Friday, April 17, 2015

Year six marked by a six-pack of emotions

The game and score that will last a lifetime, at least for me. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)

Every year on April 17, I am afforded the opportunity to give back, so to speak, and express my gratitude toward all of you for being as supportive of this site as you are. Today will be no different, especially after what the past twelve months brought about.

As this past season began, and I may have mentioned this in passing, I was at a crossroads as it related to my broadcasting career. Even though the separation between myself and St. Francis College was mutual and amicable, it left me to perhaps feel that my window was closing, at which case I would still have this site to fall back on, as was intended during its inception six years ago today. Yet through circumstances beyond my control, and an outpouring of support I will get to later in this post, I truly learned that all the doors that closed one time would, in fact, open up again.

This last year was one of growth, as the past few on this site have been. I look at the traffic statistics from time to time, and still come away equal parts stunned and ecstatic over how much a project that started with a passing interest mushroomed into a little engine that could, a brand unto its own that counts over 1,300 pieces of content in its archive and over 2,400 Twitter followers, and is now approaching three million all-time page views.


That's a pretty big number, and it would not be possible without any of you. Without you, there truly is no me, and if there was one primary reason behind me continuing on with this site, your support is by far the first such factor on that list.

It was a year of sleepless nights and extensive travel, just like the previous two. All told, the final tally of live games checked in at 113, down from last year's count of 126, but still significant enough given the places the site has gone and the teams it has covered. From St. John's to Stanford, as far up as the TD Bank Sports Center and as far down as Alumni Gymnasium for the first time ever, if there was a game on the schedule, chances are that this site was represented. And what's more than that, the 113-game season was just me, and did not count the contributions of our three other staff members over the course of the year.

It was a year of transition, as Jason Schott; who had spent most of his time with me as the point man for this site's coverage of St. John's University, moved on for an expanded role with his own Brooklyn Fans website, as well as Joe McDonald's New York Sports Day. In his absence, Ray Floriani stepped up to become my right-hand man, incorporating his tempo-free statistics and photo essays with features that offered a glimpse beyond the players and coaches. Ray's work covering Seton Hall women's basketball and our close friend Tony Bozzella on a run to the NCAA Tournament yielded some of the most emotional and gripping columns this site has ever seen. Not to be forgotten, Joe Pantorno and Patrick McCormack were also integral parts of our coverage despite not being able to do as much as either of them would have liked.

It was a year of adversity, of having to put things in perspective on more than one occasion. Yes, my future was in limbo for a point, but that paled in comparison to the battles two of my closest friends fought, and ultimately won.

Over the summer, Josh Adams of College Hoops Digest, whose work has been featured here in the past on a magnificent tribute to former Fordham guard Branden Frazier, was stricken with cancer and underwent chemotherapy shortly before the annual media day season. I am proud to say that Josh has beaten it, and was able to once again spread his unique brand of hard-hitting coverage and unmatched Twitter humor upon his return to press row. I can't believe I'm writing this having grown up a North Carolina fan, but Duke winning the national championship this year is a fitting end to the season after seeing what Josh, who by his own admission still watches the Christian Laettner game-winner on a regular basis, had to go through just to get back.

Then, just when I thought the people around me were done with fighting for their life, cancer reared its ugly head again right before Christmas, this time to a man I consider a younger brother of sorts in this industry, Christian Heimall. Before the MAAC Tournament began, I wrote of how I had met Christian through my coverage of Manhattan College, for whom he does play-by-play. Sadly, his medical treatments kept him from donning the headset down the stretch, and when he recommended me to fill in for him, I considered it an honor.

Therefore, this past season was one of inspiration as well. Inspiration comes from a lot of places and a lot of people, and it most certainly did for me as I made the trip to Albany for what I now consider the defining moments of my career. I had questioned whether or not I would be able to call a game on the big stage again after six years away from it. But the more I prepared, the more confident I became. To Josh, to Christian, to Chris Williams; whose infectious enthusiasm and zeal for life kept me calm in the broadcast booth, to everyone who went out of their way to offer an encouraging word, you all inspired me in ways you may never fully grasp, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
With Steve Masiello not too long after each of us got to experience a championship after enduring our own separate adversity on the road to this special moment. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)

Finally, this season was one of redemption. As I was able to live out a dream of calling a championship game and got to proclaim to the world that Manhattan had once again won the MAAC championship, I got to see Steve Masiello, a coach I am proud to also call a friend, emerge from a tumultuous offseason in his own right to celebrate a feeling he never got to truly enjoy last year. The smile on his face before he and the Jaspers cut down the nets, and his response of "I know you are" after I expressed to him in that moment just how happy I was for him to win a championship is a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I cannot close without thanking everyone who helped get me through a trying year, physically, emotionally, mentally. In particular, special thanks is extended to Christian Heimall, Chris Williams, Kevin Ross, Joe Clifford, and Joe Hutter, for allowing me to work among their company. To my staff of Ray, Patrick, and Joe, for being as patient with me and staying the course to make sure their coverage exceeded the quality of our competitors. To every coach, player, sports information director, administrator, official, colleague; and most of all, fan, I appreciate any and all support you have given me over the last six years, and I hope that all of you are willing to have me back next season. There are way too many of you to mention, so please don't feel slighted if I didn't mention you specifically. Also, special thanks goes to both Marc Ernay of 1010 WINS and Bruce Beck of WNBC for showcasing this magic moment:

Our sixth year together has come to a close, and as we begin number seven, the future has an infinite amount of possibilities. It is my hope that you will all join me to experience it, regardless of what will transpire or how it will culminate.

Those of you who know me well are aware that I pride myself on letting the sights I see tell the story more than talking over the big moment. With that said, my final message is that each of you are once again; and will continue to be, much bigger parts of my life than any of you will ever know. No words can ever fully convey the love I have for all of you and the pride I take in your adamant support of myself and this site, so thank you again.

Until we meet again to bring the game of college basketball to one another in November, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. While we're waiting, though, let's appreciate the fact that we brought each other to the top of the world.

Thank you for everything, my friends.

Jaden Daly
Founder and Managing Editor
A Daly Dose Of Hoops

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