Lycoming head coach Mike McGarvey (right) and assistant AD Glenn Smith pose after the Warriors won the MAC Commonwealth title. (Photo: Kevin Callahan/CoBL)
Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
GLENSIDE – Mike McGarvey looked around as his Lycoming team was celebrating. He was asked to join the players and cut down the nets.
McGarvey, a selfless, yet star player at Ursinus College, not surprisingly said, “Let the players cut the nets down.”
And, with McGarvey smiling while taking backslaps from about 15 of his former Ursinus teammates, he watched the Warriors cut down the net at the basket across from the visitor’s bench Saturday night at Arcadia University after a 68-64 win to capture the Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III tournament.
“It’s as fun as when we were playing together, it’s that meaningful,” said Ted Piotrowicz, who was a senior captain at Ursinus when McGarvey was a junior captain.
Piotrowicz’s eyes welled up when he talked about McGarvey. They weren’t just words he was saying. McGarvey is truly loved by his former teammates, which is why so many came to the game.
“If it was in Williamsport, we would’ve been there.” Piotrowicz said.
“To see what he’s done in two years and that energy and everything it takes to make this happen, it’s awesome.”
Piotrowicz, whose father Mike was a captain for Skip Werley at Ursinus, said he could see McGarvey becoming a collegiate championship coach back during their playing days in Collegeville.
“Absolutely, he was an incredibly intelligent player and leader,” Piotrowicz said, “and he had a love and passion for the game.”
That passion has stretched to the sideline where McGarvey has won a MAC crown in just his second season after being an assistant at Colgate University for seven seasons under Matt Langel.
“Patience and composure, to treat every day as a new day, to worry about the process and the small details,” McGarvey said about the core lessons he learned from Langel.
“I could go on and on. He’s been an incredible mentor for me and he gave me a wonderful opportunity and I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Dennis Stanton, who graduated as Ursinus’ all-time leading scorer, isn’t surprised either by McGarvey’s early success as a head coach after sharing the court with him for two seasons under Ursinus coach Kevin Small.
“His freshman year, we won the championship, he was an unbelievable player,” said Stanton, who is now the athletic director at Souderton. “I’m just so happy for him.”
“He saw the floor differently than most players, he was a coach on the floor when we were playing together,” Stanton, who was two years ahead of McGarvey at Ursinus, added. “He was an unbelievable point guard who managed the game.”
Lycoming junior Darius Dangerfield dethroned the defending MAC champs on their home court by draining three-of-four free throws in the final 16.9 seconds.
The 5-foot-8 guard paced the Warriors with 22 points to earn the tourney MVP.
“He came over my house and he was in the living room and he told me that he was going to do all he could to put me in the best position to succeed,” Dangerfield recalled about the first meeting with McGarvey, who was certainly true to his word.
With the score tied and Alumni Hall shaking, Dangerfield drained a 3-pointer at the top of arc for a 62-59 lead with 1:45 left in the second half.
“That’s why he’s the MVP,” McGarvey said. “He’s such a dynamic player that you let him make those decisions and those reads. He stepped up at the biggest time of his career.
Dangerfield added two free throws for a five-point spread with 1:38 left in the second half.
Da’Kquan Davis, a junior guard from Roman Catholic, proved equally dynamic as Dangerfield. He scored five straight on two free throws and a long 3-pointer to tie the game at 64-64 with 1:04 left in regulation.
The 6-1 guard topped all scorers with 23 points in an exhaustive 40-minute effort for Arcadia.
“He is a phenomenal player,” McGarvey said about Davis, who scored six of the Knights’ first eight points. “I told him in the handshake line that I had a ton of respect for him.”
Davis, who is the reigning MAC Commonwealth Offensive Player of the Week - which is his fourth weekly honor this year – when he averaged 29.5 points and seven assists in two games.
Last year, Davis earned the MAC Commonwealth Player of the Year award as well as 3Hoops.com All-Region First-team and NABC Division-III All-District Team honors when he averaged 16.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field.
As a freshman, Davis averaged 14.2 points while shooting 47.6 percent from the field.
“He’s a handful and every single team has to game plan against him,” added McGarvey about Davis, a second team All-Catholic selection as a senior and who played on a pair of PCL and state championship teams for former Cahillites coach Chris McNesby. “He can really score and he puts a lot of pressure on you the entire game.”
Davis, who expertly draws contact on slashing drives in the lane, made a layup and the ensuing free throw as he was serenaded by MVP chants from the charged home student section for a 40-31 lead with 15 minutes left in second half
Fourth-seeded Lycoming responded with pair of treys to slice third-seeded Arcadia’s lead to five points but Davis answered with another 3-point play off a driving layup and then he buried a long 3-pointer off the dribble for a 49-42 lead with 12:15 to play
Lycoming (20-8) answered with a 10-2 run to take a 52-51 lead with 7:10 left in the game before Arcadia (16-11) scored the next four. Then, Warriors senior guard Ryan Hollis drained a corner three to tie it at 55-55 with 5:24 to play.
“Coach always stresses the details,” Hollis said after scoring nine points, “it’s all details, about taking care of what we need to on the court, in the classroom and in life. He always checks in on us with everything, it’s great and he’s so encouraging with everything, it’s great.”
D’Andre Edmond travelled all the way from Texas to play for McGarvey.
“He’s a great coach,” said Edmond, a 6-6 sophomore who scored 10 points. “He’s a very smart coach, he’s knows what he’s doing. He’s just a great coach - we were picked last in the conference.”
McGarvey, who played at Penn Charter, had his No. 11 jersey retired at Ursinus after a record-setting playing career when he was a consensus two-time All-American and two-time Centennial Conference Player of the Year. He started every game of his career and finished fourth on the Bears' all-time scoring list with 1,460 points and he is still 14th in the Division III record book with 754 career assists.
He was inducted into both the Ursinus College Hall of Fame (2016) and the Sam Cozen Philadelphia Area Small College Hall of Fame (2015).
More importantly, McGarvey was about winning, leading Ursinus to three conference championships. Now, he has led Lycoming to a conference title.
“The best part about it is looking at these guys right here and knowing all the time they put into it,” said McGarvey, who was an assistant for Smalls for four seasons before joining Langel at Colgate. “It’s so good to see them be champions.”
When asked to compare winning a championship as a coach compared to a player, McGarvey smiled and said, “You worry a lot more and you don’t have as much control. You just hope all the things you worked on during the year comes out in a 40-minute game.
“You just let them play at this point, they know what they’re doing.”
McGarvey certainly knows what he is doing as well as a coach. And he certainly grasped the added meaning of winning his first championship as coach surrounded by so many of his former teammates and so close to where he grew up in Lower Gwynedd.
“For sure, the last few days, you know I was thinking about it,” said McGarvey. “This is the first college I ever visited, played in Orland in summer leagues and I played here as a player, so it’s pretty cool to do it here and back home.”
And when the nets were down and the players still over on the court taking photos with family and friends McGarvey could be heard asking, “did all the players get a piece of the net.”
McGarvey’s genuine goodness and care for his players also has been embraced by them as much as the X’s and O’s he has taught over the last two years.
“It’s the ultimate,” Dangerfield said with one of the nets around his neck, “to see everyone around me so excited.”