Monday, November 21, 2005

The Flynn Era Looks Different

It officially began at 7:02 p.m. according to the clock beamed into my cell phone by the folks at Verizon. It really began with about 2:32 left in the first half of McDaniel's season opener with Frostburg, which was played out in the tight confines of Goldfarb Gymnasium at Johns Hopkins. It might be the most important 2:32 seconds of basketball played by the Terror men in a pair of decades.

Trailing by 13, the McDaniel College men's basketball team stepped out of character -- a character now older than the majority of the roster. Instead of saying, "here we go again," the team decided it was time to get going.

McDaniel embarked on a 9-0 run down to the buzzer. Josh McKay, Chris Prior, and Chris Rutland supplied the answer McDaniel has long needed in the form of points, and more importantly, the undaunted team supplied play with a purpose, thus beginning the Bob Flynn era.

The Terror kicked off the season with a win in a tournament. That was nothing new for McDaniel. But a second win followed a tough loss to a tough Hopkins team. That second win was McDaniel's first defeat of Washington College since 1993, and the Terror wrapped up third place in the eight-team Pride of Maryland Tournament with a 2-1 start.

That record marks the best start for a McDaniel men's team since the 2001-2002 season, before any of the current players were on the roster. None of the current players need to look any further than the newest coach on the staff, Sam Anstead, to find out how that season ended up. After beginning the season at 2-0 and winning three of the first four, McDaniel went 3-18 the rest of the way.

As the cliche goes, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. If you're McDaniel, its about what you do between now and the finish line that will continue to set the tone for the future of this beleaguered program.

The reality of the situation is that nothing about this team resembles that '01-'02 team. This version of the Terror is most assuredly going to get its wins under the senior leadership of Chris Rutland and Mike Dipiero, but it is going to take its share of lumps as well.

The promise of McKay's soft touch on a previously undisclosed long-range shot, the confidence of Ryan Finch's pinpoint and timely shooting, and the raw excitement supplied by Chad Arrington's energetic and explosive play will combine with the hustle and personality imbued on the team by the leadership and court vision of Dipero and Rutland to make McDaniel a formidable foe right now. That should make the final tally of wins and losses far more favorable than the single digit and teen record McDaniel fans have begrudgingly grown accustomed to.

Away from the wins and losses columns, the much talked about and statistically immeasureable moral victory was in the fight. Over-matched and trailing Johns Hopkins, a team that has been bandied about in Centennial Conference Championship talk, the Terror drained three after three in a desperate comeback bid that may have been successful if the game was a few minutes longer. It wasn't, but the next two assured meetings should be interesting.

The determination in that bid was matched only by the calm demeanor up and down the floor, and up and down the bench. The Terror never got wide-eyed by the double-digit leads it faced in two games this weekend. The panic button that used to be pressed pretty quickly was never even considered. They just kept coming.

And a couple of years from now, when McDaniel's name is tossed around with Franklin & Marshall, Johns Hopkins, Ursinus, and Gettysburg in playoff talk, think back to 7:02 on Friday, November 18, 2005, and about the events that transpired about a half-an-hour later in Goldfarb, because you can't get to where you are going without the first step. The Terror took a big one that night in a span of 2:32, it didn't quit.