THINGS ARE GOOD AT CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE

Posted In Blog, News - By Chris Jollay On Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 With 0 Comments


"Mason is DOOMED!"

“Mason is DOOMED!”

When you’re off to camp, you’re not all that eager to hear what guys like Ralph have to say. “Doomed, I tells ya!” they usually shout. “You’re all DOOMED!” But if you’re a counselor headed to camp a week early, with a pretty good chance you’re going to have wild, promiscuous sex before the kids even arrive there a week later–well, you’re still going to go.

On masonhoops.com and previously caazone.com we had our own versions of Ralph when Tom O’Connor decided to hire Paul Hewitt as coach back in April 2011. “Doomed,” they shouted. “Hewitt will bring a curse to Fairfax–the curse of mediocrity! We’re all DOOMED!” They sure did love to say the word “doomed.”

Generally we didn’t listen to many of them. Like Ralph, many of them had reputations for being alcoholics and town drunks. I didn’t pay them much mind–I myself was off on my honeymoon for what I thought were some wild sexual encounters of my own. My comment on Hewitt as I was besieged by media as I boarded a plane at Dulles for a Mexican resort? “In Tom we trust,” I stated.

I should have listened to Ralph. Things are a mess here now in Fairfax and the sex is almost non-existent (for me, anyway). Are we cursed here at Camp Crystal Lake? It’s too early to say, but there’s no doubt mediocrity has indeed reared its ugly head here. And a cloud of dread has settled overhead as we get ready to play our first A-10 game at VCU Thursday.

In my prior two columns I wrote that finishing eighth or worse in the A-10 with a senior-laden roster would be a disappointment. I then wrote, after a nice win against Rhode Island at Patriot Center left us 5-2, if we could go 5-2 again to close out the non-conference slate at 10-4 we would be in very good shape. Especially since Hewitt and company did put together a fairly nice non-conference slate. We’d still have a reasonable chance at an NCAA or an NIT bid then, even by only going 9-7 in conference.

Well, then the wheels pretty much came off the bus. There was the epic collapse at home to South Florida. We weren’t even competitive versus Oklahoma at Verizon. We got a nice win over St. Mary’s (CA) in Hawaii–in the seventh place game and after blowing a late lead versus Oregon State. We beat lowly Penn at home by three–after trailing at halftime and almost blowing an 11-point lead with under three minutes to play. And then we lost on the road to 5-9 ODU in a game where we trailed by 11 at halftime for some strange reason.

That excitement we felt entering our first season of A-10 play has been replaced with Club Dread. Now an NCAA or NIT berth is impossible barring winning the conference tournament or regular season (possibly by finishing second or third). And we have to open up at VCU, where we rarely win. The Rams crushed the team we just lost to, ODU, by 21 earlier this year incidentally. Excitement is waning as we all face up to the possibility that our basketball team is going to be brutally murdered in A-10 play. Where I once considered an eighth place finish heading into the year disappointing, now I would consider such a finish marked improvement.

Until now my assessments of Hewitt have been mixed. I’ve felt his team, motivational and program-building skills have paled in comparison to Mr. Larranaga’s (admittedly, Jim is one of the best in the business in those regards), but I’ve been generally happy with his recruiting and (generally) his overall strategies. Plus I believe in the last year he’s shown more fire on the bench, which I appreciate.

Unfortunately Hewitt got to Ralph (patriotfan49) in year #2.

Unfortunately Hewitt got to Ralph (patriotfan49) in year #2.

But the Penn game firmly put me on the side of the Hewitt detractors. I realize we’ve had trouble playing Hewitt’s style of switching man-to-man all year, but a team with our kind of athleticism has no business sitting back in a 2-3 zone against an Ivy League team, which Hewitt did in the first half. His end-of-game rotations blew my mind when we almost lost an 11-point lead against a team with two wins. I won’t go too much into that except to say you’re allowed to play four guards in those end of game situations, Paul. Also Johnny Williams didn’t have to go back in after missing his first two free throws, and you certainly didn’t have to ask Okoloji to enter the game in that situation after he hadn’t played the entire game. Thank God Anali said he wasn’t ready.

Would that I could apologize to Ralph for not taking him seriously all those years ago (just under three). Ralph is dead, and Hewitt is on a killing spree in Fairfax, butchering all that we Mason basketball fans hold dear. There’s little we can do about it. Mason signed him to a five-movie deal back in 2011. There’s still time for us to turn things around, certainly, and beating VCU or UMass or some of these other good A-10 teams would provide optimism. Certainly winning the conference tournament after the start of this year would earn Paul God-like status amongst our fans for a good while.

But as we all know, Hewitt doesn’t take Manhattan (Brooklyn) until his eighth movie. And I ain’t got the patience to wait that long.

R.I.P, Ralph. We were wrong to laugh at you.

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About - My name is Chris Jollay. I like George Mason so I went to college there in the 1990's. I majored in History there and built the pond outside the arts center. One time I was on the news for being homeless and another time I got to meet Mikey the Chimp. I like my two dogs, "Patrick" and "Holloway" very much but I don't like most people from VCU very much at all.

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