Bellarmine Mourns a Loss

Photos courtesy of Mark Sims

Photos courtesy of Mark Sims

Bellarmine participated in the NCAA Men’s Division II Tournament for the eighth straight season. The Knights season ended with a 100-84 loss to Ferris State on Saturday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They finished the 2015-16 season with a 23-7 record. Seniors George Suggs and Michael Parrish played their final game in a Bellarmine uniform. Suggs scored over 1,000 career points and is the Knights all-time leader in blocked shots. Head Coach Scott Davenport is 255-89 in 11 seasons on the Knights bench.

Coach, what was your message after the game?
It’s so abrupt. My message to them was that they won’t be defined as a team that I was down on, not in any way, shape or form. It didn’t go our way. It wasn’t from lack of trying, lack of preparation or lack of effort.

What did the two seniors mean to the program?
I spoke to them at length, and they were devastated. What I’ll sum up, what I said to the team and what I said to George and Mike is that they will always be young men that played for Bellarmine, not at Bellarmine. That will be their legacy.

When you look back at eight straight NCAA tournament appearances, how difficult has that been to maintain?
In 65 years, Bellarmine has been in the NCAA tournament 17 times. So if you remove the last eight, they were there nine of the first 54 years.

Is that maybe the top accomplishment on the list, right there with winning the National Championship in 2011?
We’re extremely proud of that one. That’s what having a program with great expectations is all about, and it’s takes everybody.

How emotional have the last few weeks been?
We lost a president that was a cornerstone in our success. None of this, in the eight years in a row or my 11 years, would have been possible without Dr. McGowan.

How difficult was it to coach the kids through a loss like that?
Not just Dr. McGowan, but we also lost Jim Schurfranz, a Bellarmine Hall of Famer, whose grandson, Willie, is on the team.

Have these losses helped you  realize how hurt the Bellarmine community is and that maybe just losing a game isn’t as bad as you once thought?
No, it hurts me worse. I wanted it so bad for his family and for his legacy. It hurts worse.

How can you sum up Dr. McGowan’s impact, the vision to hire you and the improvements in facilities?
I take such pride that people say it went from being the high school on the hill to a rocketship of a university in terms of his vision, and it’s just taken off. To play a small part of that, through athletics, through the exposure that these kids brought Bellarmine on a national scale, is something that he and I shared so much pride in.

Did you talk with the team much about his loss?
Before we went to play in the NCAA tournament, I showed our team his speech in the locker room after we won the National Championship so that they would get a feeling of what it meant to him. We wanted it for him so bad, and it wasn’t from lack of trying. You just have to give Ferris State credit.

What’s next for you? Do you take some time off?
We have to take two weeks, by rule, and then, we will start back the minute we’re allowed to. The Tuesday after Easter break. VT