Jack Ross and Joe Friday Walk Into A Bar…
The past two weeks has absolutely worn me out. The rumor, innuendo, speculation, sources, he-said/she-said/we-said filth has bubbled over. Stay? Go? Maybe so?
It’s a leaky septic tank, only without the ground covering. It’s time to put all that to rest and deal with what we know.
Just the facts.
The fact is that two programs in division one have won 26 or more games in each of the past six years, VCU and Duke. The fact is that VCU is the only program in the commonwealth of Virginia, ever, to go to five straight NCAA tournaments. Only 11 programs nationally have been to the last five NCAA tournaments. VCU has been to seven of the last nine NCAA tournaments.
Fact: we win.
The fact is that there have been 66 straight sellouts in the Siegel Center. The fact is that we have The Peppas. The fact is that there is no football at VCU. The fact is that six television commentators have remarked to me about the crazed atmosphere in That Animal, and three national writers have been in touch with me about coming down to see a game, because “I have to see it.”
The fact is that the VCU style is running up and down the court, having a blast doing what others grind at.
The fact is that no matter what lawyering exists and what a judge may say in the future, we own havoc. It may become someone else’s tagline, but it’s a fact that it’s our identity.
The fact is this article with this quote within it: “Their coach, their players, their fans, their pep band – they all appear to be having more fun than everyone else. Watching VCU, especially in person, is the total package of all the things we love about March Madness.”
Fact: the VCU basketball experience is the very definition of passion, and reward.
The fact is that VCU was 7-3 in the NCAA tournament with Will Wade on the sideline, and 0-2 since he left. The fact is that Chattanooga won 13 conference games total in the two years prior to Wade’s arrival. The Mocs won 27 conference games in Wade’s two seasons, including 15 last year alone.
Fact: Will Wade is a winner.
The fact is that Juvonte Reddic went from a raw talent to an all conference performer with an arsenal of moves, and a professional basketball player under the tutelage of Wade. The fact is that Justin Tuoyo, in his first year at Chattanooga, was named the Southern Conference defensive player of the year.
Fact: Wade develops talent.
The fact is that VCU is the defending A10 tournament champions and played 29 games on national TV. The fact is that we are constructing a $25 million practice facility. The fact is that the Atlantic 10 is a basketball-focused conference that’s competitive nationally.
And the fact is that in early November we will play again. That Animal will be rocking. Shaka Smart is gone, he is not coming back, and it’s time to move forward.
These are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed.
“Like a house protects you from the sun, Hatha yoga protects the practitioner. In asana, you should remain firm yet find ease.”
This isn’t some sunshine-pumping post that’s more a ham-handed, transparent attempt to make you feel better about the events of the past two weeks. It’s not a Bacon-in-Animal-House attempt to say ‘remain calm.’
Not. Even. Close.
In fact, what I’m talking about is the house that VCU basketball has built.
What I’m saying is that change has occurred before and VCU has been just fine. In fact, it gets better because of the strength of that house. What gets lost in the hand-wringing is this: VCU has always gone about the business of winning.
Talented players show up, are coached up, and the administration is fully supportive. The players get quality coaching, a brand spanking new practice facility, charter flights, and Sofia Hiort-Wright. They get a full building that oozes love and passion for what they are doing.
It’s a model that has served us well and is bigger than one man or three recruits.
If guys like Jonathan Mandeldove–who carried the requisite number of stars and stood 6-11 and was going to be a program-changing recruit–want to go to Connecticut and sit on the bench and score 21 points in their entire college basketball careers, so be it. His choice.
There are others. There’s always talent. It’s a fact that Nick George, the #11 scorer in the history of VCU basketball, was a July signee. Troy Godwin, Darius Theus, and Troy Daniels also come to mind as late-arriving players who fit into that winning model.
So three kids who–get this–never contributed one damned thing to VCU basketball other than frothy-mouthed expectations, are not going to be here. Their choice.
I don’t know who will be sitting on the VCU bench come November. But I know this. When strong coaching meets talented players within the VCU commitment to basketball, good things happen.
No, we won’t have those guys, but those guys are irrelevant. We have our guys.
I saw a togetherness on last year’s team I had not seen since that 2010-11 team. It was obvious. And I’m not ducking another obvious part–you bet your bippee I want Justin Tillman to be a part of this. You see, I don’t know if Tillman will or will not, but I’m not losing a moment’s sleep about it until Justin tells us. It’s pointless to waste energy on what we do not know.
What we have is what we know we have: a coach who knows how to win. A coach who can X and O as well as any I’ve seen in this town. A building that goes absolutely bonkers for the guys that run up and down the floor. And a $25 million behemoth sitting right next door.
We’re going to be sitting in That Animal in November. JeQuan Lewis will get into the lane and kick a pass to The Melvin, who will rise and fire from beyond the arc. The fans will stand, mirroring the midair path of the basketball. The ball will splash swish, and the familiar thump of That Animal pouncing on an opponent will erupt.
Freshmen and sophomores–underclassmen play at VCU–will scramble to spots on the floor that are still only mildly familiar. Robby will punch my shoulder so hard it will bruise. One of those long-armed, talented youngsters will bat a pass to Mo Alie-Cox, who will headman a pass to Terry Larrier for a dunk, and that thump will repeat itself.
And all will be right with the world.
Facts, my friends. Deal with the facts.
Are we clear?
Sydney Harris is a little-known but highly-intelligent journalist who spent most of his career in Chicago. One of his books is entitled Winners and Losers. Within it, is a dead-on quote:
Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time. What we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that VCU basketball things have remained the same, and it always gets better.