Last call for a legend
Posted March 13, 2014
Updated March 14, 2014
For the record, Boris Bojonovsky, a 7-foot-3 center from Slovakia, officially flushed Maryland out of the Atlantic Coast Conference with 0:00.4 seconds left in Florida State's 67-65 second round tournament victory. With that, the 61-year basketball run for the Terrapins in the ACC came to a close.
Say what you will about their fans boorish behavior. Say what you want about the chip on former coach Gary Williams' shoulder about being stuck in "Alaska." Think what you want about an athletic department that has fallen on hard economic times over the last few years. The imminent move to the Big Ten conference is a sad development, not only for the culture and tradition of the University of Maryland, but a difficult pill to swallow for those that love and cherish the history of the ACC.
Maryland's emergence as an eastern power in the 1970s under Lefty Driesell was an enormous part of the elevation of the ACC to the premiere college basketball league in the country. The battles between the Terrapins and NC State were legendary with Elmore, McMillan and Lucas going toe to toe with Thompson, Burleson and Towe. There was Buck Williams, Albert King and Len Bias in the 80s, Joe Smith and Steve Francis in the 90s, then Juan Dixon, Steve Blake and company won it all for Gary Williams just after the turn of the last century.
That's gone and it isn't coming back.
College basketball doesn't do nostalgia anymore. Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Louisville have their own history and it has nothing to do with the ACC. What's coming are big games and great events -- providing the conference does the scheduling aspect correctly -- but we're decades away from any meaningful history being established.
Another loss for the league also packed up his bags and trudged out the doors of the Greensboro Coliseum Thursday afternoon. A 76-year old former disc jockey whose work is featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Johnny Holliday has been the voice of the Terrapins since 1979. We're a league that reveres, almost deifies those voices. We did with Woody Durham in Chapel Hill, we do with Bob Harris in Durham and Holliday takes a back seat to no one when it comes to connecting with fans and being associated with the program.
He's gone. Along with the school for which he broadcasts, he's off to the Big Ten, taking his voice and his generosity with him.
In 1988, with the Terrapins heading to the NCAA Tournament's Southeast Regional in Cincinnati, WMUC radio, the student station was wondering if they'd be able to afford the trip. Having covered the basketball team all through the regular season and ACC tournament there just wasn't enough money in the budget to secure everything necessary to pull it off. We were still trying to figure out how to make the trip possible when then coach Bob Wade held his pre-NCAA press conference at Cole Field House. It was that Monday when Holliday asked us when we planned on leaving for the Queen City. When we told him we weren't sure we were going to be able to make it, there was no hesitation.
Holliday reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and handed us enough cash to cover the necessary costs of broadcasting the tournament. Johnny said that we had to experience calling an NCAA tournament game, that we would never forget the feeling in the arena. He was right. He also didn't have to reach into his own pocket to make it happen. He could have lobbied the athletic department to cover the expenses. He could have asked a sponsor.
It was one of the most generous and selfless acts of kindness I've ever experienced in my career -- heck, I wasn't even having a career at that time. To this day, I have no real recollection as to the amount. I'm sure that every time I tell the story the gift goes up about 10%. It doesn't matter. Again, there was no hesitation.
They say it's not the gift that matters, it's the thought that counts. Well, the thought of Johnny Holliday never gracing the ACC tournament with his presence again is a thought I'd rather not let linger. Maryland will definitely be missed, but Louisville will fill their spot in the standings.
People the likes of Johnny Holliday will be never be replaced. In this regard, the Big Ten is the big winner.