Life of Brian: M. Hoops Seniors Can't Come Home Again

Whitney H. Welshimer

Seniors are honored in a ceremony before the men's basketball game.

Someone forgot to tell senior center Tim Coleman Saturday’s game against Columbia didn’t mean anything.

While Penn battled Yale in Philadelphia with first place in the Ivies at stake, the Harvard men’s basketball team was fighting for sole possession of fourth place, if that can even be considered something you fight for.

For Coleman, apparently, it was. When an errant Harvard pass was deflected into the backcourt with five minutes to play and the game very much in doubt, Coleman outran every player on the floor to the loose ball. Diving to the floor like a linebacker pouncing on a fumble, he gathered it up and worked it to a teammate. A split-second later, as Pat Harvey’s three attempt banged off the rim, Coleman had already raced back underneath the hoop to secure an offensive rebound—one of his 21 on the weekend—keeping the possession alive.

Then, with 1:45 left and the game tied, Coleman hit a crucial jumper, putting the Crimson ahead for good, 56-54.

In his final home weekend, Coleman played arguably his best two games of the year in a row. He had a double-double on Friday and nearly another one Saturday, finishing with 10 points and nine boards.

With his parents in attendance, Coleman was back to being the inside force he was two years ago when Dan Clemente ’01 went down with an eye injury.

Harvard was supposed to be dead in the water without Clemente that season. Coleman, apparently, didn’t get the memo. While Harvard went into crisis mode—“our backs were against the wall,” said Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan—Coleman played like a man possessed.

He led the team in scoring and rebounding for parts of that midseason stretch, lifting Harvard to a pair of upsets over a then-formidable Dartmouth squad. He finished the year as Harvard’s most improved player, helping to save what appeared to be a lost season.

Adversity struck hard when Coleman was forced to sit out all of last year for academic reasons. But someone probably forgot to tell Coleman how hard it would be to come back this year, how challenging it might be to be accepted by his teammates again.

In fact, someone definitely forgot, because Coleman entered this season in the best shape of his career, ready to run the floor in an offense committed to running in fifth gear.

One of the league’s better frontcourt players, he’ll likely finish the season third in rebounding.

“Sometimes [players] are away from Harvard for a year and they lose interest in extracurriculars,” Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan said. “Tim came back with a renewed sense of purpose. He felt strongly about helping the club this year and he really did a fine job. I’m really proud of him.”

In a week, someone will have to tell Coleman his Harvard career has ended. Coleman will probably hope they forget.

Drew Gellert will probably have to be dragged out of Lavietes kicking and screaming after Harvard finishes its season next weekend.

The Harvard captain is a man after Bill Cleary’s own heart. Cleary, Harvard’s former athletic director and lover of all things amateur athletics, hated specialization among young athletes. During his recruiting days as Harvard hockey coach, Cleary was famous for cherishing the multisport stars and the all-around athletes.

Gellert was a throwback in that regard. In high school, he took up football in his senior season on a whim, because a buddy encouraged him to come out for the team. In that one season, he broke a 26-year old interceptions record and, as a receiver, caught 90 balls, the most of anyone in state history since 1970.