When I left class the day before spring break started, I could not imagine the new reality that would befall not just Mount Union, but also the entire world. As far as I could tell, it was going to be another textbook week in my world. I was set to volunteer at the MAC tournament in Cleveland and come back for our sweet 16 game against Wittenberg before returning to Cleveland for the conclusion of the MAC tournament. That is, until the whole world started falling around us, beginning with the abrupt cancellations of major division 1 college basketball tournaments, and followed by the sudden announcement that the NCAA was canceling all remaining winter and spring championships.
The former proved to be the worst for me since I had such a personal stake in the run that our men’s basketball team had undertaken last year during my first year of learning under Coach Fuline as a student assistant/manager. The sudden end to our season hurt deeply because it did not seem right. Up to that point, the 19-20 season had been nothing short of a storybook tale from our early upset of Wooster on the road in Nov. to a 37-point beating of then #5 nationally ranked Marietta. This secured our place as undisputed OAC regular season champs and took us to a hard-fought comeback against John Carroll in the OAC tournament championship game, erasing any doubt that we’d be playing March basketball. And finally, a dominant start to our NCAA tournament run had looked destined to culminate in a trip to Atlanta’s State Farm Arena for the national championship game.
Although at first, I couldn’t believe that a storybook season could end without cutting down nets and hoisting a trophy, but as time went on and I read the works of coaches like Phil Jackson, John Calipari and Jay Wright, I changed my tune. I came to recognize that the true joy of this magical season had been in the journey and the milestones that we hit along the way. This is an idea that Jackson talks about in Eleven Rings. From Wright, I gained further insight that has allowed me to be more at peace. In Attitude, Jay Wright describes how he views his 14-15 season at Villanova as a storybook year, despite his early NCAA tournament exit courtesy of NC State. Coach Wright echoes a similar sentiment to Jackson’s about enjoying the journey and discusses the accomplishments that his 14-15 Villanova squad had achieved leading up to the NCAA tournament.
It may always sting to know how close I was to a championship (which could easily be my only chance to ever capture one), but I will always have and cherish the memories and lessons I picked up along the way…….and I’m hungry for more.