And now, as famous crooner Frank Sinatra sang, the end is here.
This will be the last posting on Keepin' Track of the MAAC (although all the achieves will remain on line for your eternal enjoyment).
As they say, all good things come to and end. The sincere hope is that you thought Keepin' Track of the MAAC was a good thing, because that was the intent.
This space has been the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's "official" blog since November 2008. But, word came down from on high recently that the blog was to be discontinued. It has become a victim of downsizing for financial reasons.
As it is in just about every aspect of our modern era, finances are stretched. The MAAC is no different.
My "stipend" for producing this blog over the years, close to 300 items annually, was by no means exorbitant. Calculated on a by-hour rate, compensation was below minimum wage.
But, the guess here is that MAAC administrators are seeking alternative avenues to spread the word of the league. Much of that will come via expanded TV packages, whether on cable networks or direct internet streaming.
That doesn't come for free. And the written word, it seems, doesn't carry the clout of TV. That's understandable.
There are certainly no hard feelings. It has been an enjoyable six seasons serving as your blogger, bringing you news, notes, insights and a variety of other things in this space.
I am fortunate that other opportunities have come up. Last year I became a columnist at The Troy (N.Y.) Record newspaper. My columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday (www.troyrecord.com) and, at least during basketball season, a lot of my work will continue to touch on college basketball and the MAAC. So, I hope you'll check in there to read.
And, that forum allows me (unlike this one) to be critical of MAAC happenings that I don't agree with. There aren't many (ahem ... placing the post-season tournament in Springfield, Mass.?), but there's no filter when I do columns for The Record.
I'll also continue to work as the radio color commentator for Siena women's games, which will enable me to get to every school in the league and maintain contacts, relationships and, in many cases, friendships throughout the MAAC.
There are more than a few people to thank, and I know I'll miss a few.
We'll start at the top. Many thanks to commissioner Rich Ensor, who is absolutely terrific at what he does. It was his idea to bring me aboard six years ago. Rich has kept the MAAC on the right track in terms of doing things the right way while expanding the proverbial brand and developing ever-growing interest in the conference.
Thanks to former league media relations director Jill Skotarczyk for being among those who hatched the idea for this blog. If nothing else, she was the one who first reached out to inquire about my interest in doing the blog. Jill had been around the MAAC for many years before moving on and she was outstanding in every role she undertook.
Thanks to just about everyone in league administration, whether within league hierarchy or at the individual schools, for accommodating me at games, for providing advice, insight and expertise on league issues, and direction, when needed.
Thanks to every single coach in the MAAC for full cooperation any time I reached out, and to sports information types throughout the league for always making coaches, players and administrators available whenever the request came in.
Of course, they all knew the resultant publicity would always be positive. The blog was meant to publicize the league in positive fashion.
Still, that was rarely a stretch. Almost universally the league operates the right way. OK, nothing is perfect. There were a few "knuckleheads," if you will. But those were very rare and will remain nameless. This space will remain positive to the end.
I have been covering the MAAC in some form or other, either for newspapers, on radio or via this space, since its inception in 1981. Through all that time the league and its membership has never wavered in recognizing the importance of the "student" aspect of the student-athlete equation.
The league has also never exceeded its grasp, never sought to elevate its "level" at the expense of stretching the boundaries either of its core philosophy, its resources or the NCAA rule book for the benefit of on-court success.
The MAAC is what it is ... a collection of smaller institutions with similar philosophies and resources. It creates a setting that we all should be proud to follow.
That's not to say the league doesn't produce its share of very good players, very good coaches and a very good level of play.
OK, it's not the ACC or the Big East. But, it's still an enjoyable brand of the sport. The league provides good, competitive basketball. It's the type of play that's a pleasure to watch. It's played by real students that we should be proud to claim as products of their schools and of the league.
And, watching all of that in venues like the Taps Gallagher Center, Draddy Gymnasium, Alumni Gymnasium at Rider and a few other small, venerable facilities when seats are filled and the confined space amplifies a crowd's sound ... that can't be duplicated by leagues where teams play in antiseptic and large arenas.
I could continue to gush about the relationships the blog has enabled me to have, and I will mention a few that have really been particularly enjoyable over the years.
Start with former Siena women's coach Gina Castelli, who became a great source of support and a very close friend (and remains so) through a difficult personal period exactly when this blog began. And, in a rare editorial opinion within this space, your blogger still views Siena's firing of her as a major mistake.
Not far behind, back then, was former Siena men's coach Fran McCaffery and his successor Mitch Buonaguro, who is one of the all-time nicest guys to ever work a college basketball sideline.
Former Niagara coach Joe Mihalich has always been a personal favorite, as has current Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, even during his Loyola years.
Other "favorites" include former Manhattan coach and good guy Barry Rohrssen and current Saint Peter's coach John Dunne, who knew a phone call was coming whenever his team had some success.
Marist coach Brian Giorgis, one of the best at his job at any level of the college game, has been an absolute pleasure to deal with over the years He has been a great source, and a much-respected one, for his insights.
The same goes for Tony Bozzella, the former Iona women's coach who is now having success at Seton Hall. And Lynn Milligan at Rider, Joe Frager at Fairfield, Kendra Fausti at Niagara and Pat Coyle at Saint Peter's have always been extremely courteous and helpful.
The goal of the MAAC blog ... at least my philosophy for it ... was to provide something for everyone. The better teams, naturally, got the most recognition here. But, it was a league-wide forum and the intent was to give every program recognition as often as possible.
It meant women's basketball got the same attention as men's ... and, where else does that happen? If nothing else, the end of this forum certainly means there will be a lot less information about MAAC women's teams out there in cyberspace in the future.
It meant there was a constant vigilance for some of the teams that inhabited the lower portion of the standings to have some level of success to create opportunity for recognition.
It meant that just about any time one of the conference's women's teams would beat Marist that team's coach, by now, knew a phone call was coming in short order.
OK, my guess is that there was more written about the Marist women's program than any other women's or men's program over the years, and it was all deserved.
And, whenever those pieces about Marist appeared viewership of this blog always rose significantly. Many thanks to Marist's fans for appreciating Keepin' Track of the MAAC. That school's fans are, in this estimation, what college hoops' fandom should be all about.
Plus, Marist has a pep band that's an all-star group at any level, and that's important to someone who lives in a household surrounded by beautiful music. Sorry I never got to write about the Marist pep band. It certainly was on my future agenda, and might yet be the subject of a future Troy Record column.
The hope is that all of that was appreciated not only by those within the league but by those who took the time to check in and read Keepin' Track of the MAAC.
Heck, readers even provided some insight. Without mentioning names, supporters of the Iona and Marist programs in particular have regularly passed along well-informed insight that often contributed to blog content.
In all, there were close to 400,000 individual viewings over the blog in just the five years and eight months of operation.
The blog continued to build popularity as the years went on. This past year there were well over 100,000 viewings, the best 12-month period in its history. Hits came from a viewing audience that touched nearly all parts of the world.
Believe it or not, Russia was the No. 2 source of blog hits. Ukraine was No. 5. Viewings in the thousands came from China, Japan, Taiwan, Germany and, even, North and South Korea.
The guess is that military personnel who are sports fans were checking in, as were former MAAC players now performing on overseas' teams. We feel honored to have had those fans in the reading audience.
It just seems to be counterproductive to see the blog, when it has reached the zenith of its popularity, coming to an end. But, that decision was made above my pay level.
For sure, all the interest was greatly appreciated and writing in this space over the years was truly a labor of love.
A lot of hours were spent researching, interviewing, watching games in person and through other sources, and writing.
None of that, though, felt like work.
Thanks to all of those who made it feel that way.
I'll certainly miss the regular interactions the blog enabled me to have with dozens and dozens of quality individuals over the years.
Mostly, though, I'll miss helping you to keep track of the MAAC.
I'll still be around to some extent, at Siena women's games, at home games of the Siena men's teams, and at the MAAC's post-season tournament as The Troy Record's columnist.
But, now, the end is here for Keepin' Track of the MAAC.
Thanks so much for reading.