The NCAA tournament in March 2008 was so thrilling for us Davidson people, so consuming, so galvanizing, that it was next to impossible to not think grandiose thoughts. So now this is how it’s going to be.
Davidson hasn’t been back since.
The team the next year lost in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament, because that’s what sometimes happens, even with someone like Stephen Curry on the roster. The team the year after that won 16 games. Last year’s team won 18.
The other day in the Charlotte Observer, longtime Davidson coach Bob McKillop quoted English poet Robert Browning.
“You only have a few times in your life to grab the golden ring. In the aftermath of Stephen’s experience here, grabbing it again was going to be difficult,” the coach said. “Browning said a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s heaven for? I’m always reaching and grabbing, looking, because it’s the only way to get where you want go.”
This year, the Wildcats had won 20 already by Saturday when they faced a very good Wichita State team in one of the weekend’s bracketbuster games. It was broadcast on ESPN2. It made me miss my school.
I don’t really know the kids on this team, but I feel like I do, because I know where they go to class, and I know their professors and their coaches. They played hard Saturday, but in the end, it was pretty clear the better team won.
The story of Davidson basketball, I once wrote, is “the chase of the chance,” and that shot by Jason Richards against Kansas on March 30, 2008, which would have put Davidson in the Final Four (!), was that chance in concentrated form. The moment was so full of possibility it was almost hard to watch.
March 2008? It was awesome. But 16 wins then 18 wins then 20? That’s somehow more authentic. More instructive. Davidson’s run in retrospect is a reminder: It’s not about the ring. It’s about the reach. Chances come and go. The chase doesn’t stop.