This Season is More Than Magical, It Was Needed to Overcome the Past
By: Jon May
It was March 3rd.
The date nobody in class of 2006 will forget.
It’s a date that’s synonymous with dark memories, loss of trust and pain that never really goes away. If March 3rd doesn’t resonate, well perhaps you weren’t a student (I a Freshman) on the campus of St. Bonaventure University who saw their beloved Bonnies sweep the carpet from beneath your feet. For the next 3 seasons plus the remaining 2 games that were forfeited that season, being a fan of Bonnie Basketball was something you were almost laughed at for showing interest in.
Sure, the scandal happened. We know what happened. We try to forget what happened but it’s always there. We endured the welding jokes to this day but the scandal was deeper than that for a lot of people. On the outside people joke, for the Bona community, lives were lost over it. It was tumultuous to the point where you were reluctant to say you even attended St. Bonaventure because the onslaught of jokes would be just enough to go from funny to hurtful.
Spending a night in the library printing off your recent paper, (Yes we had to print everything then) was actually the preferred mode of entertainment if there was a home game on campus. So bad that, when using your dining card at the RC on game nights, the conversation among friends was, “did you want to check out the Charlotte game?” To which it was always met with a reason to spend quality time elsewhere doing anything or everything to avoid the game. Notice the phrasing? We wouldn’t even say, “Bonnies,” it was always the road team as the main attraction because they were playing for something, our beloved Bonnies were simply spinning their wheels trying to pick up the pieces of a broken program brought to a screeching halt by a select group of individuals who put personal pride and a desire to win ahead of the university.
Recently, the talk has been, whether or not this year’s team is as good as the 70’s teams, better or equal to the 2000 team who entered the NCAA field as an at-large team. Let’s not forget 2012, where a Bonnies team led by a first round NBA draft pick finished fourth in the regular season and won the university’s first A-10 Championship in Basketball. The whole process of weighing what team is better is so futile to those who endured the blackest days as a student at the university.
Every team that trots out on the court, whether it’s a game vs. Mansfield in exhibition play or St. Joe’s on the road with everything on the line, that team is the best team in our opinion. Playing competitive basketball each night, win or lose is the best team to us. But of course, the emotional roller coaster that so many of my fellow students endured for four years will last well beyond our time on campus. I think we all knew at the time, Anthony Solomon wasn’t the coach for the future but rather a calming influence to just get the program through until another seasoned coach could bring us back from despair.
The hiring of Mark Schmidt was so lack luster that looking back on it, it was the sort of move that the university needed. We didn’t need a west coast guy coming off a small tourney run. We didn’t need the hot assistant from the Big East. We needed a leader who knew how to win and more importantly knew how to teach. Someone who was willing to build a program piece by piece the right way, get his hands dirty and embrace the community full on.
I say all the time how great Mark Schmidt is at teaching players but I’ll go one step further, he taught alumni and those students who were freshman and were robbed of what generations of fans were able to experience on campus, he taught them to trust the program again. 2012 was opened of the lid off of the cauldron of negativity we felt toward the program. Now, in 2016, this run that Schmidt has organized with his development of Dion Wright, his addition of Marcus Posley and his uncovering of Jaylan Adams, can finally put the cherry on top of a comeback story that is still waiting to be written…if it wasn’t already in 2012.
When you watch the field of 68 get announced next Sunday, try to look at it from our point of view. Our expectations were completely shattered when the scandal erupted and we couldn’t fathom ever seeing our beloved team in this situation. But here they are, “on the bubble,” and that is completely fine, a great success really. To be on the bubble after what has happened in the past 13 years is something to be proud of, not afraid of. Whether or not they make the NCAA tournament, this team has exceeded all expectations from afar and from close to home. I didn’t think they’d win more than 15 games this year thinking how losing a rim stuffer would be the death of the team. But I was wrong and wrong in such a great way. These Bonnies have restored our trust in the program and given us a sense of pride that no matter what people say from afar, whether jokes or barbs, that being a Bonnie is one of the most exciting things to take with you anywhere in life. This season may or may not be over on Sunday but regardless, this season has restored my faith, my trust and my pride and I am thankful for that.