Sometimes you get lucky in this life—and by “this life,” I mean the life of a sportswriter. Sometimes a secret is revealed to you before anyone else knows about it. Sometimes you get a glimpse of what’s to come.
Writers for the Providence Journal and the Hartford Courant must have seen Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as minor league players. Someone at Oshawa News must have seen 14-year-old Bobby Orr play for the junior league generals. Maybe it’s not so obvious at the moment. But looking back: it was good to be there.
It was nice to be in Buffalo in the early hours of Thursday, March 15, 2007. The very first game of the 2007 NCAA Tournament pitted the Maryland Terrapins and Davidson Wildcats 4–13 in what was revealed to be a two-way affair. Sometimes you can afford to skip this game. But there was additional interest.
The son of a famous athlete played for each team.
Most notable of these was Maryland’s DJ Strawberry, Darryl’s son, who became a very good ACC player in four years, averaging 14.9 points in his senior year. The day before, he had been besieged at a press conference in what was then the HSBC Arena.
“I never considered it a burden to be called Strawberry,” he said at the time. “I have always considered it an honor.
Another? This was the eldest son of Della Curry. Dell Curry never reached the level of fame—or infamy—in the NBA that Darryl Strawberry achieved in MLB, but basketball fans even then admitted that Dell had arguably the sweetest shot of all time, which saw him hit 40.2 percent. his three-point shots in 16 seasons with the Jazz, Cavaliers, Hornets, Bucks, and Raptors—a career that ended five years earlier.
Do you want to hear a secret?
Bob McKillop asked me about these words. I have known MacKillop for many years, ever since I attended his summer camp at the Long Island Lutheran Church. His basketball career was already one of Long Island’s landmarks, and this Davidson team at the time was his masterpiece: 29-5, 17-1 in the Southern Conference.
“I love secrets, coach.”
(And yes, until the very end, MacKillop was one of the few coaches I still referred to as “coaches” because I always felt like a fourteen in his company.)
“The kid shoots better than his old man.”
It was absurd, of course, but I nodded politely. The next day, during the warm-up, I kept my eyes on Dell’s baby. His name was Stephen. He was maybe 160 pounds, soaked through, and when he turned sideways, he practically disappeared, he was so skinny. Despite having a strong pedigree, he was not recruited and that is how he ended up at Davidson.
Curry hit from a corner three-point line out of bounds. Whistling. He took a few steps to the left. Whistling. He was moving around the three-point circle, keeping a good 10 feet off the line. He did every one of his first rounds, from corner to corner. He did every other round of his, back the other way. When he finally missed one, he reacted like he forgot his mother’s birthday.
In a word, it was extraordinary.
The game? Well, as you can imagine, the Terrapins didn’t treat Davidson’s Wildcats the way they might treat, say, Kentucky or Villanova. Davidson was within 43-42 in the half. The Wildcats stayed in the game for most of the second half, but Maryland had too many and won 82–70. Strawberry scored 12 points and eight rebounds.
Curry hit 30, and although he was no longer as perfect in the game as he used to be – 5 of 14 of 3 – every time Davidson looked like he was about to be rolled out of the gym, he hit. made a play.
“I feel like I belong here,” Curry said. “I know I have to prove it every day, but that’s okay. I’m not afraid of hard work.”
This was probably the last game in which Curry was a dark horse. A year later, the Wildcats made it to the Final Four. As a junior, Curry was so unstoppable that the coach decided to play defense in a “triangle and two” formation – two defenders on him. And, well, you know what he accomplished in the NBA, earning his first Finals MVP award and fourth championship this week.
Turns out MacKillop underestimated this. The kid not only shot better than his old man, but better than anyone who had ever played basketball. And so it was for a while.
Bob McKillop was a terrific player at Chaminade and Hofstra, an amazing coach at Holy Trinity (where he coached Matt Doherty) and Lutheran (where he coached Bill Wennington), and over the past 33 years he has masterclassed at Davidson, winning 634 games and making this with a grace and dignity that honored his profession (and should have given him a job at St. John’s at least four times). Here’s a good retirement for you.
The other day, readers quickly pounced on one glaring omission from my list of all offensive seasons in New York: Don Mattingly, 1985: 35 homers, 145 RBIs, 48 doubles, 370 total bases, .324/.371/. 567. A mistake in a scribe.
I mentioned this before when it first started airing, but The Proposal on Paramount+ was about as good a limited series as I’ve seen in years. Everything about it is amazing, but a special mention to Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo.
Strike back at Waq
Spencer Ross: Steph Curry deservedly won the Finals MVP award. But without Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors won’t win the title.
Wack: Spencer on hoops is like the old EF Hutton commercials: when he talks, people listen. Or at least they should.
Tim Doyle: Isn’t it illegal, unconstitutional, or just plain un-American not to play baseball in New York on July 4th?
Wack: It’s all these things. Like a Yankee – a Yankee! – to have a day off on this day is simply inexplicable.
@grieving: As the Yankees play stronger opponents, the feeder will run out. Again, who did they play?
@MikeWack: Pretty soon, the Yankees will need to schedule a friendly against the ’27 Yankees to find opponents that aren’t “easy.”
Alan Hirshberg: Lee Trevino once said, “You don’t know what pressure is until you start playing for five bucks with only two bucks in your pocket.” The guys who took the LIV money up front will never feel pressured to win one of these bogus tournaments. So if it doesn’t matter to them who wins, what does one fan care?
Wack: This is a very fair question.