As the NCAA fires up the tourney again, you know what I am enjoying? The silence. The silence of not having the national media speculating that Marquette's current coach is going to use this success to go to another school. None of that "well this state school would be the perfect next spot" for HC Shaka Smart.
For everyone who went to Marquette the same time as I did, that is what Marquette was considered - a stepping stone. I wasn't even two when the two decades of stability and success that Al McGuire brought to the school ended with an NCAA Championship, and I didn't really follow Marquette Basketball growing up in SW WI, because it was all Badgers Badgers Badgers.
My first real taste of Marquette Basketball was freshman year, and what a sweet smell it was running in that March air down to the the lake with the rest of the student body, celebrating the victory that put the team in the Sweet 16.
Little did I know that a little more than a week after that joyous moment, I would be standing in the Old Gym, photographing AD Bill Cords explain what the school would do next now that they were losing Kevin O'Neill to that powerhouse of...Tennessee (for whatever reason, the 1990s, UT thought the road to basketball glory came through Wisconsin). Cords talked about what the school was going to do to bring in a new coach, and I captured the expression that player Roney Eford that summed up what we were hearing, which was just some BS.
And like a day later, O'Neill, who looked tired, gave his parting press conference in the same spot, and the contempt he showed against the school. Granted, he spoke about being promised what only arrived like 15 years later with the McGuire Center, but it didn't seem like a guy making a last glorious lap (if the rumors are true that he instantly regretted the move, and the fact that O'Neill's wikipedia page has no paragraph on his tenure in Tennessee may be proof of that).
Like a month later, I am taking pictures of Mike Deane in the coach's office in the 1212 Building (the two faces of Mike Deane was the headline on the Trib) and that next year was some success in the NIT (it was fun being in the MECCA and MSG) but you could tell this was going to be treading water time.
After Deane's dismissal, we get Tom Crean, and he finds lightning in a bottle with Dwayne Wade. Oh what fun, yelling at that set in the living room of my college friends' home for the Final Four, despite it being a blowout.
And the rumors came back - Marquette success meant big schools looking to take Crean away. BUT HE STAYED! Oh yes, we now will build staying power into the program. Funding comes for the McGuire Center, and we are on our way.
Then Indiana comes along, and the sirens of the Big Ten take Crean away.
So Marquette takes a chance with Buzz Williams. Oh how authentic Buzz is. Oh how thoughtful Buzz is. Here we are, giving him a shot on the big stage, both the school and the coach giving it their all.
But then, in a true dagger, Buzz leaves, and on his way out basically implies that is it for Marquette Basketball, there is no way they will be able to compete ever again.
The boosters and the school, go 'Oh we will show you Buzz,' and coax Steve Wojciechowski to Marquette This was supposedly the next great Duke Coach, waiting to take over, but he comes here, to Milwaukee! And he recruits top recruiting class after top recruiting class.
If all he had to do is recruit, we would have been in the Final Four already.
But he was an awful game coach, and his ability to run a program is a masterclass in what not to do. People want to rip on the players who left Marquette this time, but it was the coach setting the feel in the room, and we had palace intrigue going on.
Maybe Buzz was right. Maybe the era of the basketball-only private college is over.
But we know Buzz was wrong, and we know each and every coach that left for greater things was wrong as well. None of them had the success they had here in Milwaukee - the only person who seems to have a shot is Buzz, but he cannot stay still on the sideline, or in a job, apparently.
Shaka Smart shows Marquette can compete, and should be on any list of top schools. Shaka Smart shows that Marquette is a destination, and a perfect fit for him.
And so here we are. Wisconsin-native Shaka Smart, has Marquette in the top ten in the nation. He has his team as a second seed, and everyone but the most diehard of Duke fans has this team going far.
And despite that exposure, despite all the glowing press, and front pages he and the program are getting, I have not seen one peep about him being considered for any 'big name' program. Its very quiet.
Heck, Kelvin Sampson, who is at one seed Houston, is being bandied about for Texas, where Smart was (Texas would be stupid not to hire Rodney Terry).
I don't think its because of the drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers, I think it is because everyone can see with their own eyes that Smart is a perfect fit in Milwaukee, and there is no place he should be other than at Marquette.
In fact, the CBS Sports article basically said the same - he could have stayed at Texas, or moved onto another place, but could he be any more successful than what he has now?
So as we get ready for the first round games on Friday, I am going to enjoy the quiet around the coaching position at Marquette. For the first time in my adult life, I am really not worried that anything will change.