Thanks, Coach D
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I would like to thank Coach Matt Doherty and the men's Irish basketball team for making the JACC an exciting and feared place to play college hoops once again. More importantly to Coach Doherty, who has rejuvenated the basketball following on this campus almost single handedly.
As a native of Kansas, I have always been a huge Kansas Jayhawks fan, and have been lucky enough to see some great games at KU's Allen Field House ... in my opinion one of the loudest and craziest places in all of college sports. At Allen Field House there are times when you can't hear yourself yelling, the opposing team is constantly heckled and free throws by the opposition are disrupted in a creative and entertaining manner.
So you can imagine my dismay when I watched my first Notre Dame basketball game in 1996. I quickly found that the following for football wasn't very interested in cheering for the basketball team as well. The JACC was so quiet that you could hear someone fart from the opposite side of the arena. The greatest entertainment was watching Marcus Young shoot free throws between his legs! But as a college hoops die hard, I went to all the home games and dreamed of seeing the JACC packed full of people someday. In the two years following, my hopes faded. The fan following wasn't there, the heckling was mostly toward our players and three or four people waving their hands behind the basket just isn't very disruptive.
Enter Matt Doherty. As a Kansas fan who had previously met Doherty at summer basketball camps, my hopes for Notre Dame basketball immediately rose. Although I was hopeful for a packed JACC, I would have never thought that my dream of seeing it as it was last Saturday could have ever occurred. The crowd was amazing, the excitement was back, and the JACC was as loud as Allen Field House without a doubt. I saw hands waving on free throws, I heard the heckles at El-Amin, Voskuhl and Calhoun (OK, so they were a bit rude, but we have a lot of frustration to release) and the loud cheering when Notre Dame defended certainly added a boost in the final minutes as we held the lead.
The following for Notre Dame basketball can be directly attributed to Coach Doherty's dedication to the Notre Dame community and getting the student body involved. His emotion and superb coaching in big games have given us something to cheer about. As a senior who suffered through four mediocre football seasons, the Connecticut game almost made up for that in two short hours. Sure it isn't a national championship, but what I witnessed on Saturday was a level of excitement for Notre Dame basketball, that I, and I'm sure many others, nearly thought impossible for this year. The JACC was packed and Notre Dame will be a great basketball school once again (especially considering that Doherty's recruiting is as good as his coaching).
In a post game interview, Doherty said that he was embarrassed about being lifted up on the students' shoulders after the game and that the team deserved it more than he did. I disagree. While the team played great, I believe that Doherty's great coaching and emotion has driven this team to the level it's playing at right now. He deserved to be up there on our shoulders.
So keep coming out, and as Coach D salutes the student body after another win next week against Providence, salute him back to say thanks for the remarkable turnaround of our basketball program. He made it happen faster than many of us could have imagined.
Thanks Coach D.
All Inside Stories for Thursday, February 17, 2000