- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Pedigree: The Association of Mid-Continent Universities, or AMCU-8; F.L. (Frosty) Ferzacca, commissioner.
Style: Run and stun. Funk and dunk. Frequent flyer substitutions.
Philosophy (as expressed from the bench): "Get intense, Mouse!"
Be serious. Was this really happening? Were celebrated Indiana and distinguished St. Joe's being embarrassed by Iceberg Slim and Vinnie Vandalism and the IFO and the Mouse? Were the early stages of the NCAA tournament being devoured by a self-described "short, fat Irish pug and 10 short, black stallions?" Was Cinderella actually from kuh...kuh...kuh... Cleveland?
Hey, why not? Hey, there are different ways to play the game. "Hey," as Cleveland State coach Kevin Mackey would—and did more than several times a minute—say last week in the East Regional early rounds at Syracuse: Hey, there are no upsets this time of year and Hey, these wins were for the good guys and Hey, we attack and come at you and Hey, we're the off-Broadway guys finally come to prime time and Hey, we're quicker and deeper and hungrier and Hey, this is a system that, Hey, I devised in a nightmare and Hey, throw it up, let's get it on and Hey, best win? Hey, the best win is next week and Hey, my guys see the big names and lick their chops and Hey, we're all tweeners and leftovers and never wants but, Hey, the thing is, Hey, nobody can guard us.
At least nobody so far. As the Vikings—alas, what a stolid handle for such a wildly outrageous crew—roared past the Hoosiers 83-79 and the Hawks 75-69, it was difficult to believe that a team from a school once known as Fenn College, a team that used to play the likes of Thiel, Hiram, Cedarville, Heidelberg and Edinboro (not the cities) and Marian (not the librarian), was on its way to play Navy at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Now Cleveland State is a rollicking 29-3 in Division I, a threat for the NCAA title and chock-full of fun characters, including a pair of stars soon to be known as the east-wood Clints—Clinton Smith, a former schoolboy summer-camp hero in Pennsylvania, and Clinton Ransey, who is possessed of log-solid legs and torso and a glorious one-on-one repertoire. Go ahead, challenge them and make Cleveland's year.
Mackey, the coach, 39, turns out to be the same potato-faced street guy from Somerville, Mass. who, as a Boston College assistant, used to roam the mean streets finding all those blazing, skit-skat overachievers for the Eagles. Once in Cleveland, the Mistake by the Lake, and at State, the Cadav of Euclid Ave., Mackey widened his scope. He is the man who claims responsibility for bringing Manute Bol out of the Sudan bush—only to find he lacked a birth certificate, not to mention academic credentials for Division I. "Over there I think they measure age by moons and planets," Mackey says. "Where would we be with Manute? On probation."
The Vikes have transferred in from not only Ohio State and Alabama but also Arizona Central Junior College and the North Dakota State School of Science, not to mention Prince Edward Island College in Canada, that crazed hoops haven where Fast Eddie Bryant, the starting lead guard, was about to matriculate when Mackey discovered him.
Then there is another Cleveland State recruiting lodestone: the RKO Art Greenwich, a movie house on 12th Street in Greenwich Village. That's where New Yorker Ken (the Mouse) McFadden, a 20-year-old, 6'1" freshman who scored 23 points against St. Joe's on Sunday, spent the better part of his high school years, working as an usher rather than going to class. Then he moved to Cleveland and pursued the house-painting business—"when the weather was nice," the Mouse remembers—and passed his high school equivalency exam. Now he is a dean's list student in communications.