Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thank you sir, may I have another?

Another day, another opportunity to investigate if Hofstra is setting precedence in all the wrong ways. Good news! Unlike Monday, our beloved alma mater may in fact be SETTING THE PRECEDENT RIGHT NOW when it comes to two members of the CAA’s all-rookie team opting to transfer after their freshman season!

On the same day Halil Kanacevic announced his plans to transfer to Saint Joseph’s—guess we’re not going to be in the Atlantic 10 anytime in the next four seasons, sigh—his fellow all-rookie team member, Chaz Williams, reportedly asked Hofstra for a release from HIS scholarship.

(Edit: A source tells DD this morning that Williams did not request his release yesterday. This is me stepping away from the ledge, at least momentarily)

Hofstra was the 18th team in CAA history to place at least two players on the all-rookie team. At least one player on the first 17 duos finished his career with the school for whom he played for his rookie year.

In fact, according to the Googles, only eight all-rookie players didn’t play all four seasons at their original school, and according to my research, only three transferred. And just one did so immediately after his all-rookie season: Bill Phillips of William & Mary, who left the Tribe after the 1997-98 season for—I am not kidding you here—Saint Joseph’s. Phil Martelli: Screwing the CAA for three decades!!!

That’s right: If Williams chooses to transfer, Hofstra would lose more all-rookie players in one off-season—hell, one month—than the entire CAA did in the preceding 25 years. Fan. Freaking. Tastic.

At this point, I expect Charles Jenkins to sign a contract with a professional team in the Vatican City today, for Greg Washington to drop out of school Thursday so that he can star as The Tall Man in a remake of Phantasm (surely to be produced by Michael Bay, because he hasn’t ruined enough of the horror movie franchises of my youth) and for Nathaniel Lester to discover an ancient Tiki doll on Friday, at which point everything will REALLY go haywire.

Sound absurd? Well hell, it’s not much stranger than reality.

This is, as a member of the CAA Stonecutters put it last night, mind-boggling. In less than two months, a program that—groan—prided itself on stability has been enveloped in unprecedented chaos.

We didn’t have much, but we had predictability. Hofstra had two coaches in 16 years, a feat matched by just two other CAA schools (Old Dominion and George Mason).

Tom Pecora was here, as sure as traffic on the LIE and crappy, overpriced food at Hofstra, and he was always going to outhustle the bigger schools in the area and find big-time guards around whom he could build. The bigs would be crapshoots, and there would be more guys who left us scratching our heads than there would be Adrian Uters dominating the paint, but we were OK with that.

The Flying Dutchmen had yet to win the CAA championship or go to the NCAA Tournament, but there was a certain comfort in the reliability of Pecora-coached teams, a certain nobility in the effort and a certain knowledge that this is how it works at the mid-major level. All you can do is lay the foundation, and hope things break your way.

And Pecora had built the foundation—ESPECIALLY now. The makeup of the roster was unbalanced after Pecora loaded up on junior college transfers in the fall of 2008 and didn’t sign a single freshman, but the 2010-11 team was shaping up as one of the deepest and most interesting teams of his tenure.

There would be the three experienced seniors as well as a couple enticing transfers in senior Brad Kelleher and junior Mike Moore. Kanacevic and Williams were going to lead the cavalcade of exciting sophomores and a couple promising freshmen would be added to the mix as well.

If the Flying Dutchmen still had a long way to climb to get to the top of the CAA—as a friend put it yesterday, all this talk about winning it all was a bit much for a team that needed an unprecedented second half run just to finish seventh this year—a top-four finish and the ever-valuable first round bye certainly seemed likely, especially with semifinalists Northeastern and VCU and finalist William & Mary losing a ton of talent and champion Old Dominion graduating its best player.

Now? Now Hofstra is headed for a third coach in as many months as a potentially special season shapes up as one to remember for all the wrong reasons.

Another friend, a fan of Northeastern, points out that this doesn’t have to turn into a disaster for Hofstra. He reminds me that after Ron Everhart left Boston with everything except the Green Monster in his briefcase in the spring of 2006, new coach Bill Coen managed to overcome the late start to recruiting and find one of the best players in school history, Matt Janning, in the summer and eventually steer the Huskies to a 9-9 record in the CAA. Four years later, Coen signed an extension that will keep him at Northeastern for the rest of his career if he so chooses.

I appreciate the reminder that out of chaos can come permanence, but I’m having a hard time looking ahead a couple seasons, or envisioning anything other than the Titanic grinding ashore next fall and winter.

I’d rather not look ahead. Instead, is it too much to wish I could fire up the DeLorean and go back in time to the final Tuesday of February, when the wife and I made fools of ourselves (shaddup) at Applebees as we cheered an unlikely upset win over Northeastern? Or at least to the final minute of regulation in the CAA quarterfinal game against Northeastern the first Saturday of March, when the Dutchmen seemed ready to pull off another shocker and advance to the semifinals?

Things were going great and they were only getting better. Who knew it was all a cruel tease? Who knew the Flying Dutchmen as we knew them were a one-hit wonder?

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