March 20, 2014
As for the Virginia men's basketball team cut down the nets in Greensboro, North Carolina after stunning Duke in the ACC Championship game Sunday, fans and former players were on hand to soak in the glory.
"That was the greatest moment in Virginia basketball history," said Barry Parkhill, who knows a thing or two about UVa history. Parkhill played for the Cavaliers in the seventies and was the second player in school history to have his jersey number retired.
"I might be their biggest fan," said Parkhill, who currently serves as the associate athletic director for development at UVa. "It's so great rooting for this group of people."
Former UVa standout, Norman Nolan, says many characteristics of this squad remind him of his 1994-95 team that advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
"They are extremely disciplined and they've bought into the system," Nolan said. "You can tell they enjoy being around each other. I look at the bench, through the course of the game, all the guys are into it, cheering on the guys on the floor...You can see it's a complete team effort."
The Cavaliers last Final Four tournament appearance took place more than a decade before Nolan arrived on grounds, when Jim Miller's 1984 team lost to Houston in the National Semifinal by two points. Miller lives in Charlottesville and says he is thrilled to witness the program's resurgence.
"That's what is really neat for an old guy that used to play, seeing the excitement of all the people in the community, not just in Charlottesville but throughout the state, and around the country," said Miller. "I'm hearing from people all over the country who are really excited about this team."
That excitement extends overseas, where former UVa star Travis Watson is playing professionally in Switzerland. Watson has followed the Cavs this season, watching games online.
'It definitely makes me proud to be orange and blue, especially being a former player and living overseas," Watson said. "The University is well-known around the world and I'm just glad they are able to represent."
As quick as former players are to sing this current team's praise, they are also quick to offer advice as tournament play begins.
"Enjoy the moment," Nolan says, " Not many people, not many teams get this opportunity." Watson's advice is to "stay focused on the prize and not the hype".
Parkhill says the team could give him advice. "I never got that far as a player." Joking aside, Parkhill went on to say he would tell the team, "take it one game at a time...and enjoy it as best you can because you're not going to play forever".