"Do you feel the same For what was remained Yesterday is gone, we can't go back again Do you ever cry for the ghost of days gone by"
Time can be a funny thing as it pertains to memory, sometimes embellishing, sometimes erasing, sometimes just adjusting facts in a way that you want to recall them.
I know for a fact that the reason you're reading this from me has its roots in the 1989-1990 college basketball season. Seemingly unlike many of today's youth, my athletic career was as a jack of all trades. I was probably best at baseball, but I played soccer, hockey, and some tennis growing up.
Oh, and despite topping out at 5-foot-8 and having a vertical leap that could be measured in millimeters, I played some hoops. I had one talent: I could shoot three-pointers, a relatively new phenomenon to the amateur (and college) game at the time.
I didn't watch much basketball on television in those days. I was much more likely to be playing something than watching. But on Jan. 2, 1990, (or was it Jan. 6?) after a hockey practice, I turned on La Salle against Loyola Marymount. What the hell was this? I had heard about LMU, mostly from their 181-150 win over U.S. International the season before, but I had never seen them live on television.
La Salle, led by future pro Lionel Simmons, took 100 shots, the teams combined to take 62 three-pointers (making 24). It was chaotic. It was insane. It was anarchic. It was revolutionary.
And it was beautiful.
From the Los Angeles Times story the next day:
"Obviously, we're distraught," said La Salle coach Speedy Morris, who earlier in the week spoke of keeping the score in the 60s. "I made the decision to run with them and play schoolyard ball. You can go to any playground and see this kind of basketball. I don't like it."
As the corny white kid who listened to Public Enemy (much to the horror of his parents who - maybe not coincidentally - never cared for basketball and rarely went to watch me play), I was hooked after just one hit of whatever junk LMU was concocting:
"I guess you know - you guess I am just a radical Not a sabbatical - yes to make it critical The only part your body should be parting to Panther power on the hour from the rebel to you"
- Rebel Without A Pause
Surely, you know most of the rest of the story by now. Paul Westhead and "The System." Scoring 122.4 points per game (and giving up 108.1). The 298 three-pointers.
I cried when SportsCenter led with news of Hank Gathers' death on March 4. I cried again when I bailed out of a Friday night party early two weeks later to watch the Lions break open a tight game to beat New Mexico State, 111-92.
Two days later was and is (even with my alma mater Syracuse winning the national championship in 2003) my favorite basketball game of all-time. LMU couldn't miss, scored 84 points in the second half (84!) and blasted defending champion Michigan, 149-115, a game that will likely sit in the NCAA record books for quite some time yet (if anyone has a tape of that game, I'd love to have a copy).
Alas, this was where the memory fails again. I always thought Jeff Fryer, my idol at the time, had 14 threes, when he only had 11. I thought LMU had 26 threes in all, when they had 21.
The emotions that day two decades ago were everything that this site is about. And what I - at least as a sports fan - am all about. The little guy, the teams that shouldn't have a chance, but against the odds come through. For a wondrous couple of months, Westhead and LMU took the status quo and stuffed it into the faces of the fat cats of the college basketball world with a style of play that was incredibly entertaining, even if it wasn't conventional.
Alas, after LMU was ousted one game short of the Final Four, Westhead took the money and ran to the NBA. Ironically for this site, after two unsuccessful seasons, Westhead got hired at George Mason, where he never had a winning record in four seasons. His replacement in 1997? Jim Larranaga.
The year after LMU's amazing run, we got our coach to put "The System" in for our rec team. It was great. We dominated. I hit 10 three-pointers in a game, scored 45 points in another. In pick-up games, "Loyola mode" became just chucking up threes as soon as you got the ball and wildly chasing people around (by contrast, "Princeton mode" would kick in when you got tired, just dribbling the ball around in circles to rest, only shooting if you got a lay-up. Ironically, the Run and Gun era essentially ended at the end of the 1990-91 season when Princeton suffocated LMU 76-48 in the season finale).
Sadly, I fear that young fans may not understand how fun that LMU team really was. ESPN put together a "Guru of Go" special recently as part of their 30 For 30 series, but, with all due respect, I don't think it did the basketball much justice.
Almost underground, "The System" still exists. Westhead himself, after winning a WNBA title, now coaches the women's team at Oregon. Dave Arsenault at Division III Grinnell has taken Westhead's style to even another level, and both still have loyal followers, although they don't usually show their faces in public these days, at least where live television cameras are around (ESPN2 actually showed a live Grinnell game in 2005; Beloit not only beat them, but the game was "only" 86-85). VMI coach Duggar Baucom is a personal favorite, and his team is fun to watch, but they are not really the same as what LMU used to do.
No, for all intents and purposes on a major college level, "The System" is dead.
So I'll have to settle for the closest thing to it, I guess. And that led me to check out Iona Sunday as they took on Marist in quaint McCann Arena Sunday.
Iona entered the game fourth (they would leave second) in the nation in scoring. Of course, it's all relative these days, no one is within 30 points of what LMU did in 1989-90.
It was hard not to see some Hank Gathers in Iona senior Mike Glover, as Glover - a bit undersized at 6-foot-7, but strong, very strong - dominated the paint to the tune of 31 points. And playing the role of Jeff Fryer was Kyle Smyth, who drilled five first-half three-pointers as the Gaels raced to a 56-32 halftime lead.
You saw glimpses of the patented LMU break when Scott Machado (whom a couple of NBA scouts made their way up to Poughkeepsie to see) moved the ball up the court at a rapid pace.
Iona pressed at every opportunity, pushed the ball at times. But at times they didn't. And their press wasn't the selling out insanity that LMU ran, it was mostly a 1-2-2 passive zone press where Machado was looking to pick off a Marist mistake. If there was no mistake, back into the zone Iona went.
When things started to go a bit off the rails in the second half, the Gaels pulled the ball out, ran some offense, ran some clock.
Don't get me wrong, Iona has a very good basketball team. Tim Cluess' bunch has barely been challenged through five MAAC games, has already beaten Maryland and St. Joseph's, and could (despite their severe lack of height) cause big problems for someone in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe even a couple of people.
They played an entertaining brand of ball, and Machado is worth the price of admission (they didn't even really need him at his best against a decent Marist team Sunday).
But it's not the same. And we'll likely never see a team like the Paul Westhead Loyola Marymount squad again.
It's not all bad. My friends and I started a tradition with that 1990 Tournament that continues to this day. We always skip a day of work and watch either the Thursday or Friday first-round (now second round, I guess) action from start to finish. It paid immediate dividends in that 1990 Tourney when Marcus Newby and Northern Iowa beat Missouri in the first game out of the box that Thursday (or was it Friday afternoon?).
It was the first of so many Red Line NCAA upsets that have warmed my heart and make me believe that one day it's not going to end in a loss for the little guys.
Even if it doesn't, as an older, wiser Public Enemy said a decade after Rebel With a Pause (a song for a basketball movie soundtrack no less):
"Don't let a win get to your head or a loss to your heart." They added, "But f*** the game if it ain't sayin' nothing."
See, as you probably know, that's where they're wrong. The game always says something. Always.
IONA 100, at MARIST 76 01/08/2012
IONA 13-3 (5-0) -- S. Machado 5-10 6-6 16; M. Glover 11-19 9-11 31; K. Smyth 6-9 0-0 17; L. Jones 7-9 3-3 17; T. Ridley 4-5 0-0 8; J. Jenkins 1-1 1-2 3; R. Dezouvre 1-3 1-2 3; S. Armand 1-1 0-0 3; N. Moikobu 0-1 2-6 2; J. Gomez 0-0 0-0 0; R. James 0-0 0-0 0; T. Fields 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 36-59 22-32 100. MARIST 7-9 (2-3) -- D. Price 9-20 1-2 23; A. Kemp 10-13 5-5 25; C. Lewis 4-12 3-4 13; I. Morton 2-8 3-4 7; M. Thomas 0-3 0-0 0; J. Bowie 0-1 4-4 4; R. Hall 0-4 4-6 4; A. Alexis 0-2 0-0 0; T. Curry 0-2 0-0 0; P. Prinsloo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-65 20-25 76.
Three-point goals: IONA 6-11 (T. Fields 0-1; K. Smyth 5-8; L. Jones 0-1; S. Armand 1-1), MAR 6-23 (R. Hall 0-1; D. Price 4-10; J. Bowie 0-1; T. Curry 0-2; C. Lewis 2-3; I. Morton 0-4; M. Thomas 0-2); Rebounds: IONA 29 (L. Jones 8), MAR 35 (A. Kemp 15); Assists: IONA 18 (S. Machado 9), MAR 11 (D. Price 3); Total Fouls -- IONA 21, MAR 23; Fouled Out: IONA-None; MAR-R. Hall.