As Gary Browne came off the court for the final time of his college career, emotions overcame him. He broke down on the shoulder of Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins, and received hugs from everyone on the team as the seconds ticked down to zero. Afterward, in the locker room during the open media period, Browne kept his head under a towel for much of the time.
It's clear, of course, that Browne wasn't ducking anyone. That's not his way, and it's not his style. It was just that, after seeing so much work and effort fall a bit short of the hoped for result, the reality of it came crashing down, and he had to take some time to deal with it.
That Browne would react in such a manner isn't surprising. After seeing West Virginia's team fracture over the past couple of years, he put everything he had into rebuilding a solid team, one that shared common goals. Along with fellow senior Juwan Staten, Browne achieved that, helping the Mountaineers to heights no one dreamed of at the start of the season.
Along the way, Browne did the same for his own game. A below average 3-point shooter, the Puerto Rico native worked on his shot diligently, and saw his percentage rise to 33.3% as a junior and 38.5% this year. His defense became a calling card for Press Virginia, and his leadership was critical. Filling whatever role WVU needed -- starter, super sub, defender -- he was a vital cog for the rebuilt Mountaineers.
Along the way, of course, Browne had his detractors. Those that focus only on scoring criticized him, and others questioned his Division I chops after his performance wavered during the middle part of his career. He didn't let that faze him, however, and continued to work no matter what the critique. The only ones that mattered to him were the ones that came from West Virginia's coaches, and he clearly met their expectations.
Given a couple of days to gather his thoughts, Browne posted an open letter on his Twitter account. Noting that "140 letters aren't enough to express how grateful and how much love I have for my teammates, @CoachHuggs and our fans/state #alwayscallithome", Browne posted the following:
"I feel blessed. It didn't go the way we wanted it to go, but there is still so much to be thankful for - my teammates, the coaching staff and or course our unwavering fans. My only regret is that we were not able to bring home a National Championship. Even though I am debased that we fell short of our goal, I am happy that I was able to be part of something so special. I keep reminding myself that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. I am thankful for every day over the past four years that I was able to put on the blue and gold jersey and represent this great state. West Virginia has accepted me as one of their own, both on and off the court. I am so blessed to be able to finish my college career at a place that I will always call home. The future of this program is bright. Considering the guys that will be returning next year, I truly believe that the best has yet to come for West Virginia Basketball."
There's not much that can be added to that. My only contribution is this: Gary, it is Mountaineer Nation that was blessed by your presence.