It was late in the first half Sunday when the New Jersey City University coach called timeout in an attempt to settle his players, who were frittering away a double-digit lead against another of those NCAA Division III teams from Wisconsin with a hyphen in its name.
Only a few dozen spectators were watching at South Point Arena. It was so quiet you could hear Marc Brown tell his Gothic Knights they were getting badly outhustled by Wisconsin-River Falls in the 10th D3hoops.com Classic.
It was a distant cry from March 16, 1989, when 12,000 fans were screaming at venerable Greensboro Coliseum and Brown sank two free throws with three seconds to play, lifting Siena to a stunning 80-78 victory over Stanford in the first round of March Madness.
Those free throws were Brown’s 31st and 32nd points. It was the fifth time a No. 14 seed had knocked off a No. 3 in the NCAA Tournament, one of 21 to this day against 115 losses.
“Sophomore guard Marc Brown — the man of the hour in Greensboro,” Atlanta Hawks broadcaster Bob Rathbun said on national television.
After Jersey City’s 79-69 loss to the team from Wisconsin with a hyphen in its name, Marc Brown said he never tires talking about being the man of the hour against Stanford 30 years ago.
Every roster tells a story
When Brown graduated from Siena, he was one of only three players in Division I history to score 2,000 career points and tally 750 assists, joining Syracuse’s Sherman Douglas and future NBA Hall of Famer (and Las Vegas resident) Gary Payton of Oregon State.
He played pro ball for 16 years, but it might have been preordained Brown would coach at Jersey City where his father, Charlie, coached the Gothic Knights to 483 wins over 25 years. Father and son, now in his 13th season, rank first and second in career wins at the commuter school just across the Hudson River from New York City.
But as Brown says, it’s not so much about the final score in Division III, where the game generally is played below the rim and without scholarships. It’s more about young men getting an education, and molding them into better young men.
In D3, there are stories one will never hear on SportsCenter and one will not read in the media guide, even if there were media guides.
Brown spoke of Sam Toney, his 6-foot-4-inch power forward who was sleeping in cars before finding shelter at Jersey City and becoming New Jersey Athletic Conference player of the year as a 26-year-old sophomore; of Quadri Moore, a former Mick Cronin recruit at Cincinnati; of Jeff Haddock Jr., a transfer from Rowan whose parents are from Las Vegas and moved back to Southern Nevada in May from Willingboro, New Jersey.
Haddock was the only Gothic Night who had been to Las Vegas, Brown said.
This was the first time Jersey City had played ball west of the Mississippi River.
“I have two or three guys who have never been on a plane before,” he said about his players basking in lights covered in glitz rather than grime.
Shots ring out
After guiding the Gothic Knights to three consecutive appearances in the Little Dance known as the Division III men’s tournament, Marc Brown and his team have yet to reprise that form. They are 5-7 after splitting two games in Las Vegas, and Brown is doing more teaching than coaching.
Not all of it happens during timeouts more than 2,500 miles from home.
On the afternoon of Dec. 10, a fusillade of gunshots rang out within earshot of the Jersey City campus. When the shooting at the JC Kosher Supermarket finally ceased four hours later, five were dead. Three were civilians, two were assailants. Before the rampage, a Jersey City Police Department detective was gunned down at a nearby cemetery.
When the lockdown of the Jersey City campus finally was lifted, Brown talked to his team about hate crimes rather than what to expect from the Stevens Ducks and Mount St. Vincent Dolphins.
“That was maybe a block away from the campus,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, in this world today, some of these things happen, and we just try to keep these kids — these young men — in a positive environment.”
A week after the shooting, Jersey City played Yeshiva — a predominantly Jewish school — across the river in New York City.
There was a moment of silence before the game.
Yeshiva won 97-92.
But as often is the case in Division III, Marc Brown said it wasn’t so much about the final score that night.
New Jersey City University
— Location: Jersey City, N.J.
— Enrollment: 8,500.
— Established: 1927
— Campus: Urban, 46 acres.
— Colors: Green and gold.
— Nickname: Gothic Knights
— NCAA affiliation: Division III.
— Did you know? Former NBA official Bob Delaney, who called 1,182 regular-season games and seven NBA Finals, is a NJCU graduate.