NEW YORK CITY – You have the arenas that steal your breath and leave you wide-eyed upon entering. After a while, novelty begins to wear and repeated trips are nothing like that first one. Then there is Madison Square Garden. The New York City location, history, lore and those who graced the performing arena all add up to a magical experience. The Garden never gets old. Not for players and coaches. Certainly not for officials, fans, cheerleaders and media. Even after years of crossing the Hudson into Midtown, the Garden has always been special for yours truly.
The Garden has that allure. LaSalle coach John Giannini knows it. His club had just outlasted Stony Brook 65-57 on Saturday at the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena.’ Afterwards, he spoke with reverence about walking through the Garden halls seeing pictures of famous personalities in sports and entertainment. “I saw Led Zeppelin here, I am a child of the seventies,” the coach said. Once the ball goes up, you are focused on the game. Regardless, the experience that is the Garden is not lost.
“We play in some big arenas and facilities,” he said. “Last year we were in the Staples Center and where the Oklahoma City Thunder play (Chesapeake Energy Arena).” Giannini went on to explain his home facility, Tom Gola Arena, is what you would call ‘quaint,’ but he tells the freshmen, walk-ons and managers, "we play in big facilities and arenas away from home. That is us and our level of competition.” He also tells the aforementioned groups to take no pictures on the road of these facilities. “Act like you have been here before,” he said.
For the Garden trip, Giannini knew how special it was. The rules were relaxed. “When we got here for shootaround, I had veterans who played in last year’s (NCAA) Sweet 16 getting pictures,” Giannini noted. “After all, it is the Garden. The Mecca of basketball.”
Mecca, and a basketball ‘pilgrimage’ not to be forgotten. Especially with a victory coming as an added bonus.
The view of Madison Square Garden outside Eighth Avenue:
La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini and players at the postgame press conference:
Fordham warms up before their matchup with St. John's:
St. John's cheerleaders before the Fordham game...as noted, the cheer squads treasure and enjoy the opportunity to grace the Garden court: