It wasn’t funny, but McDevitt coach Will Chavis couldn’t help but laugh.
His Lancers were in the first quarter of an old-fashioned thumping at La Salle, a loss punctuated by ESPN later that night when La Salle senior Konrad Kiszka’s spectacular dunk finished No. 5 on SportsCenter’s top plays.
- City All-Star Football Game will be played despite embezzlement scandal, attorney says
- Wednesday’s South Jersey roundup: Ocean City boys’ basketball clinches Cape-Atlantic League National with overtime win
- Wednesday’s Southeastern Pa. roundup: St. Joseph’s Prep Speedy Morris reaches another milestone
McDevitt trailed, 18-2, after the first quarter, 32-13, at halftime and lost, 58-35.
So, what on that Jan. 4 night was so funny? And how did it lead to the Lancers earning the Catholic League’s No. 3 seed and hosting Archbishop Wood on Friday night at 7 p.m.?
“I just started laughing,” said Chavis of his reaction during that fateful first-quarter timeout, “because I knew what it was. I knew we didn’t really have a chance to win that game, because I know that feeling.”
In the three seasons before Chavis arrived, McDevitt was 2-37 in PCL play and 12-54 overall.
When they played La Salle in January, the Lancers were undefeated in PCL play. The Explorers were undefeated, period.
The gym was packed, steamy and hostile, an atmosphere to which the Lancers (17-5, 11-3) were unaccustomed.
So Chavis, who starred at Engineering and Science alongside Lynn Greer Jr., chuckled on the bench.
His team wasn’t ready for that environment, and he knew it. He knew something else, too.
“I knew that after the game we would grow,” said Chavis, who was recently voted the league’s coach of the year by his coaching peers.
“I think that’s something that helped us,” he said. “I think we thought we were prepared for that moment, but when we got there we weren’t able to be in that moment. All the outside noise, everything surrounding the game was just too much for us.”
The Lancers won 8 of their next 10 games, a run that included seven wins in a row — even back-to-back victories at Neumann-Goretti and against visiting Bonner-Prendergast.
“Stick together,” Chavis said. “That’s really our identity.”
Tenacious defense helps, too. Amir Harris is the catalyst on that end, Chavis said. The 6-foot guard, he believes, is the best on-ball defender in the league.
At 6-foot-4, junior forward Jamil Manigo (15.1 points per game) leads the team in scoring and earned first-team All-Catholic honors from league coaches. And at 6-5, Cameron Gardner can provide a boost on both ends of the floor, Chavis said.
The question is, how will Chavis steady his team for a home playoff environment against a young and talented Archbishop Wood squad (15-7, 9-5)? “Kind of can’t,” he said. “You just have to be in the moment when it happens. It’s going to be interesting.”
Chavis should know.
His coaching education required courses taught by two basketball PhDs, longtime Engineering and Science coach Charlie Brown and basketball Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight at Texas Tech.
Typically one to deflect attention, Brown suggests his job was a relative breeze.
“I could sit back and be at peace because I knew those guys [Chavis and Greer] could run the team,” Brown said. “It’s such a comfort for a coach to have another coach on the floor.”
Less than a mile from McDevitt, Brown now patrols the sidelines as an assistant at Arcadia under another former Engineer, Knights head coach Justin Scott.
No matter what happens Friday night, it appears the future is bright for McDevitt basketball.
The Lancers have talented juniors, are successful on the court for the first time in years, and have an accomplished, well-known coach who played in Europe for a decade.
Perhaps a cue taken from Brown, Chavis, however, suggests it’s not about him.