When did ‘Nova get street cred?

Emmett Fitzpatrick

I could have written on a number of topics this week, from the martial law imposed by the Radnor Police last weekend to a list of my favorite possible Halloween costumes. Either idea would have been relevant and naturally very enjoyable to read, but both topics seem to be played-out, a bit like my old favorite “We live in the Villanova bubble and need to become more diverse” topic that finds its way into nearly every publication, newsletter or website associated with the University. In actuality, I had little doubt as to the topic of this article after my experience Friday night at the Pavilion.

Last Friday’s Hoops Mania was the single greatest achievement I have seen on this campus in the last three-plus years, narrowly beating out Fountains of Wayne freshman year and Big Bird’s commencement address to the graduating class of 2005.

In case you missed it, our version of Midnight Madness featured the return of Curtis Sumpter, a taped intro from Terry Bradshaw and our very own Howie Long and by the way, Tony Yayo and 50 Cent.

Even as I write this, I am having a hard time believing that 50 Cent played on the same court to which I brought my limited set of basketball skills in last year’s B-League Intramural playoffs. Simply put, this just isn’t supposed to happen at Villanova. The fact is, however, that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era at this University, and we have two people to thank for it: Jay Wright, and finishing a close second, University President Rev. Peter Donahue, O.S.A.

Not much more can be said about Jay Wright than what we’ve been hearing about him for the last few years through the media and on campus, but I’ll give it a shot.

Wright is the rare person who, by all accounts, cares about what he does for a living and genuinely enjoys everything that it entails. I’ve often said that he is either the greatest actor I’ve ever seen, or he is the most passionate man I’ve ever followed.

From making appearances on Steven A. Smith’s “Quite Frankly” to interacting with students and alumni on a daily basis, he always projects the unique quality of making everyone around him believe that they are the most important people in the world. Perhaps that is why so many incredible athletes have chosen Villanova over the last half decade, and why high school players are literally lining up to play here.

It’s a fact that Jay Wright is a celebrity. While working in Chicago last summer, the first thing people told me after I introduced myself as “Emmett from Villanova” was how much fun they had watching our basketball team last year, and how they all knew about Wright’s coaching ability, to say nothing of his personal style, which was impeccable as always at Hoops Mania. If anyone had any doubts about the celebrity status of Jay Wright, they were erased with one simple line last Friday night.

When introducing Tony Yayo, Wright told the crowd, “Everyone put your hands together for G-G-G- G Unit.” Try picturing Coach K saying that to his holier-than-thou students from Duke.

With a lineup featuring Tony Yayo, 50 Cent, Jay Wright and a basketball team coming off a trip to the Elite Eight, the last person I would have expected to steal the show would be an Augustinian priest with gray hair. And yet, Donohue did exactly that, as two cheerleaders escorted him onto the court and he fired up the packed Pavilion.

All year I have wondered what all the excitement was about surrounding Donohue’s inauguration, and I still believe that the week-long celebration that still seems to be going on was fit more for a new Pope than a leader of Villanova. The more I see of him and the changing school that I returned to this year, however, the more I am starting to come around to what everyone else saw months ago.

The surreal atmosphere of Hoops Mania was epitomized by one image, which will not be leaving my memory anytime soon. Immediately following the game/concert, 50 Cent and his entourage left the back of the Pavilion in two black SUV’s, which was not surprising.

What was surprising, however, was the identity of the driver of a third van, facing the other direction: none other than The Rev. Peter Donahue, O.S.A. I’ll leave the jokes about Tony Yayo’s and Donohue’s new friendship to lesser minds, but it is safe to say that our campus took another step in this new direction, and so far all indications point to it being the right direction.

What’s next for Villanova? It’s anyone’s guess really, but I for one am looking forward to Fr. Donohue introducing Dr. Dre as the commencement speaker at our graduation, explaining that he is “my dawg who be talking to y’all about yo future.”