As I sat and listened to men’s basketball head coach James Jones talk about the successes and failures of his Ivy League championship team at the end-of-the-year banquet, I realized how much I would miss covering the Bulldogs.
I had spent the last year traveling virtually everywhere with the team and broadcasting its games for Yale’s radio station, WYBC. And now, as a senior, this would be my last time with the players and coaches as a student at Yale.
My real love for this year’s Bulldogs began in Washington, DC, at the Red Auerbach Colonial Classic where I announced two of the games for WYBC.
In the championship game, Yale dominated George Washington in regulation only to fall behind in the final 10 minutes. With a minute remaining, the Bulldogs trailed by 10. What followed was the most exciting minute of basketball I have seen. Duke-Maryland 2001 had nothing on this frantic finish. With a flurry of fouls and clutch shots, the Bulldogs stormed back and took the game to overtime. Although the Bulldogs ultimately lost, it was clear they could play.
And the Elis were fun to watch. They dunked. They were scrappy on defense. They dove for loose balls. They were not afraid to get dirty on the glass. For the first time since I had arrived in the Elm City, these Bulldogs were playing some real basketball.
Later I wrote that while these Bulldogs were the real deal, I thought it would take them another few seasons before they brought an Ivy title to New Haven. In an interview with Jones afterwards, he told me that I was entitled to my opinion, but I shouldn’t count the Bulldogs out so fast.
This is what I love about Jones. He is a straight shooter. He is confident. His brash style and comments ruffled some feathers in the Ivy League this year, but they were fun and lent some color to the all-too-often bland Ivy League. And as it turned out, I probably should have heard him out before I penned my prediction.
Yale dominated the beginning of its conference schedule and carried the momentum into its home weekend against perennial Ivy powers Princeton and Pennsylvania. The John J. Lee Amphitheater, Yale’s home court, was oversold for both nights. The atmosphere was electric. It was so loud that it was difficult to hear my broadcast partner while announcing the Princeton game. The gym was louder than Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium had been in a game against Wake Forest that I had attended earlier in the year. It was great to see Yale and New Haven bonding together and having some fun at a Yale sporting event.
Two weekends later at the Jadwin Gymnasium, the usual Yale suspects — some friends of the team, the WYBC broadcasters and the Yale Daily News reporter, were at the Yale-Princeton game in New Jersey. But this time we had company. Hundreds of Yale fans streamed down to Princeton to heckle the Tigers and cheer on the Bulldogs at the Jadwin Gymnasium. With the memory of storming their own gym fresh in their minds, as well as captain Ime Archibong’s ’03 thunderous 360-degree slam dunk against Columbia a week earlier, the Eli fans wanted to show the Ivy League who was boss.
Yale had come together over the Bulldogs’ success. And for me, seeing the campus unite around an Ivy League champion basketball team is what makes sports worthwhile. It spiced up the New Haven winter and added to the college experience.
Things should be even better next year. Jones will be back. The team is not losing anyone, and another strong recruiting class is entering. With a year under its belts and three rising seniors, the team should inflict even more damage.
And one of the best things is that this Yale squad is truly a team. Jones played 11 players routinely, and the guys worked as a full unit. And that’s what hit me so much at the end-of-the-year banquet. I was going to miss being on the buses with the guys and listening to their team jokes and antics. I would miss chatting with the coaches about what other teams in the league had done that night or about our social lives. I would miss covering a team that had just completed its most successful season in its 107-year history, and still had room for improvement.
The past season, as Jones pointed out at the banquet, truly was a season to remember. While I am unfortunately leaving Yale and will not get to be a part of the future of men’s basketball at Yale, for the Class of 2006, the next four years will be seasons not to miss.
Michael Horn ’02 is graduating from Pierson College. He is a former managing editor of the Yale Daily News.