Rise from Obscurity
About 4 hours northwest of New York City, and an hour and change south of Syracuse, sits Binghamton, NY. The city itself is as depressing as its nickname. The “Carousel Capital of the World” is not known as a breeding ground for success stories. That was, until 2008, when a lowly basketball team took the community by storm. In only its eighth year as a member of Division I, Binghamton University went from college basketball unknown to one of the 65 teams in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. To outsiders, that doesn’t seem like much. To a resident in the Southern Tier, this was like Kansas performing at the Spiedie Fest times a million. The BU Zoo, the student section at the BU Events Center, was the rowdiest crowd in the America East Conference and legitimately gave the Bearcats a home court advantage. This was a new feeling…to everyone.
Forgotten were the days of Al Walker, empty arenas, and the “Alaskan Assassin” Nick Billings. 2nd year head coach and former Georgetown (BOOOOOO) assistant, Kevin Broadus brought a new culture to Binghamton basketball: Win at any cost. He couldn’t recruit the top talents out of high school; it’s foolish to think a small school can do that. Instead, Broadus took a different approach. He looked for neglected, troubled talents that he could mesh together for a season or two, and make an immediate impact. And it worked. St. Joseph’s transfer, D.J Rivera and junior college standout and once heralded Syracuse recruit (and unibrow aficionado) Tiki Mayben brought Binghamton an edge unlike the America East has ever seen. These players were highly regarded stars coming out of high school, which for one reason another, failed to pan out as underclassmen. Until now.
With Rivera and Mayben, Broadus had his ringers. The Bearcats won games over Rutgers and Tulane. Wins over major conference teams were unheard of in Binghamton, let alone wins against anyone. Broadus’ boys breezed through the America East regular season with a 13-3 record, and a win over UMBC in the sold out Events Center to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in school history sent the university, and the community into paranoia.
Cut to Selection Sunday. It didn’t matter who Binghamton met in the first round, this season was an unbelievable success. It made complete sense then, that the 15 seed Binghamton Bearcats would have to play the national powerhouse, Duke Blue Devils. Even Syracuse fans had a rooting interest for the little brother in Upstate New York, and I can honestly say that I screamed with joy louder when Binghamton’s opponent was revealed than when a red hot Syracuse team’s bracket was shown. It was simply too good to be true; EVERYONE hates Duke for one reason or another. As luck would have it, CBS kept blessing New Yorkers by putting the game in the primetime Friday night slot, for everyone to see. Binghamton had made it, provided they weren’t shut out by Coach K and the Floppers.
Minutes into the game, Binghamton had a two-point lead. I took a picture of the score to remember it forever (I’ve since lost said picture, oh well). The game was never a blowout until the 2nd half. The Bearcats played their asses off despite losing 86-62. No one expected them to win, so just getting there was enough for us as fans. As an added bonus, we learned that Binghamton could be shortened to “Bingham.” Thanks CBS! Everyone expected the team to take this experience and build on it, getting higher star recruits and becoming a respectable mid-major, instead of the ironic punch line for Tony Kornheiser on PTI (an alumnus of BU). What happened next could best be described as an implosion.
Fall from Grace
Rival coaches, used to Binghamton being the punching bag of the conference, began to accuse Broadus of foul play. They stated that the head coach lowered academic requirements and required only the bare minimum from his players to remain eligible. It didn’t help that the players he convinced to transfer to Binghamton were academic liabilities everywhere else they went. Professors at BU also claimed that they were being forced to pass members of the basketball team, even if the grades were not acceptable or they didn’t show up to class altogether. Following those accusations, star point guard Tiki Mayben was arrested for selling cocaine and subsequently kicked off the team. Days later, Rivera, Malik Alvin (arrested for stealing condoms from Wal-Mart and shoving an old lady [Binghamton, NY folks!]) and others including Bernie Fine’s son, were all kicked off the team for misconduct. I’ll let you collect yourself after reading that the BERNIE FINE’s son was a bad egg. Crazy, assuming he came from such a normal household. In Alvin’s defense, they were Magnum condoms, so he’s got that going for him.
A month later, Broadus was suspended indefinitely and assistant and former Temple guard, Marc Macon was named the interim head coach. An investigation revealed that the players had been selling drugs (Mayben and Fine) and stealing other students’ credit cards (everyone else). Text messages between Alvin and an assistant exposed that Alvin had been routinely cheating on papers and was given advice on what to tell the police regarding his indiscretions. Broadus was reassigned to somewhere in the Athletic Department, but was basically collecting his paycheck and sneaking into games until he was eventually dismissed completely.
Broadus would eventually file a discrimination suit against the school (because why the hell not?). It was settled soon after. Broadus is now a “special assistant” back at Georgetown, where one can only assume he drops puppies into a furnace every 15 minutes while listening to Gucci Mane. That’s what happens in Hell so it only makes sense it happens at Georgetown too.
Sidenote: I coached at one of Broadus’ basketball camps the summer before the miracle season of 2008-09. He spent all of five minutes at the camp before getting the hell out of there and letting his assistants handle it. He gave a short speech to all the players at the start of camp. His message? Clean up your empty water bottles. Can’t say that I was surprised any of the aforementioned incidents happened under his watch. He’s a weird dude. Also, one of his assistants told me my team was terrible. I actually enjoyed that moment.
Suck, Thy Name is Binghamton
Jamie Foxx, I mean, Marc Macon was now in charge of a depleted basketball team. Shunned by the University and the community alike, it was up to Macon to clean up a program that had been ripped to shreds. Despite that, he won 13 games in his first season as head coach, so basically got the team back to Binghamton’s pre-Broadus suckfest. Although banned from the conference tournament, Binghamton at least remained competitive. That was until the following year, when the Bearcats finished 8-23, and the free fall was underway.
Averaging a measly 55 PPG, the 2011-12 version of the Binghamton Bearcats is currently the ONLY team in Division I basketball without a win. It was a close race with Towson, but Binghamton, at 0-24, is out-sucking them all. To put it in perspective, NJIT has 9 wins. The New Jersey Institute of Technology. Let’s look at some of these losses this season. They lost to Army by 20 at home. I can tell you first hand that something like that should never happen. Manhattan crushed them by 43 at home. Last time I checked, Manhattan is not Kentucky. Binghamton was a candidate for this year’s Bracket Busters. Shockingly (to nobody) their game against Radford will not be televised. The last chance for BU avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions in history as having as many wins as me in their respective sport, is against 3-win UMBC on Wednesday night. Two of UMBC’s wins have come against Binghamton and Towson (a combined record of 1-40!). If Binghamton can’t win this game, there’s no hope the rest of the season. Looking at the team’s website, the last entry was in September. I guess when you never win there’s really nothing to report. On its “resume,” Binghamton claims to have “met or exceeded America East preseason expectations in 9 of last 10 years.” Good god is that really something to hang your hat on? I can only imagine the guy who found that out.
“We got picked last but finished second-to-last in 2006? FUCK YEAH! POP THE BUBBLY!”
Obviously, Macon has to be fired at the end of the year, but I’m not so sure anyone can cure the disease that has overcome this team since that memorable 2009 March evening when the BU Zoo flooded the court in celebration. Binghamton WILL win again, there is no doubt, but any hope for this team achieving what it did a few years ago (by shady tactics or otherwise) is gone. While Kevin Broadus laughs his way to the bank with his $1.2 million settlement, a community of depressed sports fans yearns for a winner. And with the Binghamton Mets on their way out of the city and the Binghamton Senators being awesome at a sport nobody cares about, BU hoops is all they have. The only thing on Bearcat fans’ minds isn’t when the next game is, it’s who is playing this year’s Spiedie Fest. Fingers crossed for Poison.