ANDREW EICHENHOLZ/THE STATESMAN

Mandaych said that former Men’s Basketball head coach Steve Pikiell, above, introduced him to future stars like senior forward Jameel Warney four years ago.  
ANDREW EICHENHOLZ/THE STATESMAN

Submitted by Peter Mandaych

Recently, I had one of those sports thrills that don’t happen often. But when they do, they are very memorable.

Like when the Mets won the World Series in both 1969 and 1986. When Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 Lengths. When Team USA beat the Russians at the 1980 Olympics. When American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes last year (a race I was lucky enough to attend). Recently, I had one of those moments.

Watching on television from my apartment, I witnessed the Stony Brook Seawolves win their first conference title game to go to the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament for the first time in school history, coming back from 15 points down with 15 minutes left in the game to beat Vermont by the score of 80 to 73.

More than the thrill of watching them win at home. More than the thrill of watching the students run onto the court. More than watching a four-year senior named Jameel Warney score 43 points on 18 for 22 from the field in what was an epic, historic, heroic performance.

More than anything else, I recalled a time four years ago when I attended a Stony Brook football game and ran into Coach Steve Pikiell. Steve introduced me to three of his prized recruits. He glowed when he told me that these three athletes will lead Stony Brook Men’s Basketball to the promised land. One of those athletes was Jameel Warney, the hero of Stony Brook’s title game.

I realized back then that he wasn’t bragging. He wanted to share the experience with me, wanted to include me or anyone who would listen in the pride he had for the university, the community, and the fans. So four years later, through some hard knocks and some tough times (Stony Brook went to the America East Finals four times previously only to lose each time. with the latest loss coming last year to Albany on a last second 3-point field goal), we finally won the championship game in a historic moment for the school, community and basketball on Long Island. Finally the moment came.

And when it did I could only harken back to that day nearly four years ago when Coach Pikiell introduced me to those three young men.

Cheers to Coach Pikiell, who, over 25 years ago, captained the University of Connecticut Basketball Team to their first Big East title and helped launch a College Basketball Staple and over 25 years later led a Stony Brook team to their first NCAA Tournament birth.

Cheers to the team comprised of a bunch of real student athletes who commit four years to the school and themselves in attaining a true college education.

And cheers to all who celebrated in the moment when Stony Brook Men’s Basketball won their first conference championship to go to their first NCAA Tournament in school history. Selection Sunday couldn’t have been any sweeter. Go Seawolves!