CLASSIC REDUX: “Whatever the challenge was of being the captain, I wanted it.” (A Centaur’s Story)

Posted on Nov 18, 2013

Why didn’t Chris Cashman just quit the team?

On THE VERY FIRST DAY OF PRESEASON for his senior-year season, Cash turned his ankle during one of the first drills.

“I felt the ball go one way, my body another way and my ankle a third way,” he says.

It didn’t look like much, but…

“I’d ripped every ligament west of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.”


Welcome to a CENTAUR SEASONS “Classic Redux.” Every day from October 15 (March Madness!) through Thanksgiving Centaur Seasons is reposting shortened versions of last year’s efforts. (Click here to read today’s original.) Come December, CENTAUR SEASONS II will tip off with brand-new Centaur stories.

* * * * *  NOW, BACK TO ‘WHATEVER THE CHALLENGE …’  * * * * *  

Cash didn’t quit the Centaurs. And I’m not suggesting he should have.

I’m just sayin’.

Certainly no would have blamed him. He was a senior, a politics major, plenty on his plate, the rest of his life out there waiting. So once Cash destroyed his ankle, the last thing he needed was the hours every day rehabbing at the gym, followed every evening by two hours of practice, on the sidelines. Then three months of the season TRYING TO GET INTO A GAME.

While paying his own way for the privilege.

In high school Cash had been the basketball manager at Cardinal O’Hara in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Meaning he was likely Last Man Cut.

He didn’t quit then, either.

Cash was a 6-3 center-forward. He understood the game. He could handle the ball. He was coolly competent, eager to take the lead in demanding situations. I looked for him on the court, and to him off it for advice.

The leadership thing, Christopher was born to it. (We often called him by his full and proper name; he’d earned it.) He was the oldest of six boys.

“My parents were hard working and very discipline oriented,” Cash told me. “They focused on the fact that I was the oldest, and they expected me to be the leader. And I absolutely embraced it.”

Once, in a game, with the Centaurs out of timeouts and the score getting away, Cash faked losing a contact lens to gain stoppage time.

Leadership? “I was a freshman then,” Cash says.

As that freshman Cash was the team’s leading rebounder. As a sophomore he averaged nearly a dozen points per, second on the team. As a junior he started on the 8-and-8 half-good Centaur team, best in the school’s history.

As for his senior Centaur year, … well, the plan was simple. Cash had played in every game his first three years, all 55 of them.

“I was pretty sure that AT SUCH A YOUNG PROGRAM that wasn’t the case for anyone else,” he says.

And so going into his senior season, he – we – fully expected his streak to extend unbroken. He made no bones about it, that he wanted this. Playing on this brand-new no-where team, you see, it mattered to all of us in myriad ways.

His best friend in high school had been Tom Inglesby, the star of that O’Hara team. Tom went on to Villanova and glory as a sophomore starter in the NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAINST UCLA in the Astrodome. This is just me speculating: Cash wanted his senior year co-captaincy to be a bit of something to place next to his friend’s grander accomplishments.

And we all knew going into that ’72-’73 season that Christopher was champing on the bit to take on that captaincy, be the leader, in charge. “I didn’t see it as ‘de facto,'” he told me.  “BUT WHATEVER THE CHALLENGE WAS OF BEING THE CAPTAIN, I WANTED IT.”

And then it was over, down in a heap.

“The first thing I thought was, There’s A CHANCE I’LL MISS A GAME. I felt I was letting people down. Even as I think about it now, I can remember how emotional it was. I was very distraught I would miss a game.”

WHICH HE DID, RIGHT AWAY, OUR OPENER. “I felt I was ready,” he says.  “But I wasn’t.”

We won that game, and looked good. The locker room after was a joyous riot. Cash played along, but he was crushed. You could see it on his face that night, and for the rest of the season, too.

Still, he led. Of course. He did what he could and got on with it.

And he never quit. Though he refuses now to take more credit than due him.

“None of us had to be there,” he told me. “None of us had to play basketball for Allentown College. But we did.”

COMING TUESDAY: “Losing is kinda bad for a person…”


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Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.