Syracuse began senior day with a ceremony honoring the teams lone senior. A Scranton elementary school choir even sang a fight song dedicated to McNamara. That was followed by a montage of McNamara’s highlights from his four years including his 41 points against BYU in the NCAA tournament his sophomore year, and six three pointers in the national championship game against Kansas when he was a freshman.
McNamara’s parents came out to the center of Jim Boeheim Court and embraced their son, his mother hanging on the longest.
“I wasn’t letting her go,” McNamara said. “I was hanging on to her. I wanted to bring my whole family out there, but if they did come out we would still be there.”
Then, the game began.
McNamara started off slow. He scored his first points on a lay-up with 14 minutes, one second remaining in the first half. Any positive play the senior made was inflated by the crowd’s eruption of cheers.
“It’s just an overwhelming experience,” McNamara said.
With 4:45 remaining in the game and Villanova up by 10 points, McNamara began his final stand as a Syracuse player at the Carrier Dome. He hit two free throws, three 3-pointers, two more foul shots, and a lay-up scoring 15 straight for the Orange. The run charged the Syracuse crowd, but still only cut ‘Nova lead to eight points with 1:21 left in the game.
Even though the game was, for all purposes over, the Carrier Dome crowd began to chant Gerry…Gerry…Gerry. The chant which had been on and off the whole afternoon was in full effect when McNamara left the game with under a minute left.
“I’m glad I went out when I did,” McNamara said. “I’m not sure how much longer I could have held it together. I can’t put into words how much (the fans here) mean to me.”
The chanting continued until the game was over. Syracuse had lost, and the crowd was still chanting. Coach Jim Boeheim said the outcome of the game didn’t matter.
“Gerry McNamara is going to be remembered for his work here,” Boeheim said. “Not one game, or two games, or thirty games. He won the national championship. That’s all you need to do.”
When McNamara left the game, he hugged Boeheim and exchanged words with his coach.
“I just told him I’ve been proud to coach him for the past four years,” Boeheim said.
“Coach Boeheim means a lot to me,” McNamara said. “He’s not been the most outgoing guy about how he feels in four years, but we have a respect for each other that no one has ever taken away.”
McNamara and the Orange now head into the Big East Tournament likely needing to win two or more games to get into the NCAA tournament.
“At least we have an opportunity,” McNamara said. “We know what we have to do.”