- Epilogue, The Sixth
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Webster Bank Arena may be a mediocre at best mid-major facility, as I've documented to the point of exhaustion, but it does have its benefits.
Like when I walk up to the box office 15 minutes before tip-off against Loyola and ask if there were any tickets left behind the Jimmy Patsos bench.
"How about the front row?"
"That'll do nicely, thanks."
Fairfield doesn't draw anyway, the students still weren't in session, and there was just enough snow falling to keep away the walk-up crowd apparently, because it was empty, even by Webster Bank standards.
I quickly ran into Greg, whose daughter I had coached a few years back. He's actually active in Greek basketball and knows Patsos and his brother through those circles. And then sitting next to me was Paul, whose high school teams I had covered way back in the late 1990s. He was a young coach back then, just as I was a young sportswriter. But he's still at it and still having success.
Why was he sitting next to me? Because he wanted to see Jimmy Patsos in action, of course. I gave him the abbreviated version of Warm Blood and the Grateful Dead
, I'm not sure any of it made any sense to Paul, but he nodded approvingly.
As the game started (a rematch of last
year's MAAC title contest), however, it was more like Cold Blood. Patsos sat quietly with his assistants, and there was more noise coming from Sydney Johnson on the other sideline than there was from Patsos.
The game was fairly even, but I was worried about our buddy Patsos. Was he sick? His voice sounded a bit hoarse in the huddle. Or maybe he was just trying the Zen Jimmy thing again. To be honest, the pressure is off a little, and it's not like the Greyhounds were playing terribly. And so Jimmy sat and watched like the rest of us. All my hype to Paul aside, maybe this was good for Jimmy.
Lucas the Stag came and joined us, which led to an interesting conversation between a bunch of 8-year olds after he departed.
"Why is the Lucas a deer when they are called the Stags?"
"Because a stag is another name for a deer, I think."
"Yeah, that's why it says, 'Fear The Deer' over there."
"That's kind of a dumb nickname."
"Lucas is pretty cool for a deer, though."
Agreed, Lucas is a quality mascot, more on him in a moment. But meanwhile, Patsos had pulled a fairly miraculous feat. He had gotten a technical foul without ever raising his voice or leaving his chair.
From the front row all I heard was official Guy Pagano say, "Don't start with me, Jimmy," and then two seconds later, he was blowing his whistle and making the T sign. Patsos clapped in his direction, and a quick Google search of Pagano shows
that Patsos probably came pretty damn close to being perhaps the first coach in history to get ejected without leaving his seat or saying anything abusive. I guess sometimes our reputation precedes us.
Loyola took a one-point lead into the half, which ended with Sydney Johnson in a couple of officials' faces arguing about something. Patsos, even Zen Jimmy, wasn't about to let that pass, and he walked out onto the court to confront Johnson, not so gently reminding him who had the technical foul to his name on the evening. Johnson responded with an expletive in Patsos'
direction, who at that point started to laugh and calmly walked away.
There's the Jimmy we know and love.
Seconds after Patsos left the scene, things got even more strange. A man drilled a half-court shot to win a new car, getting a standing ovation from what crowd there was. But moments later a Tweet from Connecticut Post William Paxton got an "uh oh" from me. It turns out there was some controversy, the film showed that the man's toe may have been on the line, disqualifying him. Knowing that making such a decision during the game would be terrible publicity, the Fairfield folk deferred to the car company in question.
I saw the "winner" on the way out of Webster Bank Arena, and asked him what the deal was. "We'll see," was all I could get out of him, but when the story started to make its way to the people departing, he had plenty of support.
"That's bullshit, man."
"Fight for that, man, you earned it."
I'll try to let you know in a future Fairfield recap what the resolution was, but I will say I don't like the guy's chances trying to fight corporate America. However, we'll see.
There was a second half to be played, and Loyola (who had point guard R.J. Williams back from suspension since the last time I saw them) jumped out to a 10-point lead with 11:38 left. But Derek Needham was singlehandedly (at least on offense) giving the Greyhounds fits, and as the game got tight down the stretch, Zen Jimmy slowly started to fade into the background even further.
As we took his trademark stroll to calm himself down and get a sip of water (and, for the record, right toward the Black Curtain), a heckler yelled down, "Is that vodka, Jimmy?"
"It used to be."
After a particularly senseless turnover, Patsos turned to a student manager and said, "The word is compete that your generation hates so much."
He didn't ask for a translation. As you probably know already, Patsos talks to just about everyone: the trainer, the players at the end of the bench who have no chance of getting in, even Lucas at one point, leading Lucas to try to mimic each of Patsos' movements, which he did superbly.
Strangely, Patsos sometimes stood behind his team during time outs and seemed to enjoy standing up while they were sitting down. Although fewer than I've seen in the past, there were still the moments that he got in his players' faces, Anthony Winbush seemed to be his favorite target Monday night. But when Wilnbush was forced to play most of the second half when Robert Olsen got into foul trouble, he did play some inspired basketball.
Fairfield had it down to four with a minute left when Needham thought he saw Maurice Barrow cutting to the basket only to have Barrow stop and the ball go harmlessly out of bounds. Loyola made enough free throws to seal a 65-60 win, and Patsos got to mingle with the Loyola faithful that made the trip up, as only Patsos can.
As a successful high school coach, Paul was able to see through some the shenanigans and decipher what I did last year, that Patsos is a pretty good basketball coach, too.
This might be his last trip to Bridgeport for a while, with Loyola joining the Patriot League next season.
Say what you will about him, but the MAAC won't be the same without him.