Game 101: at Harvard 65, Vermont 57Saturday, November 19, 2005
Lavietes Pavilion - Cambridge, MA
In one single second of eternity, our planet spins billions of times around its sun, water and earth crash into eachother for territorial control, civilizations rise and fall. Same could be said for one single offseason in our game. In a single summer, the shifting tectonic plates of college basketball can transform powerful programs into rebuilding projects, sweep coaches from one coast to another, send fans from hard bleacher seats to press-row chairbacks.
Half a year ago, the Vermont
basketball team were... well, they were rock stars
. They were followed around the East Coast by busloads of crazed fans, they had their own ice cream flavor, and enjoyed one shining moment
in front of a national television audience, killing mighty four-seed Syracuse's
Final Four dreams with tiny daggers.
But on a cold Saturday afternoon in November, six months and one hour's worth of asphalt away from the greatest win in their program's history, there was little recognizable about the Catamounts except for their Nike-sponsored green and gold outfits. About two hundred diehards made the trip down from Burlington, and stayed relatively quiet through the game - they were seemingly more interested in seeking curiosity than thrills.
The man in the suit walking the sideline was unfamiliar - an Irish guy like Tom Brennan, the retired coach he replaced. A little shorter and younger, though - darker hair, a little shorter. The kid who brought the ball up the floor was different, too. A New Englander like the old point guard, but this guy had wide-eyed freshman intensity where T.J. Sorrentine had developed a shrewd assassin's gaze over his four years.
Out of the gate, Mike Trimboli - wearing a jersey number to match the Catamounts' seed in the 2005 Tournament - tapped into the swollen maple tree of Vermont's recent basketball history in a big way. He drove hard to the rim at 17:35, delivered a shorts-dropping ball fake to his Harvard defender at 16:32, and nailed an airborne jumper at 13:47.
"Maybe there's a little bit of magic left here, Cat fans!" the Vermont radio voice exclaimed as Trimboli nailed a Sorrentine-esque three-pointer, giving UVM an 18-16 lead going into the second media timeout. The young pointman had already tallied 12 points.
But Catamount Karma ran out quickly. Trimboli stumbled into two consecutive out-of-sync offensive possessions, and at 7:10, he threw the ball into the welcoming arms of Harvard
guard Matt Stehle. The freshman voiced his frustration to his teammates, and was quickly sat down by Coach Mike Lonergan.
Lonergan, a four-year point guard himself during his college days, put his arm around him, calmed his young protegé until the frustration disappeared from his face. Those first few minutes, as successful as they were, were only the first millisecond's step for Trimboli and Lonergan - Vermont has had four straight four-year starters at the one, and Trimboli hopes to be the fifth.
After the game, a recognizable figure paced the Lavietes Pavilion court, with a white shock of hair and a long tan coat. We know you're an ESPN-star-in-waiting, Coach, but what did you think of your old team?
"I liked what I saw," Tom Brennan said. "Trimboli's a real player. Reminds me of the last guy."
However, the smiling old Irishman was quick to clarify his position. "I didn't get any itches or squirms," he joked. "I'm done, I'm out. It's someone else's problem now. I've got Duke and Wake Forest to worry about."
And the world keeps on spinning.