Perhaps the greatest thrill at the NCAA Final Four comes when I roam the grounds of the NABC Coaches' Convention hotel, this time, the Houston Hilton, and run into the many faces of basketball friends that I've made over the years.
The first friendly face I saw on the day belonged to former Seton Hall AD Joe Quinlan , who I ran into while walking the streets of Houston. He has a daughter who attends Marquette, so now we have something in common after knowing each other for the last 20-plus years.
Next friendly faces belonged to Bob and Chris Hurley, who were taking in the festivities. A year ago to the day, they had to delay a trip to Ireland for a few days because Bob was about to be introduced as a new member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. It's been a dream year for the entire Hurley family.
When I walked into the coaches' hotel, I saw a lot of big-name coaches mulling around. Jim Boeheim signing autographs. Roy Williams with an entourage, like he was a rock star or movie star. There had to be four guys walking briskly with Williams, like they were Secret Service agents protecting the President.
I saw Jim Harrick and Cliff Ellis talking together, two guys who have felt the heat of an NCAA investigation in their coaching careers. I saw Denny Crum walking through the halls like royalty _ a status he so richly deserves. I saw Moses Malone, who isn't a coach, but is certainly basketball royalty.
From a local friendly standpoint, I saw Chuck McBreen of Ramapo, who is a North Bergen boy through and through. I saw Bruce Hamburger of St. Peter's, who said he didn't want to be seen with his head coach John Dunne, and then I saw Dunne.
Dunne introduced me to Ed Cooley, the former Fairfield coach now headed to Providence. Cooley was quick to point out that Dunne and SPC beat up on Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals, en route to the MAAC title and the NCAA Tournament.
And then I turned around and received the biggest surprise. There was my long-time high school friend, Greg Herenda, the head coach at UMass-Lowell, who incredibly was celebrating his 50th birthday. I hadn't seen Greg since his wonderful Mom Grace passed away almost two years ago and here he was with me in Houston on his birthday. It was pretty funny seeing Greg, who introduced me to LIU head coach Jim Ferry.
When we were at St. Peter's Prep together, Herenda and I were pretty inseparable, pulling one practical joke on each other after another. It was good to see him again.
I also stopped to talk to another long-time friend in the coaching ranks, Dave Calloway, who was just unceremoniously removed from his head coaching duties at Monmouth. Calloway deserved a better fate after giving 24 years of his life to the school and I told him so.
I also ran into John Beilein, the coach at Michigan, and told him that I once coached one of his former players, Carlos Cueto, when the two were at Richmond together. I had the fortune to coach Cueto when he was just 13 years old and I told Beilein that. He sang the praises of Cueto and that was nice to hear.
It is always good to head to the coaches' convention headquarters and see all the masterminds in the sport. It's also good to run into friends who you don't get a chance to see too often. It's part of the big lure of the NCAA Final Four.
Well, it's good to see that Frankie Rodriguez is in mid-season form, blowing a lead for the Mets, before they came back to score three times in the 10th inning so he could glom a win.
After that stellar first-game performance, I can only hope his girlfriend's father was nowhere to be found, because it might have led to another physical altercation. K-Klod may have learned his lesson from last year's meltdown, but he still makes Mets fans, like me, cringe every time he takes the mound.
If you get a chance, take a peek at my Scoreboard column today in the Hudson Reporter on Bobby Hurley's recollections of the 20th anniversary of Duke's 1991 NCAA championship team. It's a good read, not just because I wrote it, but because Bobby opens up and shares memories never beforee written. Check it out at www.hudsonreporter.com and click sports.
Here's the link: http://hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/12589683/article-SCOREBOARD-04-03-2011-Hurley-recalls-magical-weekend-20-years-ago-Jersey-City-native-remembers-Final-Four-in-Indy-that-captivated-the-nation-?instance=jim_lead_story_left_column
Thanks for reading. We'll enjoy the remainder of the trip