger head coach Jim Barlow, for that matter. They're all intense and passionate about soccer, extremely loyal (especially to their Princeton roots), very intelligent, very deep thinkers and completely humble. 

And they're just really good people. 

So good luck to Jesse today. 

Oh, and the other three 1996 Roper Trophy winners? 

David Patterson (football), Ugwunna Ikpeowo (track and field) and Reed Cordish (tennis).

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