Steve Masiello and Shane Richards share a big hug in closing seconds of Manhattan's loss to Siena in quarterfinals of MAAC tournament. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
For all but a privileged few teams every year, the cruelest and harshest reality of a season is that it ends in a loss.
Although Manhattan College had ended each of their previous two campaigns on the losing end of NCAA Tournament games, they had not endured the agony of a conference tournament defeat for three years before Saturday's 89-76 setback to Siena in the MAAC Tournament quarterfinals. Regardless, those inside the Jasper program still consider their run, which counts back-to-back conference championships and three postseason appearances in its five-year course, an overall success even if some feel it signals the end of an era.
"I said to Ray and Shane, five years ago, we kind of came here, they came here with no vision," Steve Masiello recollected, putting in perspective what he and outgoing seniors RaShawn Stores and Shane Richards have done over the course of their careers. "We hadn't accomplished anything. Ray came on blind faith, Shane had an idea of what we were going to do."
In a display that truly defined the bond this team has had with one another over the years, and the strong relationship between players and coach that is more like older and younger brothers at times, Stores; the emotional leader from the point guard position, was equally as complimentary of his mentor as Masiello was of his floor general.
"It meant a lot," Stores said of his four-year tenure. "Like Coach said, coming in on blind faith, I trusted Coach Mas. I stepped in that office from day one and I just thank God for putting him in my life. After the loss, I told the guys, 'keep your heads up.' There's no reason to be down. It's your time now, and I would have never said that four years ago, five years ago, until I met that man. He means a lot to me. I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for him and all the people that believed in me."
Richards, whose arrival at Manhattan after receiving no other scholarship offers has been well chronicled over the years, echoed a similar sentiment.
"If you would have told me we'd be back-to-back champions and I would have had the career that I've had here, I wouldn't believe it," Richards said after officially wrapping up a stint in Riverdale that placed him among the program's top ten all-time scorers, the most prolific three-point shooter to ever don the Jasper green and white, and among the top five in that category in the MAAC's 35-year history. "Like Ray said, all of these guys are my brothers, and I've made a lot of great friendships that are going to last forever. I wish the best for them next year, and I know they're going to do their thing."
Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos, despite defeating Manhattan and thereby ending Richards' and Stores' careers, offered a glowing testimonial of the two seniors that falls in line with just how much they accomplished.
"I can't say enough about Shane Richards and Stores," he stated. "They're just competitive guys. No one works harder than Shane Richards at getting better in four years since I've been in the MAAC. I've never seen someone improve from day one to his last game as much as Shane Richards has improved, and it's all due to his own work ethic."
"It's all about these guys and what they believed in, and what they put into it," Masiello elaborated, bringing everything full circle. "I think if you evaluate five years later, 9-2 with these guys in MAAC tournaments, two NCAA Tournaments, two MAAC championships, three seasons with postseason play, if I had to grade that, I would have taken that."