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 Post subject: So Proud of This Team
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 9:53 pm 
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Tonight was Easter Vigil night at my parish, St. Michael Parish in Orland Park. Hence, I only saw at home only the first half of the game and followed the second half of the game in the narthex at the parish. Many were following the game with their mobile devices before our Easter Vigil began. And having just got home from the Easter Vigil, this is my first chance to comment on this game and this season.

There certainly is deep disappointment amongst us. I feel for our players, coaching staff, our fellow Rambler fans (longtime and new to the bandwagon), and Sister Jean. Whether it's our team tonight or Northwestern football in the fall, I hate losing to Michigan. The fourth quarter collapse tonight made for great discomfort for me sitting in the narthex as I'm sure it did for all of you. And as joyous as the Easter Vigil usually is for me, which it was, I admit that the loss of the ballgame certainly was in the back of my mind.

Yet, we have nothing to be ashamed of, and couldn't be more proud of this team. I know that's cliché that we'll hear a million times in the coming days, but it's the truth. While those of you old enough have the fortune of experiencing the magic of the 1963 national championship team, for many of us born post-1963 (including me) this is the greatest Loyola team of our lifetimes. In the 33 years since the 1985 Sweet Sixteen team, we barely got notice in Chicagoland. Look at what we have accomplished this one magical season! We have come to at least for now supplant the Cubs as Chicagoland's sports darlings, our program has become America's Team at least for 2018 despite our falling short tonight, our university is getting great notice from prospective students who might not have considered Loyola otherwise, and Sister Jean has become the most famous nun in America. Look at those things alone!

In Chicagoland collegiate terms, this 2018 Loyola Ramblers men's basketball team is on par with 1995 Northwestern Wildcats football team that beat Notre Dame, beat Michigan, won the Big Ten, and went to the Rose Bowl (losing to USC, alas). In fact, this may have even supplanted the '95 'Cats given how fresh this is. Whichever the case may be, there is no doubt that Porter Moser, Ben Richardson, Clayton Custer, Marques Townes, and the rest of the Ramblers are the Gary Barnett, Pat Fitzgerald, Darnell Autry, Steve Schnur, and D'Wayne Bates of the present day.

Sure, we're hurtin' for certin'. Yet, we know our team and Sister Jean will get a heroes' welcome upon their return to Lake Shore Campus as if they went all the way. Well, maybe not that big. But this team has rekindled great interest in Loyola basketball. This season will pay dividends for years to come.

And so our magical season comes to a close. I just have one request of the Ramblers from this point forward: Let's not wait 33 years until the next one!


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:52 pm 
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I'm back from San Antonio.... Felt bad with the result, but had some time to reflect on the season as a whole.... Here are my thoughts:

The Hotel - Wow. It was amazing to see the Westin decked out to the 9’s with everything Loyola. For those of you who didn’t get to be there and see it – I feel bad that you didn’t get to see how first-class everything was. From the gigantic murals of the players and team on the outside of the hotel, our bracket, our colors, etc. – I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life. We were treated with the respect we earned and deserved this season, and the city of San Antonio and the NCAA embraced us. Even the lobby was amazing - more murals and maroon and gold lights with our logo lit up every corner. If you were there, you relished every moment of it, and had a bittersweet sadness that in a few days it would be gone and all you’d have is the memories. It really made you want your team to be a consistent winner every year to get back to the final four.

The Game – It is obvious that the players from both teams struggled in finding the long-range shot because of the venue. It’s a double-edged sword because it took an element of our game, the three-point shot, completely out of the first half (and a majority of the game really), but the same could be said for Michigan. However – above all else – we were not “outclassed” in the game. We proved we deserved to be there. We had a bad last ten minutes and ran out of gas – simple as that. The game was ours to win, and it just didn’t bounce our way for a period of 5 minutes. Nobody can say that if they played that game 10 times, Loyola would not win any of them. We proved that we were more than just a good story. We proved we belonged. That’s almost all we can ask for.

The Players – These men cemented themselves as an intricate part of this institution’s history. I thank them all for putting everything they had into this historic run. I don’t even know that a national championship would have changed the amount of admiration we should have for them. They need to be embraced by the Loyola community for the rest of their lives.

The Fans/Alumni – I’ve been on this board since I was a student back in the early 2000’s. The truth is, there have been 40 to 50 dedicated Loyola basketball fans on this board (and I would put myself toward the bottom of that list). Let’s not kid ourselves - We have not had a good Loyola fanbase, in relation to our enrollment, the size of our school, and the amount of alumni that are scattered throughout Chicagoland and the country. I attended nearly every home game when I was at Loyola. I could name you starters and bench players from every year. I’ve experienced Gentile with 500 fans. I’ve even experienced a lackluster showing when we played “legit” teams in Gentile. It was sad. It blew my mind to walk around Dallas and San Antonio and see the amount of Loyola fans and alumni that were in attendance. “Where have all these people been?” I kept asking myself. My first instinct was to begrudgingly resent it a bit – If all these people supported the Ramblers for the past 20 years – we could have been enjoying the fruits of success a long, long time ago. But the more I thought about it, I was happy to see it – because it could not be more obvious that Loyola is filled with an alumni base that has been (silently) hoping and waiting for a product on the basketball court that they could be proud of… a team they could brag to their colleagues and friends about… “The Ramblers got another one! That’s my alma mater!” They want a real college team to root for… Porter and these boys actually figured out a way to give it to them – and the results were unbelievable. PLEASE – Don’t go back to your lives now. Go the games. If you can’t make it – Put that $20 scarf you bought on and wear it to work – then tell your co-workers – “They’ve got the Redbirds tonight at 7. Go up lakeshore drive and check them out, or check out the game on ESPN3!” Buy some more t-shirts and wear them around on Saturday mornings when you go shopping or run errands. You’re a Rambler now… not just a guy/girl that went to Loyola University Chicago. “Loyola, huh? Didn’t you guys win a basketball championship in 1963?” “(laughs, shrugs) Yeah, they talked about that when I was there…” NO MORE. That’s over. It’s not a footnote now. You went to a great school that is great in every aspect – and that includes a top-notch basketball program. Own it.

To the Students – The bad news – you didn’t decide to go to a big football school like a lot of your friends in Big Ten country. The good news – You’re smart and that’s why you’re at Loyola. My advice to you – in the real world, while college sports don’t mean anything to your education – they mean a lot when it comes to interpersonal communications in the work place, which will become important to you later. The fact is, everyone likes being proud of something, and sports conversations aren’t polarizing like politics, and they are easy to follow and include people in. You are now part of what may become “a basketball school.” It doesn’t have to be your whole life in college – but it can be a great medium to forge relationships and comradery with your fellow students and create lasting memories. Whether you cared about Loyola basketball or not – the last month you’ve been inundated with questions from your friends and relatives about your school, text messages from old acquaintances, etc. Did you go to any games? Were you following the team this year? Maybe you were and maybe you weren’t – but I can promise you, when you all get real jobs and you’re in the workplace – being part of this newly invigorated tradition, even if it’s just going to a few games a year, will serve you well later in life if this success can be sustained. Loyola has been a great school before any of this happened – you know that and that’s why you’re there. However, I encourage you to embrace this newly found enthusiasm for your school. Go to games. Bring your friends. Follow the team in SOME capacity.

Porter Moser – Porter is a great coach, but Porter has been an even better ambassador for our institution as a whole. In my book, there is not one other coach of the 68 teams that I would want at the helm for the Ramblers. Porter did more with less than any other coach in Division 1 NCAA basketball. He had a smaller budget, a smaller salary, a more limited ability to recruit, smaller facilities, a less-enthusiastic support group, etc. Now that we are looking to take the next step to establish ourselves as a “basketball power,” the only person I want leading our team is Porter Moser. I wouldn’t trade him for Mike Krzyzewski, Jay Wright, Rick Pitino, Bill Self, John Calipari -- not anyone. Those guys are all great coaches in their own right, but I still wouldn’t trade Porter for them at this point, even if that was an actual possibility. There is no “upgrade” for us at coach if we are going to take the next steps. We have a young, vibrant, articulate, hard-working leader who has proven his dedication to producing solid student-athletes and successful “teams.” I don’t want to win the way Duke and North Carolina win with one-and-done’s. I respect those programs, but it would not be as special to me as a fan having the best “athletes” on the floor… I want the best TEAM – and in the current basketball climate, I think Porter has proven that he is the best coach in the country at producing a successful one. He will have some thinking to do now… If he chooses to stay, I hope that we embrace him for the winner that he is and give him all the tools he needs to continue the successful model that has taken him seven years to build. However, if he leaves, I hope that we all can thank him for what he has done for this university and wish him nothing but the best. He deserves respect wherever he goes and for whatever he chooses to do. He’s earned that.

The Administration – They’ve done a great job marketing the team during this run, social-media, alumni relations, etc.. A 30-million-dollar ad campaign investment could never accomplish the type of exposure the nation has had to our school. For me – the question for them now is – are they smart enough, now that the season is over, to go back to a meeting room and figure out, “What went wrong after 1985?” What mistakes did Loyola make after the successful Sweet 16 run that allowed the program to go from an “up-and-comer” to basketball purgatory for 33 years? I don’t know what the right answers are to capitalize on this improbable rise to fame and success, but it’s vital that we have people working to sustain it, and that we consult with the right people to form a solid plan to do so. Butler figured out how to do it. Gonzaga figured out how to do it. Xavier figured out how to do it. The administration cannot rest on this accomplishment and merely hope that the returns will just continue to come in. I suspect that’s what happened 33 years ago.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:12 pm 
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So a few comments as I thought toleorambler's message was eloquent. One of the problems I see with Loyola is it is in the big city. The problem with the big city is there are so many other distractions. When you grow up in the Midwest near your public university rooting for your team is part of your identity. There are Big10 teams that are not super successful. Yet every football Saturday the RV army from the other side invades Ann Arbor. Not all of these people attended Iowa, Minnesota, or Penn State. Yet they identify with their public university and come to away games for everything. To make the next step I think a school like Loyola needs for Chicago to fall in love with Loyola and not when they are winning. I will tell you I watched as many UM basketball games as I could even in the dark ages after the decade of scandal. It does not matter if my team stinks. I follow my team. I am also a Detroit Lions fan. So don't call me fair weather. If you have a fan base that loves the sports teams that represent the school, then you have something. So many alumni will scatter throughout the country. But those who live in Chicago are there every day. Loyola has to battle the big city and get people to identify with Loyola instead of the city itself. Those who make Chicago their home have to be like the fanatics of Iowa who adore their team win or lose. And a nod towards the Iowa fans, never a more gracious group of people. Quit being big city slickers doing big city things, go to a game and cheer for your team with no abandon.

The second thing you need is continuity. The reality is your coach is going to be tempted by glittering prizes. He may have principles like the coach at Butler who resisted for awhile and built a sustainable program. However, unless he is a unique person like Pat Fitzgerald, he is going to move on because it is hard to say no to millions if not tens of millions. However, if the program identity is imprinted than it can be sustained regardless of the coach. The best examples of this is of course Wisconsin and Stanford where Alvarez and Harbaugh created a winning culture that sustained itself.

Basketball is a great sport for a mid major to compete in. The NBA will always poach the most talented. So a competitive team can of peaking older players can make hay against more talented younger players who have not figured out how to play as a team or who are motivated by showing their NBA credentials. It also only takes 5-7 decent players to really compete. If Loyola had one more I would have been typing this response in defeat. There is a place for mid majors to poke at the blue bloods. It is a lucky event even for a blue blood power program to win the NCAA tournament. But I recall Butler verses Duke. I thought Butler was right there. Kempom more accurately had Loyola a 7 or 8 seed instead of the 11 seed the humans gave Loyola which is what Butler was. So its not like a mid major has no shot. Its just that its a long shot for everyone. Even a Roy Williams, coach K, Izzo, or Calipari is more likely than not going to lose. Winning the NCAA basketball tournament is probably a harder thing to do than winning the SB.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 5:44 pm 
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Location: Livin in the middle, between the two extremes
Toledo, I just want to echo your statement about the atmosphere and alumni support. I’m still down here, staying to watch tomorrow’s game. I had a good conversation with a Kansas fan a little while ago. He had been to a lot of Final Fours, even those where Kansas wasn’t playing in. He had nothing but glowing words to say about the turnout of Loyola supporters. Not just Friday and yesterday, but he was even surprised at the amount of Loyola colors walking around today (including me...I’m not wearing anything but maroon and gold while I’m here). The a sleeping giant of Loyola pride as been stirred. It is real and palpable. Is it just a brief moment, or a full awakening? Time will tell.


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