HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – A day that should have been a celebration was filled with missed opportunities all the way around for the Hofstra men’s basketball program on Saturday.
Already failing to capitalize on recognizing the ten-year anniversary of the arena in which they play, the Pride came up just short in a heartbreaking 48-47 loss against Colonial Athletic Association conference rival William & Mary (10-2, 2-0 CAA), which entered the game ranked sixth in the national RPI.
Sophomore guard Kendrix Brown, who hadn’t scored a point all game, made a game-winning, conventional three-point play with 16.9 seconds left, to give the Tribe its only lead of the day, and as a consequence, its school-record tenth straight win after starting the season with a pair of losses.
“We gave away a wonderful opportunity,” said Hofstra head coach Tom Pecora. “We had a chance, we talked before the game, they’re the number five [actually six] RPI team in the country. We get them in our gym… I think they just out-toughed us down the stretch.”
He added, “I talk to [my team] all the time about their legacy. This would have been an opportunity to leave a mark in the history books by beating a team as highly [rated in the RPI] as William & Mary.”
It also would have been a good chance for Hofstra to acknowledge a significant moment in its program history, but the school chose not to, instead, going along with a general rule that most college basketball programs follow — waiting to celebrate an arena’s 25th or 50th anniversaries.
Like the loss to William & Mary, however, Hofstra (8-6, 1-1 CAA) missed a golden opportunity in that regard.
The game was played on the tenth anniversary that The Mack Sports Complex (formerly Hofstra Arena) opened, on January 2, 2000. Back then, it was former Hofstra great, NBA champion and first draft round pick, Speedy Claxton who led all scorers with 19 points in a 74-46 Hofstra win over America East rival Boston University to christen the arena in which Hofstra has played ever since.
“It’s The House That Speedy Built,” Pecora, Claxton’s former assistant coach, said of the building. He added of Claxton, “He was the guy that gave us some credibility and he was the guy that put us back on the map after a long stretch, from… 1977, when [Hofstra] went to [its] last NCAA tournament. Speedy Claxton is the greatest player in our school’s history… the way he made plays that helped us win games and helped us win championships in high pressure situations is what separates him from the rest.”
So, when I ran into Claxton before the game, and when I saw Claxton’s former Hofstra teammate Jason Hernandez, sitting courtside, five seats to my left, I naturally assumed that Hofstra had brought them back to honor the tenth birthday of the arena which is now affectionately called “The Mack.”
But, nope. Neither of them had been told of the anniversary. They were both in attendance purely by coincidence. Hernandez was running a clinic nearby, and when I reminded Claxton of him leading Hofstra to that win over Boston University in 2000, he began to recall it but said that was the first time anyone had mentioned the arena’s anniversary to him.
Perhaps I’m making too much of the milestone when a ten-year anniversary of a college basketball arena is not something that’s usually celebrated. But, to completely ignore the occasion, was probably not the wisest of moves for a university that dropped it’s 72-year-old football program just 30 days earlier, on December 3rd, citing lack of fan support.
The attendance at that first game in the arena ten years ago was 2,958, a little more than half of the arena’s capacity. Attendance has on average, remained at roughly that amount ever since. On Saturday, it was around the same again, with 3,132 fans in attendance.
And, considering Hofstra’s roots, this shouldn’t have been any ordinary ten-year anniversary.