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A chance to say goodbye.

It is Friday morning in Tampa and I find myself waking up still genuinely moved by Sydney Johnson's gesture after Princeton's loss to Kentucky.

Johnson allowed his team a chance to say goodbye publicly to their fans. Now it is your opportunity to return the favor. Either in the comments below or via email feel free to send a message for Bobby Foley, Dan Mavraides and Kareem Maddox.

I'll make sure they are delivered to the basketball staff next week.

Jon Solomon

Matt Walter said,

March 18, 2011 @ 10:41 am

Thank you Bobby, Dan and Kareem! Not just for bringing Princeton basketball back to prominence in the Ivy League. Not just for getting us back to the NCAA tournament. Not just for showing that our program can go toe to toe with a program like Kentucky, outrebound a program like Kentucky and play an up-tempo, physical, second-half five point lead, down-to-the-wire game against a program like Kentucky. But thank you for demonstrating how to do it with such class, pride, commitment to excellence, competitive spirit, and understanding of expectations and how one rises to meet them. May you always live life so.

Coco said,

March 18, 2011 @ 11:09 am

As a season ticket holder for more than 20 years, I have had the privilege to enjoy that thing of beauty known as Princeton basketball.

Like a long suffering Cubs fan, I have anguished over March Madness hoping against hope that this time, this year, this game, the shots will fall, the stops will come, that one additional free throw will find the mark, and for that One Shining Moment, the rest of the world can begin to appreciate what is so very special about Princeton basketball. It is character, dedication, hard work, crafty execution, tenacity, a commitment to one another and a tradition that transcends athletic scholarships or way stations to the NBA.

With this team we have once again witnessed group of young men, coming together to battle against all odds and achieve success on so many levels. Yes, they are co-champions of the league. Yes, they miraculously won the Ivy playoff. And yesterday, they fought a good fight, on their terms, and proved once again that they won't back down.

Did they win the game? The record book will show a two point loss. Out in Vegas, many a bookie is smiling because KY came nowhere near covering the spread. So they'd tell you Princeton came up big. And those of us with Orange and Black in our hearts wholeheartedly agree.

Did we play a perfect game? No, I am sure that everyone who stepped on the court would love to have one shot back again, to have moved just a little quicker on defense or thrown that one pass a split second sooner. One more three, one more layup. Please! Did you play with heart, fearlessness, and confidence? You bet.

But more than that, as those who are familiar with the team know, this team also took a young man nicknamed Crunch under its wing, and made him part of their extended family. The statisticians and record books will record the wins and losses, the points scored, the defensive statistics, the assists. But those same records will not begin to show how this team adopted Chris and all are truly better for that relationship.

To the seniors, Dan, Kareem, and Bobby, our sincerest appreciation for not only turning the tide, but bringing Princeton basketball back where we want to be every season. Towards the end of 06-07 season, I feared that it might take as many as ten years for this to occur. Thanks to your play, dedication, and leadership, we are years ahead of schedule.

For those returning players, much is expected. Harvard "believes that they will win." Penn always wants to beat Princeton (and vice versa. Ask Scott Greenman and Justin Conway). And as your trip to Providence last month showed, there are no easy wins anywhere in the Ivy League.

An Irish philosopher once said, "The rest of your life begins right now." But there never has been enough time for the library during the season, so enjoy those extra hours and get cracking on your coursework. In a few weeks, spring will burst full bloom on campus, and you will be able to enjoy its singular beauty and amazing people all the more.

Sydney won't be holding practice tomorrow, and there will be no film to break down for a little while. For the coaches, give your families a big hug, spend some quality time with them, be "normal" for a little while. Already we are looking for the Class of 20XX, hoping against hope that there will be another Dan Mavraides, Kareem Maddox, or Bobby Foley out there who wants to accept the challenge and become part of the next generation of Princeton basketball.

For the underclassmen-- and the incoming recruits-- by April it will be time to hit the weight room, to work with a coach on a new move, and improved technique, and little wrinkle to add to your game. We expect more from each of you-- there are big holes in the lineup that must be filled.

Formal practice begins in October-- probably with much less fanfare than found on the campuses of some of our opponents. That's okay. That's flash, smoke and mirrors, not execution. We expect you to play with the courage, strength, conviction, and character that is Princeton basketball. On the court and off.

We are very proud of all of you. The rest of your life begins right now.

Tom Taylor said,

March 18, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

What a great letter from "Coco". I wasn't able to attend a single game, as I live 3,000 miles away, but I share his heartfelt sentiments regarding your play and what it revealed about your character.

Thank you, and congratulations for playing such key roles in bringing Princeton basketball back. I've been an avid fan for 40 years, and I was very saddened to see what I feared was the demise of the specialness Princeton program. You seniors wouldn't let that happen, and I could not be more grateful .

Great job.

richard woodward said,

March 18, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

It's hard to top the tributes already paid to this senior trio. We've seen excellent Princeton basketball before, but what in my mind sets this group apart is three things, that I hope will be sustained for years to come.

1. The adoption of Crunch as part of the team showed the human side of this group. We love to win, but in the end it's only a game, and sportsmanship like this truly warmed my heart.

2. I've been dismayed at the falloff in attendance at Jadwin over the last 10 years or so. It's still not where it ought to be, but the way this team reached out to the fans after several games this year, including the one in Tampa, is destined to build a more loyal fan base among the students for years to come.

3. I really liked the mental toughness of this team. An 11-2 Kentucky lead? No problem. A Harvard lead with 2.8 seconds to go? No sweat. The confidence that was displayed during several tight games this year was something I don't recall in a long time.

I know these comments are about the team in general, but I sense (also from some distance away--2500 miles) that they stem from the leadership of Bobby, Kareem and Dan. We'll miss you all and hope you return often to see the legacy that you and Sydney Johnson have restored.

Best always.

david bennet said,

March 18, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

I have been watching Princeton basketball since the before the Bill Bradley era. However, I cannot remember a 4 years similar to the ones that the Great Class of 2011 has experienced, 6-23 to 25-7, and all that has happened in between. Coco's note expresses all of the emotion and thoughts that surround those four years. One always says the seniors will be missed, which is always true because they are. However, I cannot remember a senior class which has done more for the program in recent times than this one. As Bob Hope sang, "Thanks for the memories".

Jon Solomon said,

March 19, 2011 @ 1:15 am

There's wonderful stuff here. I'll make sure to relay all of these messages - along with the countless emails and notes via Twitter/Facebook - to the staff when I return from Tampa.



Steven Postrel said,

March 19, 2011 @ 5:24 am

If the window isn't closed, I'd like to thank the seniors for their determination, togetherness, and work ethic in helping to drive the program out of the depths and up to the heights. I'd like to thank them for making me proud to support the team, both on and off the court. And I'd like to thank them for creating some really satisfying basketball squarely in the Princeton tradition while putting their own individual stamps on it.

Mike Knorr said,

March 19, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

Not much more to say withyout sounding like a windbag, but I would like to say thanks for making it fun to be nervous again.

jomfive said,

March 20, 2011 @ 11:33 pm

Great stuff here, and I have nothing to add other than simply to thank the seniors for seeing through Coach Johnson's desire to make Princeton Basketball feel like it did when he was a player in the mid-90s. I am already looking forward to next season when the underclassmen will carry on the great tradition of Princeton Basketball that the senior class (and those other recent classes before them) have renewed.

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