When Wagner visited Penn, it was a rainy Tuesday night; getting from Annapolis to Philadelphia after work for a 7 p.m. tip-off on these types of nights can be a dicey proposition. We can avoid I-95 all the way to Wilmington, but that area between Wilmington and Philly is just a killer, traffic-wise, and of course rain doesn't help. My husband and I debated at length on the way the merits of experimenting with a route using surface streets to get around the worst of it; the road's called Philadelphia Pike, sounds great, right?
Well, first there was the train crossing, which consisted of one of the train conductors holding a flare while walking across the street, then hopping back on the train once it crossed the street. OK. You can imagine the rest: construction, congestion, speed traps, etc. The wisdom of this plan of action was questioned; the (purely academic, at that point) issue of whether a two-hour basketball game merits five hours in the car was discussed. Sort of.
As pretty much everyone knows (because you read the other [excellent] essay
on this game already, right?), Wagner is coached by Dan Hurley, whose brother is Bobby Hurley. When I first heard that Dan had hired his brother Bobby as an assistant, I wondered how something like that would change their relationship. The concept of a family business always seemed fraught with peril, to me.
As the game wore on, though, it seemed like there was another relationship that might have been undergoing a lot more of a test, at least on this night: the relationship between Dan Hurley and Zack Rosen, Penn's rock star senior point guard. Hurley coached Rosen in high school, and by all accounts they continue to be close. I read that Hurley joked before the game that Wagner's defensive plan for stopping Rosen would be to drop back into a zone and just dare him to shoot for the whole game.
In fact, of course, the opposite was true: Wagner brought the double-teams early and often; not Patsos-on-Curry style, exactly, but the pressure was intense. More than once, I saw Hurley loudly praise the defensive intensity of a player who had just fouled Rosen. Former Quaker star Jack Eggleston, blogging for the student paper from his continuing basketball career overseas, suggested after the game that Penn needs an enforcer
. Rosen still put up 23 points, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line. But from where we sat, frustration crept onto the face of the yoga instructor's son
more than once, and that kind of emotion isn't always easily directed.
Of course, it's just basketball, and I'm sure Rosen, Hurley, and anyone else would tell you both expected the other to compete, to do whatever it took to win. That they would've been disappointed in any other approach. But everything you go through with someone else impacts your relationship with them, one way or another, whether it's the daily grind of commuting or the intense emotion of a hotly-contested game.
When I tell people that my husband and I spent at least two hours a day in the car together, every day, for four years, many of them say (in jest?) that they don't think their relationship would've survived something like that. It was actually great for us, but I know what they mean - if my husband and I had to spend two hours a day every weekday for four years doing home improvement projects together, well....