PITTSBURGH — For one night, three important figures in Maryland basketball lore were back together, Billy and Dave and Jimmy gathering to trade tales.
Basketball brought them together in the first place. Basketball forged a bond among the three. Basketball sent them their separate ways. And basketball brought them together for an evening at the NCAA tournament.
Well, two evenings this week. Billy Hahn is West Virginia’s assistant to the head coach. Dave Dickerson is an assistant coach at Ohio State. Jimmy Patsos is in his eighth year as Loyola’s head coach. All three teams played in Thursday’s evening session.
The three were assistants under Gary Williams during Maryland’s Final Four run in 2001. More importantly, they assembled the pieces of the team that would go on to win the national championship the following year.
And they saw just about everything in five years together in College Park.
“The great thing about it is, usually when you’re with people, people make up stories,” Hahn said Wednesday. “The thing about last night was nobody can make a story up. It’s all true. It was classic.”
Hahn was the first piece of the staff, joining Williams when he took over the Terps in 1989. Patsos became a volunteer assistant in 1991, eventually earning a full-time job. Dickerson completed the group in 1996.
All stepped in at different points of the Terps’ rise. But all shared a connection to a time when Maryland coveted the crystal trophy it now displays at Comcast Center.
“Gary was dad, Billy was the older brother, Dave was the middle brother and I was the younger brother,” Patsos said. “The ages were right. Having played at Catholic U. and been a high school coach in the area, that almost put me into the family. I earned my way, but those three were family members. We had to be tight because we didn’t have everything.”
Each had their strengths. Hahn was a former head coach who was responsible for scouting reports for much of his time at Maryland. Dickerson was the ace recruiter. Patsos served as a vital conduit between Williams and the players.
It didn’t last forever, of course. Hahn left after the first Final Four season, taking over at La Salle for a three-year run that ended abruptly when rape accusations were leveled at three of his players. (The charges were later dropped.)
Patsos departed after the Terps’ 2004 ACC tournament title and this year led Loyola to its first 20-win season since 1948-49.
Dickerson was the last to take a head coaching job, taking over at Tulane in 2005. Later that year the three attended former Maryland point guard Steve Blake’s wedding, an event Patsos believes is the last time they were together.
That event occurred the same weekend as Hurricane Katrina, which essentially doomed Dickerson’s tenure with the Green Wave before it began.
“Dave left the wedding to go home to the hurricane,” Patsos said. “We’re like ‘Hey, Dave, hurricane schmurricane. That’s not a big deal.’ Dave looks at the weather, gets the news and runs to the airport.”
It was, no doubt, one of many anecdotes to pass among the three Tuesday night, a reminiscing session about Cole Field House and Steve Francis and Williams and countless other things that underscored something else the three very well might have in common.
“Those years were probably the best years of my coaching profession,” Dickerson said.