Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bus driver the real MVP of trip to Northeastern

This was Eddie Dellostritto's view Friday night--for hours and hours and hours. Photo courtesy of Mo Cassara.

With five players scoring at least 10 points in a game in which the Flying Dutchmen led almost wire-to-wire, it was tough to figure out just who was the most valuable player in the 76-67 win over Northeastern Saturday. It wasn’t nearly as difficult for the Dutchmen to figure out the MVP of their trip though—bus driver Eddie Dellostritto.

While players and coaches could at least get up, move around, stretch, watch movies, listen to music and generally curse the fates during the hellish bus ride to Boston Friday afternoon and evening, Dellostritto was the one who had to sit still and stay calm as the usual four- or five-hour ride turned into 11 thanks to standstill traffic on Route 684 in New York and Route 84 in Connecticut.

“I remember looking at the same scenery for about an hour,” Charles Jenkins said after the game. “I told Eddie, I was joking around: ‘This is the slowest I’ve ever seen you drive.’ His foot wasn’t on the gas. He was just letting the car roll.”

“We got through it, we’ve got a great bus driver,” Mo Cassara said. “Eddie just did a great job. Poor guy was in the seat for eight hours without moving one time. He did a great job.”

Dellostritto, who has been a bus driver for nearly 20 years and the main bus driver for all Hofstra sports for the last 12, was appreciative of the praise but modest about keeping his composure during the ride. “Yeah, sometimes,” Dellostritto said with a laugh when asked if he was ever frustrated. “But I’ve been doing it so long. You’ve just got to go with it. You can’t get excited or anything.”

With the Dutchmen leaving at 2 pm (the team attended funeral services for the mother of incoming recruit Malik Nichols), Dellostritto knew he would hit plenty of rush hour traffic. With the weather forecast calling for increasing amounts of snow, he heeded the advice that he should forego his usual I-95 route and take 684 to 84 to the Mass Pike.

Except there was traffic on the final 10 miles of 684, and the bus remained in bumper-to-bumper traffic until exit 72 on Route 84—two exits shy of the Massachusetts border and a mere 90-plus miles from the New York border.

“Everybody was saying ‘Take 684 to 84’ so I went that way,” Dellostritto said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ll take that way anymore.”

While Cassara called it “the worst” road trip he’d ever taken, Dellostritto wasn’t sure it was even the worst he’d ever been on with the Dutchmen. He recalled an 8 ½-hour trip in a snowstorm to Springfield, MA two years ago, when Hofstra visited UMass. And during the America East days, he drove during whiteout conditions coming back from—you guessed it—Vermont.

Upon finally arriving in Boston, Dellostritto was less relieved to finally stand up and regain circulation in his legs as he was to have gotten everyone there in one piece. “I was happy because everybody arrived safe,” Dellostritto said. “That’s my first concern. So it was good.”

Navigating the nightmare further endeared Dellostritto to the Dutchmen, who, like their predecessors, are universally fond of the driver. As he was being interviewed Tuesday morning, assistant coach Wayne Morgan pointed at him and said “There’s the man.” And Jenkins hugged the wife of Dellostritto, who stopped by Hofstra to see off her husband.

There wasn’t much time for Dellostritto to ponder Friday’s feat. After all, the Dutchmen play at Towson tomorrow night, but the next snowstorm is getting here tonight. And so Dellostritto was in his familiar seat shortly after 9 a.m. this morning—several hours earlier than scheduled, just in case—and driving the bus out of the parking lot behind the Arena. This time, it took just a little more than four hours to get to Towson.

“We’re supposed to be getting a big one today—they keep changing the times, they said it was going to start early afternoon, then later,” Dellostritto said. “You just don’t know. We don’t want to go through that again.”


For the players and coaches, meanwhile, the bus trip from hell was a unique bonding experience that alternately amused and drove them crazy.

Mike Moore said getting to the game site several hours later than anticipated reminded him of AAU ball. “That’s kind of normal for AAU,” he said. “We’re usually 10 minutes late for the game. Get a couple toe touches in and you’re ready to play. It brought us back to high school a little bit.”

Jenkins wasn’t nearly as entertained. “The first thing that went on the bus ride was my cell phone,” he said. “After that, things just got worse. My phone couldn’t stay fully charged. It just killed me…I’m not a big movie guy, so I was going crazy on the bus.”

Cassara said the movies that ended up airing on the bus were “…some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.” Making matters worse: Nobody replenished the stock of DVDs afterward, so the Dutchmen were left with one movie they hadn’t seen for the trip to Towson—“Coming To America.”

As the bus drive dragged on, Cassara had a lot more to worry about than just bad movies. “You can’t sleep and you can’t get comfortable and the guys are walking around, we had no food, we were stuck, there were hours where we didn’t even move and the snow is coming down,” Cassara said. “There was a point where I was worried we weren’t going to get here. I really was. Everybody we were texting up here said there was no snow once you could get through it, but there was a point where we were thinking about trying to find a hotel somewhere in Connecticut and just get the guys off the bus.”

The bus stopped around 11 pm at a McDonalds off Route 84 and finally hit open road shortly thereafter. And as the Dutchmen finally rolled into their hotel in downtown Boston around 1:30 a.m., Cassara realized the experience could end up being a unifying one for the Dutchmen, as well as a reminder that a long bus ride isn’t much of a hurdle compared to some others players have had to surmount in the last 10 months.

“These guys have been through so much, and they’ve found a way [to get through] and they’ve bonded throughout,” Cassara said. “It’s almost like ‘Ahh, what else are they going to challenge us with? It’s one thing after another.’ But we’re finding a way to win games.”

“This was easy compared to all the adversity we’ve seen all year, with coaching changes, players transferring,” said Moore, who, of course, transferred from Fordham only to see Tom Pecora leave for Fordham. “We just like feeding off the energy. The adversities drive us to play harder.”

“There wasn’t enough music, movies and entertainment to get through [the ride]—we just had to stick together,” Jenkins said. “It was great. On the bus, everybody’s got their assigned seats, but nine hours, we had some guys sit in the front, some guys in the back, guys talking, listening to music, arguing. It was a lot of fun stuff.”

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