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Unrequited Hoops Fantasy Exposed

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For a long time I’ve fantasized about how the last score of years might have been for Louisville basketball, had Tom Jurich swung and missed on Rick Pitino, and been able to sign his second choice.

Jay Wright.

Whom I will get to in a moment.

First, a for personal story for context. How such a delusion worked out for me in the past.

Thus, I start with . . .

. . . Cindy Turner.

Whom I met in the 7th grade, immediately falling into what would prove to be the eternally unrequited morass of a major crush.

We were classmates. She was always friendly. Her smile melted me every time.

But, I was portly and insecure, and not much at all of a ladies man. Even by junior high school standards.

Thus my longing remained just that, nothing more.

Even, more or less, when she moved five houses down the street the summer before the 9th grade.

So, there’d be chats after school, but never had I the courage to, say, ask her to meet me at the Bard Theater, which was the Friday night hangout.

She even asked me to join her at the drive in that summer, along with her mom and brother. We sat in the back seat. Be still my beating heart. Her younger brother rarely watched the movie, but stared at us all evening.

Not that I would have ever had the nerve to bust a move or anything. Especially with her mom in the front seat.

Emboldened when we started the 10th grade, I was intent on asking her out for a date.

Until this happened on the first day of school, as I spotted her walking out of a class. Where she was met by a fellow who shall remain nameless.

Just as I was heading toward her to say hello, her first words of greeting to that fellow, “Yes, I’ll go steady with you.”

Cindy moved out of town before our senior year.

* * * * *

Which brings me to Villanova’s national champion coach Jay Wright.

When Tom Jurich was wooing Rick Pitino to replace Denny Crum, the Cardinal AD always said he had a list of only one. Yet there were rumors about that he did have a list. And that Wright was his next choice.

So, sometime not long after Pitino took the job and was ensconced in the position, when Wright had moved on from Hofstra to Villanova, I asked Jurich about the rumor.

Was Wright his backup choice?

He confirmed that indeed that was the case.

So, when all the scandals hit during the Pitino Era, I began to fantasize/ muse about what might have been? What if Rick had gone to Michigan, and Jurich was able to convince Jay Wright to move to Louisville?

Until a few days ago, when I read Dana O’Neil’s story about how Wright landed his dream job at ‘Nova, leaving the other significant suitor in the lurch. Rutgers.

U of L was never mentioned in the story.

I haven’t the slightest idea whether Jurich had even a scintilla of contact with Wright about the job.

What I know is when I’ve contemplated what U of L might be facing from the NCAA, I’ve always gone to that mighta been.

* * * * *

As for Cindy Turner, well, there is also a rest of the story.

Once or twice a year for the next thirty years after high school, I would dream about her.

Sometime in the late 90s, when lunching with a high school pal, Cindy’s name came up, and I mentioned my crush. Turns out he had her number in L A, where she was living, working for 20th Century Fox.

So, I called her.

“Cindy, Chuck Kaplan, the guy from high school, who lived down the street.”

“Oh, uh, hello. Why are you calling me after all these years?”

“Because I just got your number from Bob, and I’ve had a crush on you since the 7th grade.”

She laughed. She was flattered.

And, as things went, we’d speak on the phone every month or so. Sometimes I’d call here. Sometimes she’d call me.

A year or so later, it turned out I was going to be in Los Angeles, tied up during the week, but free after that.

“Why don’t we get together over the weekend, when you’re through with business,” she asked?

The kicker: “You can stay at my place.”

So, yeah, I had a great anticipation about the trip.

We talked after that, and all was set.

In Los Angeles, I checked in with her during the week, confirming I was out there, and “looking forward to getting together over the weekend.”

“Oh, I can’t this weekend. I’m going to Catalina with my boyfriend.”

* * * * *

Jay Wright has won two titles in Philly. Banners still waving.

Cardinal basketball is still wading in detritus, left from the Pitino regime.

I’ve never dreamed about Cindy Turner again.

— c d kaplan