My cameraman learned a lesson that night …when you go on campus, even a nice ordinarily quiet Catholic school such as Villanova, you don’t advertise. He was to learn the hard way.
When the school’s talented basketball squad wins the national title, it twists the campus’ demeanor. All of a sudden undergrads become marauding victors … and to put a vehicle splashed with the ESPN logo in its way makes a tempting morsel to devour. By the time the horde had passed it by, there was just a beat-up, dented and creased remainder of a car, and a wiser cameraman left in its wake.
Ah! The joys of unbridled youth flush with an intoxicating victory. As I remember, ESPN showed its beneficence and paid the deductible.
What else do I remember?
The personalities of the two finalists could not have been more dissimilar. The stoic Georgetown coach John Thompson, who was rumored to have given favorable treatment to African-American reporters, allowing them longer access to his team while white reporters were told they only had a specified number of minutes before they had to leave the dressing room.
The other coach. The roly-poly jolly Rollie Massimino, or at least that was the public appearance. Once his team was victorious, his shirttails got tucked in. He became more difficult to interview and he appeared to hold grudges. In short, the national championship brought out the worst in a once jovial personality.
As for the team leaders, Georgetown had All-American and All-Sullen Team captain Patrick Ewing. Until he became a cash-infused pro, he acted as if he resented having to play for the good of just playing. At least that was his public persona.
And so, on April Fool’s day of 1985, the perfect storm formed over Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., as the last game played without a shot clock was won, in perhaps the greatest upset in tournament history, 66-64, by the upstart Villanova Wildcats. It denied the heralded Hoyas back-to-back national championships.
As for that public persona, two years later, one of the Villanova “good guys,” point guard Gary McLain fessed up. He’d been a druggie, even as he played (although he denied being high during the championship game).
Fortunately, his confession is just a footnote to what was a shining moment in Villanova history. That, along with my cameraman’s dented crew car.