Cinderella has Queens roots

Bob McKillop was answering questions about Davidson’s incredible run to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, about the two prolific performances Stephen Curry, his star sophomore guard, produced, the 70 points he put up against Gonzaga and Georgetown, and their upcoming match-up with Big 10 power Wisconsin, when he was asked about his roots.
McKillop, 57, had answered every query without hesitation, but on this one he stopped.
He thought back to his days as a teen in South Ozone Park, when he played baseball and basketball at Chaminade High School on Long Island. In his free time, he would head out to the park to play pick-up games, but not to just any park. To the best ones. He wanted to go where the top players and finest games were. If you lost, you had to wait an hour-and-a-half sometimes to get next.
The next time his tenth-seeded Wildcats lose, starting Friday night in their Midwest Regional semifinal against third-seeded Wisconsin, they won’t get back on the court, not until next year. But it is the same analogy, he said.
His team is looking to play the best. It is why he scheduled Duke, North Carolina and UCLA this season. And why, after 19 years at the North Carolina school, they are one of the final 16 teams playing college basketball.
“You go where the action is,” he said.
It’s been a long time since McKillop left the tri-state area for Davidson. He coached high school ball at Holy Trinity and Long Island Lutheran, where he won five New York State championships, after graduating from Hofstra in 1972. When he left, back in 1989, McKillop thought he would be back in the neighborhood soon, recruiting for whatever Big East program he would find his way to.
However, it did not materialize. McKillop did experience much success during his first three years until he realized his profession was a lot tougher than he thought. He developed an admiration for Davidson, an academically rich school who had last reached the Sweet 16 three times before, the last time being 1969. He has now won nine Southern Conference championships in addition to this memorable March run.
All these years later, he has not forgotten where he comes from. His thick New York accent has not faded. His voicemail message starts, “How ya doin’?” and he uses metaphors like “Broadway stages,” and “magical carpet rides.”
“Without a doubt, the roots I had growing up in New York,” he said, “were some of the greatest roots anyone can ever have.”
Of all his coaching mentors, he lists two, Jack Curran, the head man at Archbishop Molloy, and former St. John’s Coach Louie Carnesecca, at the top of the list. Curran, in his 50th season at the Briarwood school, made one phone call for McKillop to East Carolina that landed him a scholarship.
“My indebtedness for Jack Curran will be taken to the grave,” he said.
Many have said the same thing to him over the last few days. He has received waves of congratulations since shocking second-seeded Georgetown Sunday, from former players and friends going back to his days as a Queens teen to his formative years in the south. McKillop has had the same reaction to them all.
“They did it with me,” he said. “The foundation is deeply rooted.”

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