A season of virtual coverage was highlighted by Rutgers’ first NCAA Tournament in 30 years. (Photo by Rutgers Athletics)
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
How can I not love the game that has afforded me so much over my career? And how can I not love the fans I’ve been exponentially blessed to have picked up at various stops on this long and winding — and sometimes never-ending — road on which you have all willingly served as my companions? As far back as I can remember, I have always been the type to share my world with anyone interested, and once I open the door and let you in, you’re probably not getting kicked out. So even in the face of adverse and undesirable circumstances, I made it a point this season to make sure I was there for the people who support and appreciate me without questioning why they do.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.
The past year is something I — and I’m sure none of you as well — ever want to experience again. Covering 62 games from the backdrop of your own home — a decision I made because I felt I would be able to create a better and less sterile experience than coming to you from an empty gym far away from the court — with a nine-year-old iPad for a stat monitor may be good for the wallet, and in my case, it saved hundreds of dollars on train fare, but too much gets lost in translation. I would hope the days of dialing into a Zoom call for postgame press conferences and most other virtual media availabilities go the way of the press row fax machine, because the human element of journalism makes for better storytelling. And for those of us with extroverted personalities, a group to which I know I’m not the only one who belongs, it just allows us to live a normal and fulfilling life.
Through all the bylines and recaps of the past five months, as much as I did, I still speak to you today and tell you that I feel like I could have done more. And I apologize for having failed you in that regard by not doing more. But regardless of the quality or quantity of content, and despite the hurdles placed in front of us through no fault of our own, there was me, and there was you. I appreciate all of you for who and what you are anyway, but even more so for staying with me through a season whose pages could not be turned fast enough.
Some stories, like Rutgers’ return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 and Rick Pitino’s fairytale comeback at Iona, will never be forgotten and are only magnified by the travails and sacrifices through which everyone endured. We also saw Seton Hall learn to navigate the waters without Myles Powell, St. John’s take greater flight under Mike Anderson, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference have one of its most unpredictable years yet. Let me elaborate on Rutgers for a quick second, if I may: Three years ago, I couldn’t grow an audience in Piscataway if you gave me all the land on either side of the Raritan. To have so many of you now follow, ask for, and praise my postgame columns every time I cover the Scarlet Knights is one of my greatest achievements, and I thought you should know that. If you build it, they will indeed come.
We also had to bid adieu to Joe Mihalich, a longtime supporter of the site who will be dearly and greatly missed the next time Vinny Simone and myself go to Hofstra. Eight years ago last weekend, I was in attendance for Joe’s introductory press conference and still remember telling Jerry Beach over a late afternoon breakfast in the coffee shop outside the Mineola LIRR station that his alma mater was in great hands even after the wounds of its nadir were still fresh and raw. Seven seasons and an unforgettable conference championship later, Mihalich vindicated everyone. Yes, Hofstra was denied the NCAA Tournament like everyone else in 2020, but the blessing in disguise here is that Joe Mihalich got to walk away a winner in an industry where very few can make that boast. And there are not many more deserving of that distinction.
My love is strong. With you, there is no wrong.
April 17 needs no explanation for the longtime followers in this space. If you’re new to the family, allow me to give a brief history.
It was on this date in 2009 that I had the foresight and the nothing-to-lose mindset behind creating this site in the event that a budding broadcast career was unable to get off the ground. Here I stand a dozen years later, blessed and privileged to be able to serve and expand both horizons with a constant desire to improve, to build on what already exists. And so, to all the newcomers, this post becomes an annual tradition on this date every year thereafter.
Together we shall go until we die.
All 12 years of this operation could not have been done alone. To all the administrators and sports information directors who went above and beyond in more ways than one this season for this site and its coverage, thank you. I’ll name you all individually, too: Steve Dombroski, Tom Chen, Jordan Ozer, Brian Beyrer, Jon Stanko, Kevin Ross, Hamilton Cook, Gary Kowal, Mike Ferraro, Mike Demos, Greg Ott, Jack Jones, Nick Solari, Matt Reitnour, Derick Thornton, Stephen Gorchov, Cam Boon, Joe DiBari, John Paquette, Taylor O’Connor, Bill Hanousek, and Rich Ensor. But in reality, everyone involved with college athletics, whether your programs got a mention here or not, deserves a token of my appreciation for making sure everyone had something to enjoy when there were many reasons to be miserable.
The same can be said of my staff. Bob Dea and Vinny Simone still occupy a place on the masthead even though both took some time off until things improved, and each will be welcomed back with open arms whenever they wish to return. Jason Guerette handled the New Jersey branch of the site admirably given the circumstances, Ray Floriani offered his own unique contributions at various points during the year, and I am proud to once again highlight the rookie in the room, Anthony Parelli. Anthony sent me a message shortly after the season started, asking if he could help with coverage of St. John’s, and was able to start right away. Since then, his postgame takeaways have become a staple of the site’s coverage and a well-received source of content, and I look forward to showcasing his platform to a wider audience in the years to come.
Again, it was by no means easy, but I appreciate every effort all of you made to help me pull through, and I hope I was able to do the same for you. As Steve Masiello said in the wake of Manhattan's season finale last month:
“Things have been a lot different this year for everyone. And still, they showed up every day, did the work, didn’t complain, didn’t say anything. They had great character, showed great character throughout. They were there on the front line every day doing the work, and I have a lot of respect for all the kids and student-athletes that sacrificed to play basketball this year and do something they love, so kudos to them.”
An inspiration’s what you are to me. Inspiration. Look, see.
I would be lying if I said you didn’t compel me to try my hand at different things. So many of you said I should look into podcasting, which I put off way too long because I didn’t know how to quite get that endeavor off the ground. I finally did that on January 1, and the reception there has been better and warmer than I could ever have imagined. A special shoutout goes to Erika Fernandez, a friend and exceptional journalist in her own right, for doing such a great job on her own podcast, which you can listen to by clicking the link (I appreciate you, hermana!), that got me to realize I would be able to reach people and make it sound good in the process.
In closing, that wraps up this site’s 12th trip around the sun, with many more on the way. I always welcome and encourage opportunities to join the family, and anyone interested in writing here needs simply to drop me a line or a DM. I don’t have the flexibility to pay yet, so I understand if that hangs you up, but if you’re looking to get experience or simply channel your passion and love for the game, there’s no better place to be.
I will also offer the same advice as I do every year when I conclude this address, a very simple set of requests:
May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, may the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. I’m always here if you need to talk — about basketball, about life, about anything — and if I can help you make this day or any other day better in any way, it means I’ve done something constructive.
And so today, my world, it smiles. Your hand in mine, we walk the miles.
I would not be here if not for all of you trusting, loving, and believing in me. Nor would I have as much enjoyment if I didn’t get to interact with all of you. Without you, there is no me. I say it every year, and I mean it every year. We’ve all been blessed to grow our love of the game and the strong relationships that have come from it. Let’s keep it that way.
Thank you for the past 12 years, and thank you for letting me know the best is still yet to come. Peace and blessings, and much love always.
Founder and Managing Editor