RICHMOND, Va. -- Was Navy's final basketball game in the Colonial Athletic Association also Pete Herrmann's last as the Middies' coach?
Athletic director Jack Lengyel has been mum on Herrmann's future all winter. Whatever is decided in the coming weeks, it can't diminish Navy's unlikely performance in the CAA tournament at the Richmond Coliseum. The Midshipmen will play next season in the Patriot League, and as farewells go, Rhett Butler had nothing on the men from Annapolis.
Navy (8-21) was eliminated by George Mason (14-15) in yesterday's semifinals, 93-86. It was the second straight overtime game for the Midshipmen, who had to wonder if Saturday's jaw-dropper over James Madison did more than keep the favored Dukes out of the NCAA tournament. Did the biggest upset in CAA tournament history -- the No. 8 seed with just two conference wins over the regular-season champ -- also save Herrmann's job?
Herrmann is well-liked in Annapolis and Navy should find it a little easier to compete in the Patriot League. On the negative side of the ledger, the Midshipmen have 19 wins to show for the last three seasons, and Herrmann's five-year log is 57-88. That includes a 26-6 mark in Herrmann's first season, when David Robinson carried the team to its last CAA championship and NCAA berth. Lengyel, remember, fired football coach Elliot Uzelac in 1989 after a last-second win over Army.
"The kids were super the last three, four weeks," Herrmann said. "It's easy for a team struggling to come in and go without a struggle, but it's been a pleasure watching them in these games. We're shooting the ball better. Our next game we ought to be pretty good."
Saturday's win over James Madison added to Lefty Driesell's litany of postseason disappointments and disrupted more travelers than a Friday afternoon back-up at the Bay Bridge. Few in Navy's corner expected the Middies to be playing yesterday; 600 members of the brigade instead watched Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs play the Washington Bullets at the Capital Center.
As a parting gift, the CAA earlier this winter denied Navy future revenue it earned the conference in the 1986 and '87 tournaments. The NCAA's profit-sharing plan takes into account past performance, but the other members of the CAA said Navy can't take any of that money. In return, the Middies sent packing the top draw other than the hometown Richmond Spiders, and fans stayed away in droves yesterday. Richmond got 10 points, four rebounds and four steals from Terry Connolly of Thomas Johnson High in Frederick and beat American, 78-70, in the other semifinal. So the Spiders meet George Mason in tonight's (7:30, Home Team Sports) championship.
The fans who ate their tournament passes missed another gritty performance by Navy, which had Eddie Reddick, its top inside threat, on the bench with four fouls for eight minutes in the second half, but still had a chance to win in regulation.
Erik Harris was stripped of the ball in the waning seconds, but the missed opportunity didn't diminish a fine campaign by the senior guard. An All-CAA selection, Harris averaged 20 points on the year, and he ranks 11th on Navy's all-time list with 1,239 points and third in assists with 472.
Reddick, the senior forward whose three-point play provided the margin of victory Saturday, finished with 1,366 points, Navy's No. 8 all-time, and 875 rebounds, third behind only Robinson and Vernon Butler.
Harris had 19 points against George Mason. If Navy's weekend played like a fairy tale, it was the Ugly Duckling, not Cinderella. Junior big men Nick Marusich and Sam Cook, who had struggled all season, had some of their best moments. Cook had 14 yesterday, and Marusich joined Reddick with 12.
Adding to the hurt was the fact that the Midshipmen were done in by another Navy man. Robert Dykes, a 26-year-old senior forward who served in the Navy in the mid-1980s, had 27 points and 16 rebounds for George Mason. In the first 3:10 in overtime, he outscored Navy 8-2. In three games against the Middies this season, he averaged 27.3 points and 11.7 rebounds.