Spent the weekend in Asheville before driving back to Florida. Some thoughts:
1. It’s an exception if a college coach sticks around. There’s always a bigger crowd or contract if you’re good. There’s always a thanks but no thanks if you’re not. Bob McKillop has been at Davidson since 1989. Things change, for all of us, jobs and addresses, marriage and family, but for the last almost quarter of a century there’s been a consistency to the movements and rhythms of the guys playing for the men’s basketball team representing Davidson College. It’s strangely somehow reassuring.
2. I watched this when I was 18 and had no idea I had no idea. I watched this at 30 when I was out of sorts on the inside and needed to grasp for something familiar. Now I watch this at 34 with a wife and a family and a mortgage to pay and a dog to walk and a fence to stain.
3. Hadn’t been to a Davidson basketball game in two years. Walked into Lexington Avenue Brewery Saturday afternoon. I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again here: Just one thing I love about Davidson is that you can leave and come back. Always.
4. The Southern Conference tournament should be in Asheville every year. The arena isn’t fancy, but it’s right-sized, and it’s surrounded by so many good places to eat and drink in a walkable, welcoming downtown.
5. The game on Monday night? Western Carolina, playing its fourth game in four days, played really, really well. Well enough to win. But didn’t. Which to me is one measure of a great game. The game also elicited thoughts of the often sliver-thin difference between who gets to be called a winner and who doesn’t. Think about that shot by De’Mon Brooks at the end of the first overtime. It hung there, right on the front of the rim, the Southern Conference championship did, for what felt like five seconds of held breath. Think of the literal physics of that finger flick of a distinction. Then? After it finally fell to the floor? Five more minutes of taut, desperate competition. On the radio after the game, Landry Kosmalski described Western’s Catamounts as “worthy,” and he said the word with such sincerity. In the end, when the people from the league gave the trophy to the team from Davidson, the PA man announced that this meant the Wildcats were of course the recipients of an automatic bid to the NCAAs. It felt, at least in that moment, almost like a secondary, per-protocol byproduct of something more meaningful.
Michael Kruse is a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times, a contributing writer for ESPN’s Grantland, and a 2000 Davidson College graduate. He also is the author of “Taking The Shot: The Davidson Basketball Moment” about the Wildcats’ 2008 season. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelkruse