There may be no truer sign of a college program’s arrival in the big time than interest in hiring away its coach. For now, however, former Harvard players and team supporters are enjoying the attention and embracing the rare role of underdog.
Thomas Mannix, team captain in 1981, attended the Crimson’s first-round game and said the squad “quickly became the darling of the crowd.” During the postgame reception at the hotel the team was staying at, Mannix was impressed by the number of alumni who traveled from around the country to watch the game live. “It made Harvard feel like a tight-knit community,” he said.
But Mannix understands why the team doesn’t generate widespread student interest.
“Do you wish that Harvard was more of a basketball school?” said Mannix. “Sure. But everybody is absorbed in what they’re doing, and they should be. They’re very good at what they’re doing, too. It’s been nice that there’s been a pretty loyal student section at games. The players may get noticed around campus a little more because they’ve now received national attention.”
And they got international attention, a call between Amaker and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust.
“I did get a call from the president — president of Harvard,” said Amaker. “President Faust did call from Korea. She was there traveling, and it was neat to get a call from her, a message from her. News had traveled very fast, so she had been able to find out about the score of our game and wanted to say congratulations and wanted me to be sure to mention it to our players — she was so very proud of our team and our program.”
At Friday’s pickup game, Cooney was joined by two friends from basketball-mad Indiana. Now, they can truly join in the college hoops conversation.
“All my friends back at Indiana University and Purdue always talk about the games,” said Abhi Chintapalli, a junior from Fort Wayne, Ind. “It’s nice to finally say, ‘Oh, look, Harvard is on a channel that you watch.’ I can say to my friends, ‘We’re Harvard and we’re on national TV.’ ”
Chintapalli plans to order some chicken wings and watch Saturday’s game on the television at Leverett House with his friends.
Hofer, however, won’t be tuned in to the second-round contest.
“I’ll be at a ballroom dance competition,” she said.
Michael Vega of the Globe staff contributed from Salt Lake City. Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.