March 24, 2003
Nobody starts their season hoping for an NIT bid. Even schools with low expectations who end up having great seasons start having thoughts of the NCAA Tournament, and if you do make the NIT it usually means you were only a couple of wins away from the show.
So it is a difficult job getting your team ready to play in the NIT. Sure, everyone is glad you are still playing, but seeing all of the excitement of selection Sunday and all of the hype on TV for the NCAA Tournament makes it tough.
Playing at Richmond was not easy Wednesday night. We had to leave early on Tuesday to get to Boston for a flight to Richmond, and we were delayed in Logan for almost 3 hours. We got off the plane in Richmond and went right to the arena for practice without having checked into the hotel. We didn't get to our hotel for dinner until about 9:00.
The crowd at Richmond was not very good, and it made us wonder even more why we didn't get a home game. The country was going to war that night, so not a lot of attention was being paid to the Providence/Richmond NIT match-up. We were playing a team we had already beaten by 30 points, so it was possible that our guys would feel they could just show up and win.
I give our guys a ton of credit, because we came out with much more energy and intensity than Richmond. In a first half in which we didn't play very well, we still did a great job on defense and ended up with an 11 point lead at the break. We expanded that lead early in the second half and controlled the game throughout. When Richmond finally made a run at us, we executed flawlessly to get a couple of open looks for Sick and we were back up by 15 again. It was very satisfying to see the guys respond to the post-season with some excitement.
Amazingly going into the NIT we thought our only chance for a home game was the first night. But tonight we are looking at our second straight home game, and our athletic administration has to get a ton of credit.
We played a very, very good Charleston team on Saturday in an entertaining game that was decided in the final minute. You could make a very good case that if that game was played in Charleston, we would have lost. So one of the reasons why our season is still alive is because we were able to get the game at home, which wasn't easy.
Our athletic administration has literally been working around the clock to make this work. We are hosting the NCAA hockey regionals next weekend, not to mention the high school hockey playoffs on campus. The last thing they need in the middle of all that is two basketball home games where tickets are not available until about 48 hours before tip-off.
Bob Driscoll, Mark Devine and the others upstairs understand how important the home games are to our program and to our fans. If there is potential to make it work, they will try and do it. They got the Dunk to allow us to play Saturday night after the Globetrotters, and they pushed back preparations for the hockey regionals until Tuesday so we could play tonight.
People have always had the idea that Providence does not support its athletic programs the way it needs to to be competitive in the Big East, but here is a concrete example of the school stepping up for us. This is the definition of support. We have two home games that we originally didn't think we could get because of the work of our administration.
The people who worked in the ticket office were upstairs until 1 am after the Charleston game processing orders for the Georgetown game. When I got to work Sunday at 9 am there was already a line out the door to Alumni to get tickets. They've done an unbelievable job, and Coach actually stopped practice to have all of our guys go upstairs and thank everyone for their work.
I saw Rob slow down and take a peek behind him and I thought to myself, "Oh, man, here comes something stupid." And I was right. I thought he was just going to windmill the ball down with one hand, but I'm still amazed that he threw it off the glass. And he did it all with one hand, never once touching the ball with two.
If Rob didn't make that dunk, I can't even imagine what would have happened. He might have been seen hitchhiking back to New London in full uniform after the game. But at the time, it was hard to say anything. They called time out and the building was just exploding with electricity. For a crowd of only 6,000, I couldn't believe how loud it was. It was hard to get the point across at that time that it wasn't a good play.
It was made pretty clear to Rob afterwards that in a tight game he needs to make sure we get a basket in that situation, and he agreed. He kind of got caught up in the moment and just went with what he felt.
The problem is, the way the building reacted, we might have 10 guys trying 360s every time they get a breakaway. So I'm worried if Rob gets an open lane tonight that you guys are going to be screaming for him to try it again.
So please, especially if we are in a close game, understand if Rob just lays the ball in.