Walking out of men's basketball banquets in the past, I've usually been left with the impression the banquet itself mirrored the personality of the team it celebrated in general and the seniors it honored in particular.
This year was no exception, and perhaps was the strongest example of that trend. Rob Kurz has always been a get-it-done, humble person who prefers the accolades to be aimed at his team rather than himself. Although from a technical perspective, this was among the most "advanced" hoops banquets I'd attended (multiple screens, good video production), the atmosphere was that of, for lack of a better phrase, a simple celebration of a group of players who have shown since August they like nothing better than each other's company.
Schedule conflicts meant I'd missed the last two banquets, so it's possible what I saw last night has been done before. But the sense of community on the team was unmistakable, with, as Jimmy Durante might have said, everybody wanting to get into the act. The individual awards were given away by the assistant coaches, including Gene Cross, who got emotional in his goodbye to Irish basketball. Rob Kurz spent his entire speech talking about everyone but himself. It seems everyone's response to a congratulations was "But did you see what [teammate] did?"
All that humility, however, was impregnated with what Sean Kearney described in a player as an "infectious enthusiasm". This "infectiasm", as I've dubbed it, applied to more than that player. Dr. Kevin White was more animated in his remarks than I've ever seen him at an ND function, commending the team for its accomplishments and expressing excitement at what next season may hold. ND president Fr. John Jenkins, who delayed his trip to see the Pontiff to make sure he'd have a chance to address this team, talked about the pride these young men should feel in themselves and we should feel in them, not only for what they've done but for what they're going to do.
This infectiasm is welcomed, because when a team accomplishes as much as this one has, it deserves the enthusiasm of its leaders and fans. Two straight seasons with no home losses, which hasn't happened since the 1940s, and a home court consecutive win record on the verge of falling. The third-most number of wins in a season in Notre Dame history, second in the modern era behind the 26-3 1973-74 squad. 18 Big East home wins in a row, which has only been bested by one team in the 30-year history of the conference, in an era where the Big East is among the (if not the) best conferences in the country. A two-time Big East Coach of the Year, and a sophomore Player of the Year. A second-place finish in the conference, and the best record in the conference since that disastrous 1-8 start two seasons ago.
Humble or not, this team and these coaches have a lot to be proud of, and it was good to see others taking pride in them.
Of course, it wouldn't be a basketball post from me without facilities comments.
I was disappointed last night arriving at the event to see no pictures or other renderings being displayed. Given that we're on the cusp of the nape of the precipice of the edge of getting started on this project, I would think they'd be all about showing off the plans.
My disappointment faded, though, as Associate AD Bill Scholl took to the mic to talk about the plans and what fans can expect.
(As an aside, this was a perfect example of the some-people-can't-joke-about-some-things philosophy. When former player and Monogram Club prez Marc Kelly joked that team orthopod Fred Ferlic had been with Notre Dame "since before we started fixing these seats with duct tape", it got a good laugh. When Bill Scholl talked about duct tape companies going out of business as a result of these renovations, on the other hand, a lot more silence. Players and fans can joke about the tape. Admins, on whose shoulders the responsibility rests to make the tape unnecessary, should not, especially with these upgrades as late as they are)
The presentation had plenty of pictures, including an alternate view of this shot. The new atrium has changed a bit from the original design, and meshes with the football stadium. The new area will be built out to the south of the JC, and seems to include a single entrance. The seats will be brought right to courtside, although Scholl didn't mention if students would be in those seats or not, and every seat will be a navy blue chairback.
My objections to the priorities of this project remain -- I'll happily remain in my bleacher seat if there were more in this effort that directly benefitted the student athletes. But hopefully that's to come, and if the pictures they showed last night come to fruition, Purcell Pavilion certainly will be a cleaner, nicer-looking place to watch a game.