Philly’s March Misery! Bring Back the Short Shorts…

We ain’t shit!

Philly is supposed to be a basketball town. At least, that’s how it’s been perceived all my life. Rodgers and Lear, Jack Ramsay and Cliff Anderson, Larry Canon and Kenny Durrett, Bilsky and Wohl, Corky Calhoun, Mike Brooks, John Pinone, Tim Smith, Mike Anderson… The list goes on and on…

Youngbucks…I know how this sounds… Believe me, I don’t want be that old guy we all know.

You know… that guy around the way, always talking about how good things were “back in the day”… He continuously compares contemporary developments unfavorably to the way it was when he was a kid… Inevitably, the old players and the teams that wore the really short shorts are always “better” in every way in every conversation.

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I really don’t wanna be that guy… I never liked that guy… Always thought he was wrong anyway…

But… Truth be told… The teams in the really short shorts were MUCH better than what Philly is putting out these days.

Other than Villanova… City 6 basketball stinks!

When I was 14 in March of 1979, Temple and Penn were in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Also, in that East Region that year were the following teams: North Carolina, Duke, Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers, Iona and St. John’s. Temple lost to St. John’s in the first round… Penn, however, knocked off Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse and then St. John’s to reach the Final Four where Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were waiting for the Quakers. The FINAL FUCKIN’ FOUR!! Penn.. yes… the Quakers!

When I was a kid… That’s how Philly rolled in March… My man Tony Price (pictured below) held it down.

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When I was 16 in March of 1981, ninth-seeded St. Joseph’s got past Creighton 59-57 in a closely fought 1st round battle. Next up was mighty DePaul featuring consensus All-Americans Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings. Led by legendary Ray Meyer, the Blue Demons were heavy favorites over the scrappy Hawks featuring a bunch of local dudes.

In a low scoring affair, as expected, DePaul was up 7 with about 10 minutes to play. Slowly and steadily, St. Joseph’s chopped the lead to one point, 48-47, with 48 seconds left in the game. Then with 13 seconds left on the clock, St. Joseph’s fouled Skip “Money” Dillard who proceeded to miss the front end of the 1-and-1.

Without using a timeout St. Joseph’s Bryan Warrick pushed the ball up court and found freshman Lonnie McFarlan wide open in the right corner. Anyone and everyone knows that Lonnie loved to shoot… He shot early and he shot often… He took good shots and he took bad shots… But this time as he raised and cocked his arm to squeeze one off, two Blue Demons came running toward him. Instead of shooting, McFarlan passed (pictured below) the ball to John Smith underneath the basket for the game winning layup with 2 seconds left on the clock.

1981-NCAA

When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled in March… Fuck #1 DePaul… Take dat ass home…

When I was coming of age this was expected… The events of this era shaped my understanding of Philly college hoops.

With the good, came some really bad… Two years later, in January 1983, at the Palestra, John Thompson a Black Coach brought his predominantly Black Georgetown squad to town to face Villanova. In a shameful episode, Villanova fans held up several similar signs.  One bedsheet read “[Patrick] Ewing Is An Ape.”  What? Huh? Another Villanova fan wore a t-shirt that read, “Ewing Kant Read Dis.”  What the fuck? While Ewing jogged on the court for pregame introductions, yet another Villanova fan threw a banana peel on the court. I was done with Nova… DONE!

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When I was young… That’s also how Philly rolled…

Fuck those Nova racists!

Fast forward two years and Georgetown and Villanova met for the National Championship. On April 1, 1985, Villanova featuring Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain, Harold Pressley, Gary Mclain and Harold Jensen shot 22 for 28 (79%) from the field and defeated the Hoyas. It was a great performance and, for the most part, Philadelphia embraced the Champion Wildcats…

When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

Nonetheless, I sat that one out… No parade for me… The wounds from the treatment of Georgetown and Ewing at the Palestra were still too raw… Couldn’t get over it… I rooted for Georgetown… HARD!!

In the winter of 1987, John Chaney put THE Philly squad together… Howie Evans at the point… Mark Macon at the 2, Mike Vreeswyk at the 3, Tim Perry at the 4 and Ramon Rivas holding down the Center spot…

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They beat EVERYBODY!!

Well… almost everybody… UCLA (81-76), South Carolina (63-50), Mississippi (70-61) were among the victims during a 14-0 start. Then the Owls lost a tough one on the road by a single point to UNLV (58-59) before running off another 18 game winning streak. An 83-66 ASS-whuppin’ administered to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is indicative of the strength of this team. Damn… they were good! That squad would finally succumb in an Elite 8 matchup with Duke. They finished the year 32-2.

When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

At 34th and Market, the great Mike Anderson (pictured below) averaged over 19 points per game during his college career. The Engineering and Science alum led Drexel to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 1986. They lost to eventual national champion, Louisville. Louisville featured Milt Wagner and Billy Thompson from the Camden dynasty on the  other side of the Ben Franklin Bridge. Anderson was named to the UPI and Sporting News honorable mention All-America teams in 1986. Anderson also led the Dragons to an upset win over David Robinson and Navy in the Palestra in 1987. Anderson would become the first Drexel basketball player to make the roster of an NBA team.

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When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

At 20th and Olney, from 1986 to 1990, a young man from South Philly scored 3,217 career points—the third-most in NCAA history. This was different era. Lionel Simmons played for one high school (Southern HS) and he played for one club (South Philly/Sonny Hill) in the summer. Simmons (pictured below) would be named the the Naismith, Wooden, AP and NABC National College Player of the Year in 1990, as well as a consensus first-team All-American. This Claude Gross protege became the only player in NCAA history to score more than 3,000 points and grab in excess of 1,100 rebounds. Simmons led the Explorers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances (1988-90). He won three MAAC Player of the Year awards and he established the NCAA basketball record for most consecutive games with double-figure scoring (115).

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When I was young… That’s how Philly rolled…

Now… we have Nova, the reigning National Champions. They play a beautiful brand of basketball. They play as a unit. Their coach is a true gentleman. One of their assistants is Philly’s own Ashley Howard (pictured below with the late Claude Gross). They just get it right. For example, they locked down the local kid having the best high school season a few weeks ago. This young man didn’t play on one of the shoe company circuits. He didn’t play for one of the established basketball powers. He is not uber-athletic or lightning quick. All that he did was play basketball BETTER than everyone else in the greater Philadelphia region this year. I really respect Howard and Wright for that!

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I’m learning to not hold the Nova sons accountable for the sins of their Nova fathers… It’s REALLY HARD!

Surveying the City 6 landscape, only one conclusion can be drawn: Other than Nova… We ain’t shit!

Temple? Done! With a record of 16-16 (7-11 in the American Athletic Conference), Temple closed out the season with a loss to East Carolina in front of about 80 people in the first round of the AAC Tournament.

St. Joseph’s? Done! With a record of 11-20 (4-14 in the Atlantic 10 Conference), St. Joseph’s closed out the season with a loss to UMass in the first round of the A10 Tournament.

La Salle? Done! With a record of 15-15 (9-9 in the Atlantic 10 Conference), La Salle closed out the season with a loss to Davidson in their first game in the A10 Tournament.

Drexel? Done! With a record of 9-23 (3-15 in the Colonial Athletic Association), Drexel closed out the season with a loss James Madison in the first round of the CAA tournament.

Penn? Still alive… barely… With a record of 13-14 (6-8 in the Ivy League), Penn takes on Princeton (21-6, 14-0) Saturday at the Palestra in the first Ivy League Tournament.

That’s Philly’s brightest hope outside of Nova… Penn with 8 league losses might somehow, someway steal a game against Princeton (undefeated in the Ivy League)…

We are fucked!!

Bring back the short shorts…

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