Posted on Feb 18, 2013

I didn’t write Friday’s post about last week’s David Brooks column in the New York Times intending that the post would be the first of a two-parter. Well, now it is.

That David Brooks CENTAUR SEASONS post ended with George Kelly, a member of “the first first Centaur basketball team” that played the 1968-69 season in an Allentown city industrial league, talking about how impossible it was back then to imagine what the four-building college might grow to become 40 years in the future.

On Saturday, that future here, I took a run down to Center Valley, Pennsylvania, to the college with the now-two-dozen-plus buildings to catch the final regular-season game of the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales Centau… I mean, the DeSales U Bulldogs vs. Eastern University.

We won, 85-74, and clinched the top seed in the Freedom Conference playoffs, which open on Wednesday at DeSales. We’re the winningest team in the D-III Mid-Atlantic Region over the past ten years. Indeed, together with the women’s team, DeSales is the only D-III Mid-Atlantic school to have both team win more than 200 games each in the past ten years, as this D3HOOPS.COM story makes plain.

(Of course, the best part about this is, the better these Bulldogs get now, the better we Centaurs get back then. It’s the way it works, ipso facto. Knowledgeable D-III hoop fans know the deal. You played for DeSales? Wow. They’re good. Yes, I say, saying nothing else. And yes, I have had this actual conversation.)

They are a fun team to watch, these Centaur-Centdog-Bultaur-Bulldogs, getting after it on defense, pushing it on offense.

Oh my, could I ever, once, like these guys?

Though it’s not their youth I envy. God bless ’em. May they run forever. The youth I envy is mine.

My senior year I chased down a fast break and swatted the guy’s layup out of the air. The ball slammed off the backboard and caromed all the way out to midcourt. On the follow through my elbow banged the rim, rattling the stanchion to the ceiling, and I got whistled for a technical foul.

I’m going to say that again: On the follow through my elbow banged the rim, rattling the stanchion to the ceiling, and I got whistled for a technical foul.


I miss how important it was. The college, the team, the game, the playing. Not seemed important. Was important. Between games my knees would sometimes ache so badly they’d make me cry. I miss the ache. I miss the cry. I miss the total recall, playing the entire game for hours later. I miss how, desperate for sleep, I still couldn’t sleep the night after. I miss that sense of purpose that pumped through me into the next day. That sense of accomplishment, even after the worst losses – probably even more so then.

Watching the game Saturday, watching these 19-, 20-, 21 year olds run the floor in their baggy-white unis with the cool red-and-blue side chevrons, I took George Kelly’s can you imagine 40 years from now one step further. I found myself thinking about the college in another 40 years. To the year 2053, for crying out loud, halfway home to the twenty-second century.

But instead of thinking about what the college might look like then, I saw these kids running the floor in front of me as the 60-year-old men they are fated to be, back at the college like I was now, watching.

Watching another edition of Centaur-Bulldogs, guys not born yet, guys whose parents are maybe not born yet. Geez. The number of missed connections, close encounters, chance meetings necessary to ensure there will be a team on the Billera Hall floor 40 years from now for this current team to watch is mind boggling.

But a team there will be. And the guys I was watching now running the court, they will be sitting in the stands then, watching.

Here’s hoping they miss what they see.

On February 18th, 2013 at 9:41 am, Turtle said:

I was in Madison, NJ the previous Saturday with some of my contemporaries, the 64/65 year old guys you’ve referenced, from the class of “70 for a Bulltaurs road win. You captured the feeling, the melancholy, so precisely.

Those games were important because they were such a big part of the little we had at the college then. They may even be more important now because they conjure up such great memories.


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.