Binghamton University’s men’s basketball team, lead by former Temple University star Mark Macon, won its first game of the season last night. The Bearcats upset the America East Conference’s leader, Vermont, by a score of 57-53, snapping the team’s 27-game losing streak dating to last year.
Students stormed the court following the win, which improved the team’s record to 1-26 on the season. The story has since received national attention, including stories on ESPN.com as well as an interview with Macon on the channel’s SportsCenter.
This win, any win really, is quite an accomplishment for the Binghamton team, which only two seasons ago was mired in scandal that decimated the program. You could almost here Macon’s jubilation in the post-game quotes he gave to the team’s website, BUBearcats.com:
“To see the happiness on our players’ faces was uplifting,” head coach Mark Macon said. “They played hard, played to the end and deserve this. We played great defense tonight (Vermont entered the game averaging 68 ppg.), ran our offense through and made shots.”
Losing is not something that Macon is accustomed to. Macon, the all-time leading scorer for both Temple University and the Atlantic-10 Conference, helped the Owls to a 94-35 record over four seasons as a player in the late 1980s, and was 48-43 over three seasons as an assistant coach for the team about 10 years ago. Macon was also drafted 8th overall in the 1991 NBA Draft.
But Macon has had to make a big adjustment over the last few years at his current school.
Back in the fall of 2009, the State University of New York conducted an investigation into Binghamton’s men’s basketball team, finding that the university’s administration significantly reduced admission standards for players just so the team could compete in Division I. That scandal, along with other player incidents and possible academic fraud, led to the dismissal of head coach Kevin Broadus and five players.
In October of that year, Macon was promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach, and he had quite a job ahead of him. Two of his assistant coaches were fired midseason, and he had to hold tryouts for the team only one month before the season began, just to fill out the roster.
The university banned the Bearcats from postseason play in 2010, and the team slipped to an 8-23 record last season. Still, the university believed in Macon, who was given a three-year contract and had the “interim” tag removed from his title last year.
Macon has hung in there for Binghamton, and despite last night being the team’s only win all season, it’s not a surprise to the head coach.
“We’ve been right there in the last 2-3 weeks and we expect to win every game. I applaud these guys … we are going to bask in this win tonight … and then we’re moving on to prepare for Albany (on Thursday).”
It’s a great sports story, no matter where you’re from or who you root for. It’s an even better story for the Binghamton University community, and for all of us who watched Macon’s growth as a player, coach and man right here in Philadelphia.
Congratulations to Mark, to the Bearcats and to the university.