In the Garden

Every hoopster dreams of stepping on this court. These four did it.

For the first time in 20 years, and only the third time in program history[1], the men’s basketball team returns to Madison Square Garden. As Monmouth gears up for its Dec. 9 showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats in New York City, we asked some Hawks who’ve been there what it’s like to play in “the world’s greatest arena.”

Will Lewis ’92 » Forward

The smell of the place still sticks out in my mind. The Garden hosted a lot of circuses back then, so maybe one had just been in town, but the place smelled like—the zoo. I wasn’t the only one who noticed it, either.

I was born and raised in the Bronx, and I’m a huge Knicks fan, so it was exciting to play there. We played in some big places around the country, but the Garden is unique. It’s definitely the greatest arena on Earth—there have been so many great sporting events, and concerts and shows there. We didn’t take it for granted where we were playing. I’m a middle school counselor in the Bronx public school system these days, and I still tell my kids about when I played there. They get a kick out of that.

It makes me proud as an alumnus to see how far this program has come. I’ll be there in December cheering as loud as I can. And the fact that we’re going against an opponent like Kentucky? It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Dave Calloway ’91, ’95M
Calloway was a guard on the 1990–91 team and an assistant coach for the 1996–97 team.

There were maybe a couple thousand people in the stands for our games at the Garden. And for me, the atmosphere and the people always mattered more than the building. We had some great games in Boylan, and those memories come back to me before the games at the Garden. When we played at Duke, and the Cameron Crazies were going nuts—that was a great atmosphere. It’s the excitement that the students and the fans bring that make a place stand out. That’s what this year’s team will experience in December. The Garden will be packed for the Monmouth-Kentucky game. And I think that experience is going to pretty special for the players.

But the mystique of the Garden? That’s definitely there. I don’t know if I noticed it at the time, but playing there was one of the great things that happened to me at Monmouth.

If you really want to talk about how far the program has come, it’s who they’re playing more than where. Even if they lose to Kentucky, people will be talking about the game for awhile. They already are. And if they beat Kentucky? You’re talking a whole new level of visibility.

 

Jeff Franklin ’97 » Guard
At practice one day the coaches told us we’d be playing there. I almost fainted. I had grown up in Brooklyn, when public schools played the city championship at the Garden. But I went to Taber Academy in Massachusetts and missed out on that. Getting to play in the Garden was a dream come true.

The game experience didn’t meet expectations, unfortunately. We were the better team but came out flat. That was a home game for us, and we normally lived off the excitement of our crowd. The place felt empty that day.

But the experience of seeing the Garden—seeing the posters of former Knicks, of being in the locker room and on the floor—that was mind blowing. I was in awe when I walked on that court. I sat on the Knicks bench and looked around the place, trying to think what it must be like to play in front of 19,000 people, all of them screaming and yelling. Shooting at those baskets gave me chills. It was exciting. I just wish I’d had a cell phone at the time to take some pictures.

 

Corey Albano ’97 » Forward
I remember being on the bus as it sat in city traffic, and looking out at how alive Manhattan was, and thinking, I’m going to play basketball in Madison Square Garden. It was surreal. During the pregame shootaround, I think I was looking around more than shooting, taking it all in. I can’t speak for everybody, but for a few people it seemed there was a sense of, Wow, we’re playing in the Mecca of basketball.

I played in Europe for 13 years after graduating, and saw some iconic buildings over there. But it wasn’t the same as being in Madison Square Garden. Until this day, it is one of the coolest places I ever played.

To hear Monmouth in the same sentence as Kentucky shows how much the program has grown. I couldn’t be prouder. A Hawks win that day would be so great. It would definitely take the program to the next level.

Photo: Emmanuel Milou/Wikimedia

Footnotes

  1. According to TiVo, Patrick’s “Enhancement” commercial for GoDaddy.com was the most watched commercial during the 2009 Super Bowl.
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