If you’ve been paying attention to the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, then there’s no doubt you’ve been inspired by the incredible stories that have taken place thus far. Whether it’s been the La Salle Explorers going from the Play-In game to the Sweet 16, or the 14th seeded Harvard Crimson knocking off Final Four favorite New Mexico, there’s been plenty to cheer about so far. Despite all of the incredible stories of the tournament so far however, my favorite story of them all has come from the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
This relatively unknown 15th seeded squad from Fort Myers, Fl is only in their second year of postseason eligibility, yet they’ve managed to shock the nation already with upsets over #2 seeded Georgetown and #7 seeded San Diego State. They are also currently the only undefeated team in NCAA tournament history.
There are many reasons for their incredible tourney run so far, including their high-flying style of play that’s given them the nickname “Dunk City”, as well as the fantastic coaching job by 2nd year coach Andy Enfield. However, most would agree that biggest reason for their success has been due to their outstanding group of players. The most notable contributors have been Sophomore sensations Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson, but no one can deny the impact of their senior leader Eddie Murray.
Though he is best known for his Hall of Fame baseball career, including 504 home runs and 1917 RBI’s, as well as the most sacrifice flies in MLB history, the 57 year old Murray has apparently found a new calling as the Eagles’ Power Forward, veteran leader and the newly-crowned mayor of “Dunk City”.
I was granted a special interview with Eddie after tonight’s stunning upset of the 7th seeded Aztecs and he had this to say regarding his team’s incredible run, “who the hell is this and why are you calling me at 11pm asking about a college I’ve never even heard of?”
In regards to how he went from being one of only four players in MLB history -next to Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and the mighty Rafael Palmeiro with both 3,000 career hits and 500 home runs, to being a part of only the seventh #15 seed team to defeat a #2 seed in tournament history, Eddie stated “I’m a retired baseball player, I haven’t been watching any of the tournament games and I’m trying to sleep, could you please leave me the hell alone, man?”
“Listen, I don’t know how you got my number, nor do I know why you’re asking me, a baseball player from Los Angeles about a basketball team from Florida, but I’m going to call the police if you don’t hang up right now”, Murray stated when asked what the team’s mindset was like when they were trailing San Diego State early in the game. .
Before Eddie had to go, I managed to ask him about how they plan on preparing for the Florida Gators under the bright lights of Texas Stadium in Dallas this week and he said “man, what part of ‘hang up right now’ did you not understand?”
It’s been an amazing ride for the Eagles of FGCU, and thanks to the senior leadership Eddie Murray has provided, they’ve set an unprecedented legacy for their program and put Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast University and even “Dunk City” on the map in a major way.
Whether this team goes down in history as the best Cinderella story of all time remains to be seen, but they are certainly the most entertaining in recent memory without question and I am excited to see how Billy Donovan and the Gators intend on slowing down these high-flying underdogs on Friday.