Howard Herman: Recalling Williams' championship team of 10 years ago
There are 17 banners hanging on the wall of the Salem Civic Center in Virginia, symbolizing the teams that have won NCAA Division III national championships on that floor.
One of those banners belongs to Williams. This is a milestone year in the history of that team.
It was 10 years ago Saturday that coach Dave Paulsen brought his Williams team to Virginia and beat Gustavus-Adolphus to claim the first NCAA basketball championship in school history.
"It's hard to believe it was that long ago," said former Eph Drew DeMuth, whose put-back at the buzzer in overtime beat the College of Wooster and sent the Ephs into the national championship game.
Mike Crotty was the point guard for the championship team.
"It feels like yesterday, certainly to us. We've come back [to Williamstown] a lot to watch a lot of games, to come back and play golf and have a lot of fun," said Crotty. "It doesn't feel like 10 years. To come back into [Chandler Gym], it feels like yesterday."
Crotty and some of his Williams teammates were honored last month to note the 10th anniversary of that national championship team.
It was a group of players that lost only once -- a 67-61 decision to Amherst in the regular-season conference game. That gave the Lord Jeffs home court for the NESCAC tournament, and Williams not only won that game, but also beat the Lord Jeffs in the Elite Eight game at Chandler to earn the right to play in the Final Four.
There are a ton of banners hanging in the Williams facility, but only the one basketball national championship banner.
"They moved it. That's the first thing that came to my mind," said Crotty, when I asked him what was the first thing he thought of when he looked for the national championship banner.
Crotty was the point guard on Paulsen's team and was the vocal leader of the team. That squad had a New England player of the year in junior center Ben Coffin -- who was also the Final Four's most outstanding player. Paulsen, now the head coach at Division I Bucknell, was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches Division III coach of the year.
When it comes to looking back on a season 10 years ago, different players have different ideas as to when they thought the season might become special. For Crotty, it came with a pair of December wins on the far side of the moon -- really known as an upstate New York run through St. Lawrence and Clarkson.
"We got two really big wins very far away from home against two quality teams," said Crotty. "We still didn't have one of our key players back. Tim Folan was injured.
"At that time, I started thinking we really defend and we really have a bunch of guys who can make shots. We've got something good going on here."
Folan not only came back to play, but he scored 9 of Williams' last 12 points to beat Gustavus Adolphus 67-65 in the title game.
Chuck Abba, Crotty's running mate in the backcourt, works with him for Daley & Associates in Boston.
"It's great memories and it's the friendships we built," Abba said of seeing the banner. "That was one of the most rewarding things. The championship was unbelievable. We have friendships for life. That's something you can't put a price on."
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.
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