Thursday, April 17, 2008
Behind The Scoreboard
Tigers’ success has not ended
Everyone knows that the Memphis Tigers didn’t win the NCAA championship. Dejected, disappointed, sure, but their stock in trade was not diminished. Verily, it was enhanced. The players on the “Dream Team” (as designated by their coach John Calipari) fell just short in their most noble quest to capture collegiate’s greatest prize. Or did they?
True “Blue” followers were admittedly daunted in being denied the first total collegiate crown in their school’s history, but their wounds were salved in other historic areas. The only team to record 38 wins in a single season – a mark which will probably hold for some time. The simply magnificent ride which they provided for their admirers and loyal fans – even their opponents had to acknowledge their prowess.
I have stated before that I had never tagged this team with the “Cinderella” label in this column. They had no fairy godmother or magic pumpkin. They might have qualified for a trip down the “yellow brick road” because they definitely had a wizard. A wizard who had charted a course to get the Tigers to the biggest arena before the biggest crowd. He steered the Tigers’ ship through the turbulent waters of doubt the entire voyage.
He taught his protéges to disdain the premature predictions of naysayers who wrote off not only the team but the conference in which they played. His conference was not one of the “biggies” in the prestigious BCS contingent. But his players responded and elevated the status above and beyond those.
Coach Calipari was not shy about taking the blame for his team’s loss to the Jayhawks. He would later rephrase that to hold the entire team culpable, including himself. The winner of the Naismith National Coach of the Year award (his second in his career) stated that, sure, it was bitter to lose a game in which one has a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes left in regulation. But the Tigers’ loss came in overtime.
This ending has happened before. A super lucky shot with time running out – a pass thrown on a last second prayer (the Hail Mary pass), a ball caught just before it goes over the fence. These strokes of luck kill dreams but they don’t end programs. And, sure, just one little deviation could have prevented the loss, in hindsight, of course.
The Tigers’ program hasn’t ended. In the Wizard’s own words, “We just have to figure out where we go from here.”
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