The Sweetest Moment

by Joe Dobrow ©2007

 

This feature, started in 1986 and finished 21 years later, was published in an abridged version in the Brown Alumni Magazine in March 2007, with some photos and readers’ comments posted online. You can also read some of the additional feedback that appeared in subsequent editions.

 

Twenty-five years ago, amidst one of the worst seasons in Brown basketball history, came one of the most triumphant human moments.

On a bright, blustery, early January afternoon in 1982, after his team had completed its shoot-around practice in Brown’s creaky old Marvel Gym, Penn basketball coach Bob Weinhauer trudged up to the second-floor offices, where 54 years of dust and disappointment surrounded every sunbeam slanting through the large windows, and extended a hand and an ironic smile to his old buddy, Mike Cingiser, the 41-year-old rookie coach at Brown.

They had first met back in 1965 at Salisbury Park (later Eisenhower Park) on Long Island. Mar Cingiser was playing in a field hockey game. So was Marsha Weinhauer. Mike was pushing two babies in a carriage. So was Bob. The friendship had just grown from there. They both became successful high school coaches with big dreams. Eventually, Mike helped Bob land the job at Penn, and just a few months ago Bob had done the same for Mike at Brown.

Now it was January 8th, and Bob brought these monsters into Marvel Gym — a tall, athletic bunch that had won 11 straight Ivy League games the year before and was destined for greatness this year, too – and he felt terrible about having to put his buddy Mike into the Brown record books later that night. Oh, hey, a win was a win, and he’d take it even if Marsha were the opposing coach; but there would be something bittersweet about doing this to Mike, no question about it.

“Boy, Mike, you must really love me for recommending you for this job, huh?”

They laughed about it, agreeing that in the end the Ivy title would belong to Penn or Princeton anyway, as it always did. And then Bob returned with his team to the Marriott to devise a game plan for burying Brown. A win was a win.

For most of his early life, Mike Cingiser had his priorities straight. Basketball came first, followed closely by basketball, and third was, let’s see, basketball. A multi-talented athlete, he became a star at West Hempstead High School, where he led his team to the Nassau County Championship and was named South Shore player of the year over people like Art Heyman (who later became an All-American at Duke) and Larry Brown (who later played in the old ABA before turning to what became a Hall of Fame coaching career). Recruited by schools all over the country, Cingiser chose Brown; and for three years he lit up Marvel Gym in a way no one ever had – scoring a then school record 1,331 points, meriting First Team All-Ivy League honors in 1960, 1961 and 1962. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Boston Celtics, but graciously refused the offer on the advice of one of the deans at Brown, Charles Watts, who had called to inform him that Brown was “not in the business of producing professional athletes.” Instead he chose to stick around Providence, do some graduate work in Brown’s Arts and Teaching program, and coach the freshman basketball team.

Mike Cingiser in his playing days, circa 1962.

Mike Cingiser in his playing days, circa 1962.

Those who saw him coach that team in 1962 might have thought he should have chosen some other line of work. Not that he wasn’t good; on the contrary, he was a great clinician whose practices — spiced with a little bit of humor, an occasional strained reference to some work of literature, and a hell of a lot of running and shooting — were probably as educational as any class being given back on campus. And if you looked at the bottom line, you saw 17 wins and only 3 losses. The problem: he was a maniac. As a player, he had always been a ferocious competitor (once, after a one-point loss to Penn — the team’s third straight by either one or two points — he had come down to the locker room and put his fist through the glass door); but now, with his old uniform number 53 locked up awaiting retirement, all of his energies were pent up. When a bad call was made, or when the emotions ran high, he no longer had recourse to an offensive foul or to an oh-so-satisfying jumper in the face of the opponent. Now he was on the sidelines, in a frumpy jacket and tie. So when the fury built up, as it did often during that 1962-63 season, Mike Cingiser ranted and raved and cursed his way up and down the sideline. Statistics were never kept for that sort of thing, but he may well have set a single-season record for most referees damned to hell.

In the years that followed, Cingiser calmed down (a little) and returned to Long Island, where throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s he settled into a nice life as an English teacher and coach, winning 67% of his games at Lynbrook High School and twice taking his teams to the County Championship game.

Meanwhile, up in Providence, things were not going too well for the alma mater. A superstar named Phil Brown led the team to three straight winning seasons in 1973, ‘74 and ‘75, which was good for one second place and two thirds. But those were the only winning seasons since 1959-60, when Cingiser had been a sophomore. In fact, the Bruins had enjoyed just 17 winning seasons since they started playing basketball in 1900, and 12 of those had come before 1950. Not only had Brown never won an Ivy League title, it perennially had one of the worst records around.

If you were a coach or an athlete or a loyal alum, you couldn’t help but feel that the basketball program was somehow star-crossed.

Take, for example, the time in 1974, when Phil Brown and company had raced out to a 9- and-1 Ivy record, and were headed to a big showdown weekend at Penn and Princeton. Going up for a dunk in the game at Penn, Brown slammed his hand on the rim and broke his wrist. Penn went on to win, 89-72, and Princeton destroyed Brown the next day, 70-49, and there went any hopes at a title.

Call it bad luck, call it fate, call it whatever you want, the only times Brown had ever come close, they had been denied. And most of the rest of the time they were just horrible. 7-19 in 1975-76. 6-20 in 1976-77. 4-22 the next season, and 8-18 the year after that. Not even the hiring in 1978 of Joe Mullaney, the ex-Providence and professional coach, seemed to help. He presided over three more losing seasons with his traditional x’s and o’s style of play, and then took all of about two seconds to quit his job at Brown and move back across town when the PC job opened up again. He didn’t even bother to tell the players, who found out about it on the evening news. Brown was left without a coach, without any recruits, and without a prayer.

Then, in April of 1981, the prodigal son returned home. And it seemed like things were about to change.

Because he had been hired so late in the previous school year, Cingiser did not have any chance to recruit new players. He would basically need to enter the 1981-82 season with the team that was handed to him.

And so, as the elms dotting the East Side turned from commencement green to Saturday football orange, Cingiser began to prepare for the challenging season ahead. He would train his players hard, very hard, so that they would be prepared to play with poise and intensity against larger and more skilled opponents. He would emphasize fundamentals. And he would employ a run-and-gun offensive style, quite unusual in an era in which there was no shot clock and no three-point line.

Cingiser brought the team together on September 22, 1981 for an organizational meeting at Sayles Gym. Assembled there, in a facility even older than Marvel, was the almighty no-winning-record-since-1975 Brown basketball team. Bill Chapman and John “Bake” McBride, two defensive-minded forwards out of New York who probably should have been playing guard; Jeff Samsen, a long-rage bomber who never saw a shot he didn’t like; Ira James, the team’s volatile undersized power forward and top scorer; Ted Mundy, the tallest regular on the team at 6’7”; Alex Bynum, an energetic but unproven point guard who stood just 5’7”; Steve Bowman, a reserve shooting guard who had set scoring records while in high school in Western Massachusetts, but who had started just one game the prior year, averaged 1.7 points, and shot only 33% form the field; and a few other spare parts.

The players introduced themselves, and Cingiser spoke a little bit about his philosophy — up-tempo, fast-breaking, man-to-man defense. He talked fast, excitedly, occasionally threw in a joke that went sailing over their heads and out the door and toward the set-up-your-own-pins bowling alley in the ancient gymnasium’s basement. When he was done, he asked if there were any questions. For a moment, everybody was silent. Finally, the basso profundo voice of Ira James was heard.

Steve Bowman, in rare action from the 1980-81 season.

Steve Bowman, in rare action from the 1980-81 season.

“What do you want us to call you? ‘Mr. Cingiser?’ ‘Mike?’ ‘Coach?’”

“I don’t care what you call me,” he answered. “It’s how you call me that matters. You can call me ‘son of a bitch’ and if you smile, that would be fine.”

It may have taken a moment for the remark to register, but gradually they all broke out into 33-degree Fahrenheit smiles and nodded to each other as if to say, “this guy is alright.”

Just a few weeks later, the rag-tag team began practicing — and it was here that the hard task ahead became clear. The bulk of practice would be devoted to learning some sort of choreographed play (an out-of-bounds play, a bounce pass in to the low post man, a double screen to get someone open on the wing, etc.), and then practicing it over and over again. Cingiser’s ideas were of course new to all of the players, so almost everything took a lot of work. Dressed in corduroy pants and penny loafers, he would go out on the court and walk the players through the plays, demonstrating in slow motion just exactly how to pivot your foot and swivel in the lane to face the basket, or how to throw the ball from “box to box,” from one side of the lane to the other. Some players caught on quickly; others didn’t. It was part clinic, part classroom, part comedy, part tragedy.

Through it all, Cingiser was a master. Back at the scene of the crime, he would pace all around the gym (here, where he had made a sensational running left hander against Columbia in 1960; here, where he had gone diving out of bounds to save a pass and a game against Boston College in 1961). Every now and then he would stick two fingers in his mouth and let out a deafening whistle, as his eagle eye spotted a hole in the defense or a not-fully-extended elbow. He taught, he instructed, he demonstrated, he cajoled, he whispered a word of encouragement. He had his ear on almost every conversation in the gym. He was a coach again, and this gymnasium was his home. Occasionally he would slip, forgetting (or ignoring) where he was and whom he was with — and would let loose with an outrageous pun, or break out into a snippet of a song from long ago. Whenever this happened, he would be confronted by 12 or 13 blank, uncomprehending stares… but he would continue on without waiting for any recognition or acknowledgment; then, moments later, he would smile quietly in a self-congratulatory way. He was loving it.

Brown-b-ball---team-photo-1981-82The season, and the Mike Cingiser Era, began in earnest on the Saturday after Thanksgiving with an afternoon game at Marvel against Stonehill College. The Chieftains, a Division II team, should have been easy prey: Brown had beaten them by 11 points a year earlier, and if it were somehow possible, they were even smaller than the Bruins. But Stonehill scored the first basket and never looked back. The Chieftains ran off to a 16-5 lead, racked up 56 points by halftime on 68% shooting, and cruised to an 11-point victory. When the buzzer sounded, the Stonehill players mobbed each other, elated at having beaten a Division I team to open their season. The Brown players just shook their heads in disbelief, and even Cingiser admitted to being a little bit shaken.

But there was not much time for self-pity. Four days later, a tall and talented Rhode Island team came into Marvel and, despite 35 points from Ira James, escaped with its 13th straight win against the Bruins, 95-89. Three days after that, the team dropped to 0-3 after a tense four-point loss to Yale.

Cingiser, ever the optimist, was undaunted. He had not expected instant success, and knew that a lack of height and depth were going to be problems all season long; still, he had seen bright spots in the team’s play, particularly its ability to run up and down the floor. He continued to offer encouragement, preparing for each game as if it were the season-opener, so full of possibility.

But soon the situation grew more despairing. Brown played poorly in a loss at Hofstra, committing 29 fouls and embarrassing Cingiser in front of his old Long Island coaching friends; dropped an emotional and high-scoring game at Boston College (after surviving the mid-highway blowout of the bus’s right front tire); and then experienced a blowout of another sort at the hands of crosstown rival PC – leaving the record at 0-6. When some reporter noted in a newspaper article that the school record for most consecutive losses was 12 – an ignominious distinction achieved by the 1977-78 squad that finished 4-22 – it made the rounds in the locker room. The team’s mood was turning nasty as they headed off on a four-game swing through the south.

The trip began with a shellacking at the hands of the Gamecocks of South Carolina, 105-77 – a game that featured questionable officiating and, remarkably, a fight between unrelated Brown freshman center Dave Brittain and South Carolina freshman center Mike Brittain. Frustration was setting in, and it was beginning to seem like the team was incapable of winning. Lots of could-have-beens, lots of should-have beens, no weres. The breaks weren’t evening out, the opponents were always on their games, and the refs were always making the “wrong” calls. Cingiser’s squad would often play one very competitive half of basketball, but at some critical point in the second half, a seam would rip open – the foul shooting or the ballhandling or the defense – and Brown would find a way to lose.

The next day, Cingiser called everybody together in his hotel room for a team meeting. South Carolina, he said, was dead and buried. Hofstra was gone. Stonehill was ancient history. “Matter of fact, there are only seven games on the schedule this year that we can’t win. Those are the seven we have already played.” He paced back and forth, just like he did in the locker room.

“Look guys, it’s going to end sooner or later. I know we’re there.”

He pointed out that for the most part the offense had been solid (James was averaging over 20 points a game, Samsen 13.5, Bynum more than 11), and that they were long overdue to put together two solid halves of basketball. Even the defense was starting to come around, he said, and if they could find a way to play with both poise and intensity at the same time, they were going to set themselves up nicely for the Ivy season.

Before their trip was over, though, Brown lost to Florida Southern, the defending national champs on the Division II level; was lackluster in another game against Georgia Southern; and lost a 106-96 shootout at Memphis State. Their record now stood at 0-10 as they headed home to the cold and gray of a Rhode Island winter, to the bleakness of a Brown campus abandoned for winter break, and to the inescapable reality that they had not won anything except for maybe a couple of jump balls.

It is often said that adversity brings people closer together, but in this case there was so much togetherness that adversity only made things worse. The players had been together for over two months now, practicing together, hanging out in the locker room together, studying together, showering together, eating together, traveling together, rooming together. And they had nothing to show for it. A 2-8 record, for instance, would not have been anything to brag about, but at least it would have proven to these 12 tortured souls and assorted other hangers-on that there had been some payoff for all that sweat; that, at the very least, they were capable of winning, and that the dues paid on the sacrificial altars of BC’s Roberts Center and the Carolina Coliseum had satiated the Gods and would bring a bountiful late winter harvest. But they weren’t 2-8.

Downstairs — which is to say in the locker room, among the players – there was some grumbling. School was hard enough; now here they were devoting all their free time to basketball and they had nothing to show for it. A couple of people, like Bill Chapman and Steve Bowman, optimists in the Cingiser mold, employed reason and insisted that there had to be a few wins waiting out there. But most of the others were beginning to doubt this. What were they supposed to tell their families? How were they supposed to face that friend in class, who would ask, “How’d you do?” And they’d mumble, “We lost.” And the friend would say, “So what are you now, 0-and-9?” And they’d mumble, “0-and-10.” And the friend would have that look on his face as if to say, “Give it up!”

Upstairs — in the coaches’ offices — the feeling was somewhat more optimistic. Cingiser and his assistants didn’t like having the worst record in the country either, and had to be thinking that if this kept up, their jobs were on the line; but they had seen some things that they liked on this trip – a defensive stop by John McBride, some good shooting by Steve Bowman, some real understanding of the box-and-break philosophy they had been working on — and they were not yet ready to raise the white flag. Moreover, they had gone to see the next opponent, the University of New Hampshire, twice, and both times the feeling had been that this was an eminently beatable team. So day-in and day-out, they kept working with their players — teaching a new move, implementing a new defensive twist, practicing breaking a full court press, and always, always, exuding optimism.

Then on January 6, 1982, New Hampshire came into Marvel Gym and ran Brown right off the court, 86-71 – a huge disappointment that left the players disconsolate. The Bruins were now 0-11, one game shy of the all-time school record for most consecutive losses. Nothing was working. And next up were perennial Ivy League powers Penn and Princeton, who between them had won the last 13 consecutive League titles. They were certain to drop Brown to 0-13.

I read the news today, oh boy.

I read the news today, oh boy.

After the New Hampshire game, Cingiser kicked around the court for a couple of minutes and then retreated to his office on the second floor. There he found his daughters Karen and Lisa crying hysterically. They, too, had been expecting a win; they had gotten their hopes up, only to have them trounced. And now they knew that this whole move, the interviews last April and the Brown job and the house in Barrington, it was all a big mistake. They never should have left Long Island. The team was going to go 0-and-26, he was going to get fired, and life was going to be miserable. This was what he saw as he stepped into his office and became a daddy again.

“Whoa, give me a time out here,” he said, as they looked up at him and began crying harder at the very sight. “I don’t want that from you. I’m not crying, so you can’t be crying. It’s not that bad.” He sat down on the couch and pulled them in close, as he had often done when they were little girls.

“If we get fired, we get fired. If we never win a game, we never win a game. But it’s just not worth so much that it can be allowed to haunt you.”

Slowly, the sobbing subsided as they listened to the warmth and logic of this very special man. Soon it was all over, and they all left the gym and drove back home.

That night, though, when he lay down in bed, the doubts started to crowd in on Mike Cingiser, too. He was doing what he wanted to be doing, no question about that. And no matter what happened, even if they did go 0-and-26, he thought that he would be given one more year to prove himself. But he began to wonder whether he really was capable of coaching on this level. Maybe there was a bigger difference between high school coaching and college coaching than he had thought? Maybe he couldn’t just come in and run the race his way when he didn’t have the horses? And if they did go 0-and-26, how in the hell would he be able to recruit anyone? Who would want to play for that sort of coach? Who would want to be a part of that kind of program? Sleep, when it finally came that night, was a big relief.

In 1981-82, Brown University was still on the old academic calendar, in which students returned from a short winter break in December to a reading period and final exams in January. And so it was that when the ball was tipped to begin the game against Bob Weinhauer’s Penn team on January 8th, the crowd of about 1,000 at Marvel Gym included an unusually large number of students, seeking some Friday night release from all their intensive studying.

The game began as so many had before. Brown jumped off to a quick lead – 2-0, then 4-0, then 6-0. But the Quakers – taller, stronger and more skilled – worked the ball into their big men, scored eight straight points, and soon began to pull away. Cingiser called a timeout to try to shift the momentum at the 12:37 mark, his team now trailing 17-10, but Penn soon forged ahead by 12, and the familiar script began to play itself out. Still, the Bruins showed some signs of life, mostly from Steve Bowman, the 6’2” senior guard, who had been inserted into the starting lineup and responded by sinking five long jump shots in eight tries, nearly matching his all-time game high of 13 points. Brown ended the half with a little 10-4 spurt, closing to within six, 38-32, which left the crowd buzzing, dwelling on the theater of a well-played half of basketball that had seen both teams shoot better than 50%.

Of course, there had been encouraging moments before. Like the time at Memphis State, late in the game, when someone came down out of the stands, tapped Cingiser on the shoulder — nearly scared him to death — and told him that he had been watching games there for 12 years and this was the gutsiest team he had ever seen. Or when, after the tightly contested Yale game, Coach Ray Carazo had told Cingiser that Brown was “going to be felt in the League.” Encouraging. But moral victories do not count in the record books.

The second half began. Penn scored first to go up 40-32, and Cingiser banged his fist twice on the scorers’ table. But then, lo and behold, a three-point play by Ira James, on which the foul shot actually bounced around and went in. A steal by Chapman. Another long jumper by Bowman. Another steal by Chapman, and a full court drive for a layup. Brown had scored seven in a row to cut the lead to one, and the swelling crowd became raucous.

A Penn basket. A Brown basket. A Penn basket. A Brown basket. Two Penn baskets. Two Brown baskets. The standard shifted, from an 8-10 point game to a 1-3 point game. And it stayed there! No big run by the Quakers. No sloppy Brown-turnover-converted-into-a-thunderous-slam-dunk-that-turns-the-game-around. It was getting very tense. Penn kept threatening to pull away, but just at that moment they would miss a big shot or Bill Chapman would grab a key offensive rebound or Steve Bowman would let fly with another 25-footer. It stayed uncomfortably close. The temperature in the gym began to rise perceptibly. Slowly, individually, the fans started to think the unthinkable.

Someone put up a shot and six people went for the rebound and knocked it out of bounds, and when the refs signified Brown ball the fans roared their approval. The Penn band beat on its bass drum, two quick hits and a pause, two quick hits and a pause, like a tom tom, like a clock ticking down, like the quickening pulse each and every fan could now feel in their necks. When the crowd would spot Bowman open on the wing, the noise level would start to build, and someone would get the ball to him and there would be great anticipation as he launched it up, up, up, and… in! The fans were going crazy, because now they were starting to expect him to hit. He had gone from bench-warmer to can’t-miss folk hero in one night.

Then, with about nine and a half minutes left to play and Penn up by two, 59-57, a wild sequence of missed shots and loose balls ensued, ending with an offensive rebound and put-back by Chapman, plus a foul. Pandemonium. Everyone on the bench leaped up from their chairs and yelled. The fans hollered and stamped their feet. Mundy and James and Bynum and Bowman engulfed Chapman and high-fived him. Something was happening here. And then Chapman stepped to the line, shooting only 65% for the year, and canned the free throw. Brown 60, Penn 59.

The fans started chanting, “DE-fense, DE-fense,” and an incredible adrenaline rush surged through the building, making hairs stand on end and tears well up. This was an amazing sound, a sweet sound — the sound of confidence and excitement. The sound of winners! This was Marvel Gym, this was 0-and-1, 0-and-2, 0-for-the-South, 0-and-11 Brown Freaking University! And this was unbelievable.

Back and forth it went. Brown fell behind by three, 69-66, but Chapman and Bynum each hit a pair of free throws. 70-69, Brown. James committed an offensive foul and Penn’s Mike Brown hit two free throws. 71-70, Penn. (“No gambles, everybody see it! No gambles!” yelled Weinhauer.) The tom tom beat. James made a great twisting move in the lane. 72-71, Brown. Penn called a play for Paul Little, and he was true to the task. 73-72, Penn, with just 50 seconds left. James then took a pass inside the lane and threw up a miss — but he was fouled on the play.

Swish (roar!). Swish (roar!). 74-73, Brown, 19 seconds left.

The fans were on their feet, yelling into the rafters of the ancient gymnasium, somehow surging louder still when Penn then turned the ball over and fouled James one more time. Some people started chanting, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” But as he readied to shoot his free throws, it became so quiet you could hear a losing streak snap. Brown up by one point, eight seconds left.

Swish (roar!). Swish (bedlam). 76-73, Brown.

The Quakers scored a meaningless basket with one second left, and then all euphoria broke loose.

Bowman, the unexpected hero, was engulfed by his teammates. McBride grimaced with emotion. Bynum and Chapman hugged and pumped their fists hard into the air. Mar Cingiser and her daughters embraced, their eyes shut tight with emotion and relief. And for the second time in two days, Weinhauer approached Cingiser with an extended hand and an ironic smile.

“I hate you,” he said, laughing. “How did you do this?”

Everyone jumped up and down and the fans kept cheering (with a few isolated outbursts of “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”) and the cameramen and reporters rushed onto the court and the final buzzer just kept buzzing and buzzing and buzzing. It was all over. The game, the losing streak, the doubts. All of it.

This scene played out for a blissfully long time, as people hung around the gym and soaked it in, the bubbling blue oasis after the parching desert journey. It was probably the sweetest moment Marvel Gym had ever known, or could ever hope to know again.

The Brown Bruins were 1 and 11.

The glorious momentum carried into the next night when Bowman, the erstwhile reserve, continued his magic carpet ride. He sank six of seven shots in the second half, scored a career-high 20 points (en route to being named Sports Illustrated’s “Player of the Week”), and led Brown to another stunning upset, 58-53 over Princeton. The previously winless Bruins, knocking on the door of infamy, had instead knocked off the League’s two perennial powers on consecutive nights. As Providence-Journal reporter Jim Donaldson wrote, “It was a turnaround as shocking as if Ted Kennedy had announced he was joining the Moral Majority. In the space of four days, Brown’s basketball Bruins have gone from being pushovers to powerhouses.” It was Perfect – a shining weekend in the middle of a forgettable winter, in the middle of a forgettable season, that would live on forever.

It did not matter that the team would go 3-10 the rest of the way to finish a miserable 5-21. Nor that Penn went on to win the Ivy League. Nor that no Brown player in uniform that night would ever enjoy so much as a winning season, let alone be there to enjoy the supreme achievement four years later, when Cingiser would lead Brown to its first, and still only, Ivy League title. Suffering had given way to euphoria. Memories had been minted. Faith had been restored.

To this day, twenty-five years later, the sweetness lingers.

Alex Bynum, now 44 and a commercial real estate broker in New Jersey, recalls it as a turning point. “It was an incredible weekend, and that game was the one that got us believing we could win. Not only were we not losers, but we proved we could actually play very good basketball against the best in the league. It made us feel incredibly positive about ourselves. That’s one of the most exciting weekends of my whole life.”

Steve Bowman, 47, has had a remarkably successful career as a bond trader and financial consultant. But his eyes sparkle when he thinks back to January 8-9, 1982 and a success of a different sort. “We had beaten Penn and Princeton at home during my sophomore year, but of course nothing could top the drama of 1982. People were probably jumping higher after the game than they did during the game, and we didn’t want to leave the court. Me? I was a streaky shooter, but until then I had never really had an opportunity where I was consistently in the game to have enough attempts to get a run going like that. Those games, I just couldn’t miss. Later, someone made the comment that ‘Steve Bowman had a great career one weekend.’ And that probably about sums it up.”

Mike Cingiser is now 66, retired and living in South Carolina. He says he remembers that January weekend “mostly for its historical value” and has forgotten many of the details. But the emotions still surface easily. “Eight years prior to that, I had gone through cancer surgery. So one of the reasons I was able to get through the 11 losses was because I had gotten to the point of understanding that it wasn’t the end of the world. I had tried to imbue in the kids that you win or you lose, and it shouldn’t make a huge difference in the way you feel afterwards. But everything was validated those two nights. Later, I would watch the tape of those games and say, ‘Wow. Just, wow!’”

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