Friday, July 27, 2012

Michael Haynes Killed; Was To Play For Iona

Michael Haynes, one of Iona's nine incoming recruits, was tragically murdered last night outside his Chicago home.  The promising prospect was only 22.  (Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)

Sadly, no matter how much we would like it to happen, it seems as though the world cannot escape inexplicable tragedy and gun violence that really has no place in society.

Less than a week after James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado movie theater and killed twelve people during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," a gun is responsible for the death of yet another completely innocent person; this one in the sports world, one who was just four months away from living his dream and playing college basketball at the highest level.

Michael Haynes was a 6-7 power forward whose road had been a much-traveled one, committing to the University of Texas-El Paso after playing for three different high schools and prep schools.  The Chicago native resurfaced last season at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, the same junior college responsible for exporting future Big East stars Dwight Hardy (St. John's) and Dwight Buycks (Marquette) to Division I.  Just two weeks ago, Haynes was announced as one of the nine members of a blockbuster recruiting class signed by Tim Cluess at Iona College as the Gaels come off an NCAA Tournament appearance, but must replace all-conference players Scott Machado and Mike Glover.  It was Haynes who was going to be one of several newcomers to go a long way toward filling the massive void Glover's graduation left in Iona's frontcourt, and he seemed like a perfect replacement considering both his potential and the similar long and winding road to redemption that the two faced.

Sadly, fate intervened and made sure such a fairytale was not to be.

Haynes was shot and killed outside his Chicago home last night in an attempt to resolve a dispute involving a stolen necklace.  He was 22, with the rest of his life still ahead of him.

"It's just so hard," said Iona coach Tim Cluess, no stranger to tragedy himself after having lost two of his brothers to cancer and leukemia.  "I don't know how to describe it.  Once you got to know him, you just couldn't wait to coach him.  He was just looking for a chance to change his life."

And so it goes for a program that has seen more heartbreak among its players, coaches and alumni than should be permitted by law.  First came former coach Jim Valvano's passing to cancer at the far too premature age of 47 in 1993.  Cluess, who was brought to New Rochelle to replace Kevin Willard two years ago after Willard replaced Bobby Gonzalez at Seton Hall, lost his two brothers a decade apart in the 1970s and '80s.  Now, Michael Haynes; who was seemingly destined to overcome the odds and succeed playing the game he loved, is now unfortunately the third in a trifecta no one in their right mind ever wants to see being cashed in.  Life just isn't fair sometimes.

When news of Haynes' death was publicized late last night, it quickly gained attention via Twitter, where Iona guard Sean Armand dedicated the upcoming season to his fallen future teammate.  "More motivation," the junior guard tweeted.  "Long season ahead, this one for Mike Haynes," using the hashtags #MH and #ICMBB.

Saint Michael the Archangel is defined in the Roman Catholic religion as the leader of the Army of God and the guardian of the Catholic Church.  If the world really is a just place, then Michael Haynes will be the angel on the shoulders of the Iona Gaels this season.  There would be nothing more fitting for a kid who deserved the chance to live his dream.

Until then, and for all eternity, may Michael rest in peace.

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