Syracuse’s ‘mission accomplished’ in getting strong win before Selection Sunday

first_img Published on May 5, 2018 at 5:45 pm Contact Matt: mdliberm@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+ Related Stories SU makes final statement in 17-5 dismantling of Colgate prior to Selection SundayFast reaction: 3 takeaways from Syracuse’s 17-5 blowout of Colgatecenter_img Syracuse midfielder Jamie Trimboli and goalie Dom Madonna took their seats at the press conference table following No. 12 SU’s (8-6, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) 17-5 dismantling of Colgate (7-8, 3-5 Patriot League). Arriving minutes before Syracuse head coach John Desko, the two joked around, tapping the microphones to test audio levels and discussing how Brendan Curry sat in Desko’s seat following the win over North Carolina.Trimboli suddenly turned to Madonna, tapping him on the shoulder to tell him that Denver lost to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament.“Maybe we’ll host,” Trimboli told Madonna.As soon as the game against Colgate ended, attention shifted to tomorrow’s selection show, where the NCAA tournament bracket will be released. Syracuse used Saturday’s home contest as a tune-up before the tournament with an easy opponent at the end of a gauntlet schedule.After Syracuse took a 6-0 lead, it never led the Raiders by fewer than five goals and when the fourth quarter came around, Senior Day turned into a freshman showcase.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhen the final buzzer sounded, names on the field included Jacob Buttermore, Jakob Phaup, Troy Lauder and Nate Garlow, all freshmen who have scarcely seen the field this season. Madonna left the field to a standing ovation just past the midway point of the fourth quarter.“You want to keep your starters healthy,” Desko said. “To leave them in with the score the way it was and for potentially one of them to get hurt, that’s not a great decision by the coaching staff.”While Syracuse played stress-free at the conclusion of the game, the week leading up to it was anything but so. With final exams and review sessions all week, 10-15 players were missing every single practice, Desko said. The coaching staff would have to teach the same thing multiple times. Yet a loss to Colgate meant there was no shot at making the tournament, Madonna said.“I was treating this whole week like it’s my last week,” Madonna said.When the players took the field following pregame lineup introductions, Austin Fusco corralled the starters near the sideline in a tight circle.“Nothing’s given to you,” Madonna remembers Fusco saying. “You have to go out and get it.”Syracuse proved the beneficiary of other teams’ successes and failures from around the country on Saturday. Ohio State, a team rapidly rising up the RPI rankings, fell to Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten semifinals, failing to overtake the Orange in RPI. At the same time, Villanova and Penn, two teams ahead of SU in RPI, dropped games in their conference tournament semifinals, as well.Trimboli’s address of Denver’s loss before the post-game press conference, and perhaps the chance at hosting a first-round tournament game, comes from the fact that Inside Lacrosse released a mock bracket earlier this week that slated Denver as the last seeded team, and Syracuse as the first unseeded team, with the Orange making the first-round trip to Denver.Trimboli entered the room smiling after hearing the news of Denver’s loss from a team manager in the hallways. But while the numbers fall in SU’s favor, Desko held caution, immediately cutting into Trimboli to tell him that he was wrong.“It’s not good for us. Denver is probably a playoff team either way,” Desko said. “That takes another (at-large) slot away from someone. This time of year, when you’re being considered, you want as many teams that are guaranteed to go to the tournament to win their conference play.”Syracuse remains the only team in the country with two top-five wins, and a win Saturday as well as other team’s losses will likely bump SU’s RPI up. Yet this is a team that lost six games, and has struggled to pull out wins against lesser opponents.Still, Syracuse boasts the third-ranked strength of schedule in the country, something that has prepared the Orange for the road ahead, Desko said.“I said from the first press conference, ‘if it doesn’t kill us, it will make us stronger,’” Desko said.Saturday, in danger of falling out of the tournament conversation with a Colgate upset, Syracuse dug in and produced one of its best all-around showings of the season just over 24 hours before the bracket will be announced. In the 12-goal victory, the team’s second-largest of the season, SU did everything it could do to make a statement in the eyes of the committee.“We wanted to take care of business. … It went according to plan,” Desko said. “Mission accomplished.” Commentslast_img read more

Paul Pierce built his Celtics legacy with patience, production under pressure

first_img“He used to sit right there,” he said, pointing to the chair in the corner of the Celtics’ equipment room. It’s behind Connor’s desk, where pictures of his children are flanked by pictures of Pierce to the right.Connor is the Celtics’ Travel and Equipment Manager – a position he’s held every year since Pierce entered the NBA.Before the Celtics hosted the Lakers on Friday, Johnny Joe eagerly shared memories of Pierce hanging out in the Dungeon, sometimes quietly by himself, other times busting chops and winning over the room with his quirky sense of humor and supreme confidence. He’d eat his soup and pitch fake trade ideas.Big games, small games, it didn’t change Pierce.“Pressure didn’t bother that kid,” Connor said with the kind of nostalgia in his voice that lets you know he’ll be telling these stories for the rest of his life.He gloated about roasting Pierce in 3-point shooting contests until Pierce started roasting him back.“I used to kick his (butt). But as we went on, he’d make a comeback. And, he’d tell me, being the equipment guy, ‘That’s why I wear the uniform and you wash it.’ That was one of his great lines.”This is the Celtics history that really matters – the longtime employees, the ticket-takers, the ushers, the security guards and the people who have seen it all when it comes to Boston Celtics basketball.“They can share in your history. They can share in your story. So, it’s a friend you grow up with,” Pierce said. “… They can share your story with new people who come in. And, that’s the value of having people who have been there and seen it all, especially with one franchise. Your story never gets forgotten. It carries on. Hopefully, my story and my history with the Boston Celtics will get carried on.”If this was a different organization and a different city, the stories might not be what matters most. But this is a place where a near-50-year employee like Francis O’Bryant can make definitive declarations.“He’s really a true Celtic,” O’Bryant said of Pierce, putting him on par with the franchise’s best.The numbers back that up, too.The 26,000-plus points Pierce scored for the organization, the title he helped bring in 2008, those things absolutely resonate with the fans who walk around the Garden concourse wearing his jersey.“He was the face of the franchise,” Dennis Pagones, a Celtics fan from Dracut, Mass., said Friday night with a beer in his hand and a Pierce jersey on his chest.With the Lakers in town to face the Celtics, Pierce was still a prominent character. The in-arena auctions that featured current Celtics and Patriots – they had Pierce memorabilia too. One of the loudest cheers of the night came when local rapper Mike Boston, at center court being recognized for his work in the community, unzipped his jacket to show his Pierce jersey to the Garden crowd.“I’m a great fan of his. That’s why I bought his jersey,” he said. “It doesn’t get better than this.”Another fan, who didn’t want to be interviewed because he only spoke Spanish, still pointed at his No. 34 jersey and said “Paul Pierce” before politely turning to continue watching the game.The people in the city love Pierce because he didn’t bail. He stayed after being stabbed 11 times at a Boston club. He didn’t leave as the team went from bad to good to bad again before the Celtics eventually acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.“We remember Paul because he was a great player and won a title. I give him more credit for bucking the trend. He went through a lot of lean years, and I don’t think I ever once heard him say ‘I want to leave’ or ‘I don’t want to stick it out,’” his longtime coach Doc Rivers said. “I never heard him say it. He just hung in there and kept wanting the team to get better. … He exhibited an amazing amount of patience.“… In a time when guys get tired because they’re not winning, they want more guys, they want this, he just wanted us to keep pushing, to keep getting better. And, it turned out for him.”Pierce won his title and completed an odd destiny.The kid from Inglewood, the one who grew up rooting for the Lakers and who could walk from his home to the Forum, became a Celtics legend. Sunday, the crowd, the Clippers and the Celtics will honor his legacy.But in the Dungeon, the tributes never stop.In a room filled with jerseys, shorts and sneakers, where space is at a premium, a tribute to Pierce isn’t going anywhere.A stack of six pairs of Pierce’s unworn size-14 sneakers collects dust in the top left corner of the room.“He always asks for them and we won’t give them to him,” Connor said.The shoes, like the stories, are staying put in the Dungeon. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error BOSTON >> Paul Pierce will walk out onto the parquet court for the final time as a player Sunday, surrounded by reminders of the Celtics’ history.Above him, the jersey numbers of some of the NBA’s best – Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and others – hang as a reminder of individual greatness past. Next to them, reminders of the Celtics’ 17 NBA titles nearly blanket the ceiling.Pierce’s name will be announced. The crowd will roar in appreciation for the 19 seasons he gave to the NBA and especially for the 15 he dedicated to Boston.He might smile. He might cry. He doesn’t know.center_img “To be a part of this history is something that was important to me,” Pierce said Saturday, a day before his final game in Boston.Undoubtedly, Pierce will be a part of that history.When he played his first game in the TD Garden after being traded to Brooklyn, the camera panned to the two empty spaces for future retired numbers – one of which will certainly be filled by Pierce’s No. 34 and by his teammate Kevin Garnett’s.But, there’s another part of Celtics history that Pierce is a significant part of, the kind you don’t see in the rafters or in the gift shops.Deep inside the Garden, in what Pierce called “The Dungeon,” Johnny Joe Connor is holding court, talking about the most important Celtic of the last quarter century or so.last_img read more