Something to prove
McAlarney making most of second chance with Irish
Posted: Saturday March 22, 2008 1:07PM; Updated: Saturday March 22, 2008 1:29PM
It's a wonder Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney doesn't have a neck cramp. Since the media arrived in Denver this Tuesday, the 6-foot-4 junior guard has been asked repeatedly to look forward: What are your impressions of Washington State's point guard? How far do you expect to go in the tournament? And then, of course, backward: What was it like having to watch last year's tournament? Was there ever a thought that you weren't going to come back?
It's not the questions that bother McAlarney. He's open about being arrested last season for marijuana possession. He even says talking about it is "like therapy." But reading about his mistake after every game? Feeling like no matter what he accomplishes, a bad decision he made as a 19-year-old sophomore will always follow him? That's another story.
"Whenever I see my name mentioned in the newspaper, they don't say it in bad ways, but its still there," he says, sitting on a couch in the lobby of the team's hotel in Denver. "It's like, Kyle McAlarney -- comma -- who was suspended last year for marijuana possession."
The incident goes something like this -- a bag of pot in the back of a car, a routine traffic stop, a stunned McAlarney spending a night in jail waiting for a family friend to bail him out. But making the call for bail money wasn't the toughest dial. That would be saved for Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, whose phone rang at 7:30 that morning.
"I said, 'I've got to talk to you about something. I got in a little trouble last night'" says McAlarney. "He was great about it because he just right away kind of took me aside and said, 'What can we do to take care of this situation and move on?'"
But the worst was still to come. He was immediately suspended from the team, and after McAlarney spent six weeks sitting on the bench in street clothes, he found out he was also suspended from school. The call came 15 minutes before he was supposed to leave for New York City with his teammates for a game against St. John's. Instead, he was told to pack his things and drive himself home.
"When Kyle left, it was a blow to our team," says forward Zach Hillesland. "We played St. John's next, and our hearts were with him."
A year later and his most successful regular season behind him, McAlarney says he's moved on. But when asked whether or not he thinks he was treated unfairly, he sits upright, the words calmly and confidently rolling out of his mouth in a thick Staten-Island accent.
"I feel like to this day it was definitely blown out of proportion," he says. "You can look today; there are plenty of other college basketball players around the country that do worse things than I did. I'm not going to cite specific ones but there are certainly players in the Big East that have done worse things than what I did and they never get mentioned."
McAlarney's mother, Janice, says her son has been the victim of a double standard.
"[Pittsburgh's] Levance Fields, he got arrested, and we don't hear anything about that," she says. "Don't get me wrong, I like him. Kyle grew up with him and they played each other locally. But how come we don't hear about anybody else? We just hear that Levance did great in the tournament but we don't hear about Levance being arrested this summer."
Fields, a 5-foot-10 junior guard who scored 23 points in the Panthers' 82-63 win over Oral Roberts on Thursday, was arrested in September after he reportedly struck a police officer in the chest and grabbed at another officer's weapon. He was shot with a taser by one of the policemen, and was charged with aggravated assault, disarming a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.