All across the college basketball landscape this weekend, schools were hosting their final regular season games of the year. Which means that Senior Day/Night was taking place.
It’s the day when the graduating seniors are honored before the game with a quick ceremony, a few nice words, a framed something-or-other and then the game starts. Usually, but not always, the seniors all get a chance to start. If their normal seat during the game is nearer the end of the bench than the front, they usually don’t play much, but enough to make Mom and Dad and the folks back home proud.
And then there are the walk-ons. Even though they haven’t been on scholarship, they have gone through four years on the team and rarely get a chance to play. When they do, it’s in the final minute of a 40-point blowout of Directional State University, when the coach instructs everyone to dribble out the clock.
But on Senior Day/Night, they are typically afforded the same treatment as any other senior.
(Time for full disclosure. Eleven years ago, my son completed his four-year career as a walk-on at Louisiana Tech. So I continue to have an interest in the welfare of the basketball walk-on, as you will see.)
Now, if it’s Duke vs. North Carolina and the conference championship is on the line, it might be a little much to expect a a walk-on to go trotting out there for the opening tip.
But believe me, the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game was anything but. These two teams were literally playing for last place in the ACC Saturday. Panthers’ coach Jeff Capel sent out 5-foot-10 walk-on Joe Mascaro for the starting lineup. Joe had played all of six minutes all year and not a second since Christmas.
The Irish won the opening tip and promptly knocked the ball out of bounds. Substitution! Off to the end of the bench went Mascaro.
He barely got 15 seconds of fame, much less 15 minutes. And he never even got a chance to dribble or pass, much less shoot.
Come on. What difference would it make if Mascaro could at least break a sweat?
One thing I heard a long time ago, is that no matter what, coaches are always mindful of one thing — their obituary. When they die and their final record is posted for all the world to see, it won’t reflect whether the games were meaningless or not. So don’t expect them to put anything at risk to jeopardize that.
After the game, everyone thought it was great the Mascaro got the start and spent less time in action than Usain Bolt in the Olympics.
And the best news of all — Pittsburgh won by three points and is seeded #14 in the ACC tournament instead of #15! Glad those few seconds of playing time for a walk-on didn’t ruin it.