April 7 - Nova Memories
Another page turns on the calendar, and with that, one month ends, and another begins.
Twenty years ago, however, little did anyone realize that with the turn of a simple calendar page, so too
would a page turn in the figurative book of sport.
I was a mere 10 years old on the evening of April 1, 1985, and my interest in sport had yet to blossom.
Sure, I was aware of basketball -- especially of the ACC (I grew up in ACC country), and of the Big East,
because ESPN covered so many of their games. I can't say I watched a lot of the NCAA tournament
before the Final Four, so I had no idea about anything regarding Memphis State, except for Keith Lee
and Baskerville Holmes, or about Villanova. I did, however, know about Chris Mullin and St. John's, and
Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.
I, like many people, figured Villanova and Memphis State to be the undercard, the game that would
determine which slab of meat would be fed to the hungry wolf that survived the other game. What I didn't
figure is that Villanova, by far the least-heralded team in the tournament, would employ a strategy of
which Dean Smith would be proud to capture both the hearts of the nation and the national
Led by fiery Rollie Massimino and inspired by long-time trainer Jake Nevin, this team overachieved
perhaps more than any other to hoist the championship trophy in the storied history of the NCAA. I need
not chronicle the entire tournament run -- there is a documentary running this month on HBO that
adequately serves that purpose -- but suffice to say that watching this team on that night really helped
turn me on to basketball. Whether it was their underdog nature, the story of Nevin, or the way they played
such solid fundamental basketball, I really grew to like that team.
They never had great NBA credentials like the Ewings or Mullins of the college basketball world, and
they may not be recognizable on a city street, but the 1985 Villanova team did leave one indelible mark
with me. In the days of the powerhouse programs like Illinois, North Carolina and Kentucky, that lesson
learned 20 years ago still rings true.
Until the final whistle blows on your team's season, you always have to believe.