SYRACUSE, N.Y. —
The final buzzer had just gone off and Devin Ebanks, who earlier in the evening had put himself onto every NCAA blooper reel that will ever be shown, losing the basketball as he was breaking away for an easy layup, this time had the basketball firmly in possession, just as West Virginia University had the upset over Kentucky that would send them to the Final Four firmly in its possession.
As players began dancing and whooping and hollering, Ebanks sent the ball skyward, sailing higher and higher until it looked like a tiny dot against the white Carrier Dome roof. The way this evening had transpired, you would have expected that it would somehow come down through the basket, for almost everything West Virginia was throwing up at the basket from outside the 3-point arc had done just that.
But this basketball landed squarely into the hands of Jay Bilas, the CBS announcer and former Duke player, as Ebanks rushed to the media table and climbed upon it, exuberant at the way everything had transpired.
As Ebanks did this, back behind him, between the free throw circle and the halfcourt line, two men stood and embraced warmly. One is a bear of a man by the name of Huggins, a basketball coach who had just returned to the Final Four, and the other was Joe Mazzulla.
The hug was hard and tender at the same time, almost like a tear can be either of sorrow or joy, for in some ways both men had lived the same story and now were on the verge of total redemption.
The Huggins story is well known, one of the game’s greatest but most controversial coaches, run out of Cincinnati after a very public DUI and a less public battle with a new president who could not condone what she perceived his program to be.