It seems unfair that the Nic Moore era at SMU should come to an end with a missed 3-pointer and a 61-54 loss to Cincinnati.
Then again, fitting ends are a bit of a rarity in sports and I supposed a missed shot is—in some sick way—a perfect end for that era because, that is—on a certain level—exactly what it was: a missed shot.
I mean to take nothing from the three seniors, whose time at SMU came to an unsatisfying end Sunday afternoon—especially Moore or Markus Kennedy. The two of them, more than any other Mustang are responsible for this new era of SMU basketball. It’s simply hard to look at the teams they have been an apart of and what they accomplished and not feel that there could have been more.
This past season, marred by sanctions, suspensions, and unexpected transfers, certainly had its share of highlights. One simply can’t rule out that the reality of their situation eventually dulled the razor sharp focus and weekend their determination to fight for a consolation prize. In 2002, Herm Edwards famously gave all us overly competitive types a rallying cry when he said (yelled rather) that “You play to win the game!” I’m with you Herm—if you aren’t playing to win, then why play?
In any sport, often it’s more than simply winning an individual game. Sure, each game is important and taking a one game at a time is a solid philosophy with a proven track record—otherwise why does every coach say that’s what they are doing?
On a larger scale though, the entire season is a game and whoever wins the biggest most important championship wins the whole gosh darn game. That is the goal before the season starts. That is everyone’s goal.
Now, a 25-5 record clearly demonstrates SMU’s desire to win as much as they possibly could even with the knowledge that it was playing a watered down version of the game and could, at best, only hope to win an honorable mention ribbon. Twenty five wins in a season with that acrid truth settling underneath every game, sullying every accomplishment with and unshakeable reality, deserves a lot of gratitude.
This team began the season with 18 straight wins, and made it look very easy on a consistent basis. Shorthanded as they were for the final stretch of the season, SMU managed to string four consecutive wins together before losing to Cincy on Sunday—fighters to the very last.
The past three seasons—while simply the new beginning of SMU basketball—was a missed opportunity. Players like Nic Moore don’t come around all the time. The Mustangs are poised to make the transition into the next chapter with seasoned veterans like Ben Moore and Sterling Brown, a freak athlete like Semi Ojeleye, and a sophomore coming off a stellar freshman season in Shake Milton—but none of them are Nic Moore special. At least not yet.
There are all kinds of sayings and quotes people say to themselves for comfort during times of life’s many transitions. You know all the usual ones, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ ‘everything has led me to this point,’ yada yada yada.
At the risk of being extremely cliché, I’d like to employ a similar sentiment, but first I’d like to explore the inner workings of it as it pertains to SMU basketball.
When we are born, we begin on a path that eventually ends in our death. Our goal (or rather our parents’ goal for us) by being born was not to eventually die, but most importantly you can’t die unless you first lived. You live for all the beautiful crap that happens before you die. You just can’t experience all that beautiful crap unless you eventually die because you were born to begin with, which stinks.
In some less ominous words, the idea is basically everything that begins also has an ending, but that we don’t begin something simply to end it.
Similarly Nic Moore didn’t come to SMU to miss a 3-pointer in his final game as a Mustang.
He came to SMU to help Larry Brown rebuild a culture and maybe win some NCAA championships. The championships didn’t happen, but that culture is as strong as ever.
He and Markus Kennedy came to SMU, gave fans three years of amazing basketball filled with all sorts of beautiful crap, but now comes the ugly and often painful part.
In words much more beautiful than I could ever hope to write, here is Friedrich Nietzsche.
“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”