As senior Jack McClinton’s final home free throw fell through the hoop for the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon, Coach Frank Haith called timeout and substituted Cyrus McGowan for McClinton.
The exchange marked the end of an era for the Hurricanes.
There are more games left to be played this season, sure.
But the home crowd for the Hurricanes must now adjust to a new age.
Maybe that statement deserves its own consideration; a “home crowd” for Hurricane basketball was not a reality before this senior class.
The versatile Brian Asbury.
The tough-as-nails Jimmy Graham.
And the dominant McClinton.
Not too long ago, people would rather just assume that the Canes had lost their game then actually show up to watch it in person.
There were glimpses of hope and a few inspiring seasons, highlighted by a Sweet Sixteen run. However, no sooner did the Canes succeed than the program went through the Perry Clark era (think Larry Coker on steroids).
Basketball became irrelevant, a distant third to football (always the 800 pound gorilla) and baseball in the eyes of Miami fans.
Then three players came along four years ago.
Asbury, Graham and McClinton formed the glue that held together a series of teams that got a fan base excited.
Hell, they got an entire campus excited.
Their teams did not always win big. In fact, it can be argued that this year was a major let-down.
But these three represented something different for Canes fans.
Before these guys came along, a season like this year’s would not have been a let-down. It probably would not have been noticed by anyone except the most die-hard of fans.
In other words, the mere fact that a respectable 18-11 record is a disappointment is testament in and of itself to these three players.
It all started and ended with McClinton. The Baltimore native took a program on his shoulders, and more than once put an entire arena on his back and carried it to victory. There was perhaps no more fitting a way for McClinton to exit the BankUnited Center than with a 20-point second half in a comeback victory.
If McClinton was the team’s heart and soul, Graham was the guts. He was far from the most talented player on the court. However, his defense, rebounding and pure tenacity gave the Canes the type of spirit that any team needs to contend.
Asbury was the jack-of-all trades. He was best suited for small forward but was continually asked to be a low-post player throughout his career. He never complained, but went out and did his job.
The three will be missed. The work they have done is a major reason why Haith’s program is quickly becoming a destination for top recruits.
More importantly, at a time when the fans needed it, these three closed the gap between basketball and the football and baseball teams.
They made basketball relevant again.