Roy, Mac and the moment
Posted March 31, 2016
Updated April 1, 2016
The moment you knew you'd found the one you'd end up marrying.
The moment you knew everything would be okay.
The moment you knew life would never be the same.
Those existence-altering instances which shake you to the very fabric of your core don't come around but maybe a small handful of times. This weekend's Final Four in Houston reunites two of the people who shaped my moment: University of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and Syracuse University assistant Gerry McNamara.
On Saturday, Williams will look to guide his Tar Heels one step closer to a national title. McNamara will be helping to devise a game plan to stop the lone one seed still two-stepping in the big dance. Way back, some 13 years ago, they sat on different sides in different roles.
On April 7, 2003, Roy Williams was about to coach the last of his 519 games at Kansas University. Gerry McNamara was a baby-faced, long-range bomber from Scranton, Pa., (my hometown) thrust into a starting role alongside another freshman who went on to become the third overall pick in the NBA Draft, Carmelo Anthony.
The player affectionately referred to as "G-Mac" in upstate New York would nail six three-pointers, all in the first half. Williams' dynamic duo of Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison sparked a furious comeback before the Jayhawks fell 81-78 in the 2003 NCAA national championship Game.
As a soon-to-be Syracuse University graduate, I can assure you first-hand of the madness that descended on campus as my alma mater claimed its first college hoops crown. As a student and fervent sports fan, that's as good as it gets, right? Well, indeed it's nothing short of anarchy. Oddly enough, anarchy sometimes comes with a sense of order.
For the first few minutes following Hakim Warrick's outstretched block of a potential game-tying three-pointer and Hinrich's ensuing desperation miss, all stayed silent on center campus. Then it hit: Chaos. In waves. Like a herd of stampeding buffalo, the students marched from the nearby Carrier Dome to Marshall Street to indulge in the ecstasy, the spoils to the victors of March Madness. Some of the guys had abandoned their shirts, which is never a good idea in Syracuse given its tendency to snow even on graduation day.
I know this because I witnessed it, not as an on-looker, but as a photographer. As a senior broadcast journalism major, my first inclination when Mac and friends ran out the clock on Roy's Hawks wasn't to join the celebration but to document it.
I grabbed my S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication-issued equipment and bolted from my off-campus apartment to ground zero, in anticipation of the explosion of emotions.
And right then and there, that was my moment. My reality-shifting moment. The point in which I knew I made the indisputable right call in terms of my career choice. Without hesitation, my instinct was to "be a photojournalist" in lieu of "be an hysterically jubilant senior for a now-national champion school."
Thirteen years later, what I do continues to be my passion. As many of us in this field can attest to, what we do isn't a "job" or even a "career," it's a "lifestyle." And for that, I thank you Coach Williams, and I thank you Coach McNamara. In some small way, in one moment in time, you both helped shape who I am as a professional.
Currently listening to: BISHOP - "River." One listen. That's how many spins it took for me to start joining along with the chorus while blaring at high volumes down I-5 last week in Anaheim. I'm all-in on this, and I hope it's just the start for this Los Angeles-based angel-voice.