Back home a little sooner than we’d hoped. Younger son Alex’s Cal State Monterey Bay basketball team won their regular season finale on the road at Cal State East Bay but lost in the opening round of their conference tournament at Humboldt State. The following explanation is not meant to serve as an excuse, rather to show how the Otters were victims of an unlucky break in scheduling.
In the past the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) was composed of 12 member (California) institutions. It’s regarded as one of the best Division II leagues in the country (at one time, five of the schools were ranked in the nation’s top 25). The teams’ schedules were a round robin, i.e. each school played 22 conference games (only in D-II). This year, however, the conference schedule was cut back to 20 games with the addition of Cal State San Marcos (a decision made without my input). Therefore, each team played four opponents only once, two at home, two on the road. Except for one weekend, teams play twice/week, usually on Friday and Saturday (so as to miss less class time).
One of the teams CSUMB played on the road only was Humboldt State. It was to be the second game that week, the first being at Cal Poly Pomona on a Thursday (why those two are paired is a mystery – actually, more like a travesty considering where each is located). For those readers who aren’t up to snuff on their California geography, here’s a lesson. Pomona is located in Southern California, east of Los Angeles. The team flew from Oakland to Ontario (about 20 minutes from Pomona) on Wednesday, Feb. 10 and played CPP the next day. Down one, the ball was passed to Alex at the top of the circle. He took a three-pointer. Just after the ball left his hand, the buzzer sounded. His shot hit the front rim, bounced up, hit the front rim once more, before dropping through the net for the game-winner.
The team was naturally wired and had a tough time sleeping, only to get a 6:45 am wake up call for a 9:00 am flight to Oakland. There, they de-planed, got onto a bus – for a 5 hour drive to Arcata (stopping for lunch), close to the Oregon border. A brief practice to get the blood flowing, if nothing else, then dinner and bed. The game was on Saturday. It was apparent to those watching the guys simply ran out of gas near the end of it.
Wouldn’t you know it, Monterey and Humboldt tied for fourth place in the league standings. The tie-breaker? Yup, head-to-head results – only in this case, there was only one game played between the teams. Why was this such a big deal? The first round of the conference tourney was at the site of the higher seeded team. Rather than Humboldt making the trek down the coast, it was CSUMB who had to return two-and-a-half weeks later. The Pioneers prevailed over Monterey Bay, 64-61. The Otters’ players, coaches and fans were left wondering, what if? What if the single game were at Monterey? What if they’d played twice – as they had since the Otters joined the league – and split (had that been the case, Monterey would have held the tie-breaker).
After the game, which ended the season as well as Alex’s career, I relayed to him a fact of college basketball life (in all but a few instances) I learned 45 years ago:
“For all but one team, the season ends with a loss.”
And, now, for the main event (even if it’s considerably shorter than the previous diatribe):
A cliche is a word or group of words that are so apropos to a situation that it or they become waaaaaay overused. One such term that’s become especially popular recently is “to put it in perspective, . . .” And, now, I’m adding one additional to the number of times it’s been used, which now is approaching infinity.
The Golden State Warriors, after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, ran their record to 55-5. Their pursuit of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls best-ever record of 72-10 has been on the lips of not only everyone who reports on the NBA but anybody who simply follows the league. While it may be true that records are made to be broken (you didn’t think I was done with cliches, did you?), something that took a year to accomplish – by what many feel was the best professional basketball team of all-time – in this case, it’s almost like we’re dealing with perfection. At least, as close to perfection as an NBA team can accomplish.
So how, exactly, can we put the Dubs’ 55-5 record in perspective? Here’s an angle from my own career. As any loyal reader of this space would know, I enjoyed a 30-year college coaching career. In 16 of those seasons there were post season play (NCAA tournament or NIT). During the seven year span at Fresno State with head coach Jerry Tarkanian, we won a minimum of 20 games every season but one (in which we won 19). Two of the years (one at Fresno State, the other at Tennessee) we made it to the Final Four of the NIT. Another of the UT years we made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tourney. In five of my seasons in Big Orange Country, we won at least one game in post-season play.
Yet, as good as we were at any of the nine schools which I called home for between one-seven years, there’s one stat that “puts the Warriors’ current record in perspective. Although the college hoops season is considerably shorter than the 60 contests the Warriors have played to date – and we had some highly successful teams:
“We never had a record in which we had fewer than six losses.”