Patrick Massaroni understands March Madness.
The Archbishop Stepinac High School boys basketball coach lived through it as a student at Marist College in Poughkeepsie 15 years ago when the Marist women’s basketball team became the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men’s or women’s basketball program to reach the Sweet 16.
“It was awesome–they made it to the Sweet 16 and faced Tennessee and Pat Summit,” Massaroni told Catholic Sports Scene. “I actually went to the game. What it did for the school and the surrounding area is similar to St. Peter’s. Everyone knew who Marist was after that. This is why sports matter.”
Just like 15 years ago when college basketball fans were learning where Poughkeepsie is, fans are now learning of the Catholic university in Jersey City–the home of the MAAC champion and 15th seed St. Peter’s University men’s basketball team that will play third seed Purdue in tonight’s Sweet 16 East Regional game in Philadelphia.
“They have played as a team, really run their offense efficiently and have been able to defend at a high level,” Massaroni said of St. Peter’s success.
What follows for the Peacocks and head coach Shaheen Holloway may result in great future storylines. Marist appeared in nine consecutive NCAA tournaments (2006-2014) and won five NCAA games under head coach Brian Giorgis, who coached Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie to nine state championships and is the only New York State public high school coach to lead teams in four different sports to the state final four. He is believed to be the only NCAA Division I basketball coach to win over 400 games at both the high school and collegiate levels, and now has 451 wins at both levels.
You also wonder what the players will be doing years from now. What will be in the future of Jaylen Murray, who attended and played basketball at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx? Will Doug Edert follow in his uncle’s footsteps and be working for CBS at NCAA tournaments?
Julianne Viani, a member of the 2007 Marist team who played basketball for Giorgis at both Lourdes and Marist, is now a basketball analyst on television, serving in the role this week for CBS Sports at the NCAA Division II women’s basketball championships.
Massaroni will be watching tonight as will millions more cheering for St. Peter’s to continue its Cinderella run. Many of the viewers will be learning more about Jersey City, Holloway, Murray and Edert.
“They are the 15 seed and fans love upsets. Not only will they be watching but rooting for them,” said Massaroni.
Massaroni also will be viewing with some extra interest as the winner of tonight’s game will play either North Carolina–led by Stepinac graduate RJ Davis–or UCLA in the Elite Eight.
Two former CHSAA guards–Davis and Murray–going up against one another with a trip to the Final Four on the line would make for another great March Madness story.
“Do they have a 7-foot-3 starting center and a Big Ten, All-League sixth man–no, but what they have is confidence, a team that believes they can win and it should be a great game Friday night,” said Massaroni of St. Peter’s.