Lehigh basketball team at the ESPY awards

Chapter 9

Arriving Home

Lehigh University ring with the word 'family'

FAMILY: The team’s championship rings are engraved with the word “family,” demonstrating the bond among the players in the 2011-2012 season.

Shupp: We flew back after the game. It was about 2:30, 3 o'clock [Monday] morning, and we were met by the commissioner of the city of Bethlehem police department, at the airport ... and we were given a police escort back to campus.

Haas: There were hundreds of students and fans outside Taylor Gym to welcome the team back, which was really cool to see. It was a pretty great moment for the team and for the students to kind of have that moment together. That's something that I won't forget.

Lehigh University ring with the word 'family'

FAMILY: The team's championship rings are engraved with the word “family,” demonstrating the bond among the players in the 2011-2012 season.

Shupp: We were underdogs, and the team came through, but the players never got cocky.

The team was an inspiration to all of Lehigh, and their remarkable season continues to impact their lives today.

Haas: A slogan came out of it that Lehigh jumped on, which was "Believe in Yourself." Our players talked about there wasn't a lot of belief that they could win outside the locker room, but they believed in themselves. That became a bit of a rallying cry for a little while after the game, that you can accomplish things if you believe in yourself. Lehigh has taken that to heart, beyond basketball.l

Maneri: For me, that season made me realize that, sometimes, [success] doesn't take one year, or two years. It can take a long time to mesh, to build something, to have an entire team working toward the same goal. My freshman year we had a good team, but in the [2010-2011] season, there was some back-and-forth between players, arguments. When our senior year came, we put that to an end. By my senior year, I understood that everyone has roles on any team, and everyone has to play those roles. I was the best player on the court in high school. I wasn't in college. I had to accept that, I had to play my role.

That's in life and in basketball. That's what I took away from that team and that season. I see that at work even today—if you just do your job, the whole team does better.

B.J. Bailey

B.J. Bailey '13 credits not only the players but Lehigh's athletic director, trainers and student managers for the win. "Everyone just bought in," he says.

Bailey: Thinking back on it now, just because we were so persistent with what we were trying to [accomplish], that's why we deserved it. [We had] a great group of guys and great individuals from the leadership of the department—the athletic director on down to the athletic trainers and ... the student managers—and everyone just bought in. I think it's important to celebrate because of how much we put toward attaining that goal and winning a game like that. We'll always have that, and hopefully we'll let that live on in our lives as we're trying to attain other goals.

Greiner: That season as a whole, and that game specifically, really helped shape our careers. The craziest thing about that team was, we loved each other. ... So when we made our championship rings that season, I remember the ring designer telling us, "OK, you have space for some text here, and here." Coach Reed called in the seniors and asked what we wanted on the rings, and we told him: "Family." The ring guy was confused. "You don't want to say 27 wins?" No. We wanted it to say "family," because we wouldn't even have those rings if not for that.


* Excerpts taken from Mitch Goldich's "Lehigh Beating Duke Shows Why March Madness is So Great,” originally published in The Huffington Post.
** Excerpts taken from C.J. McCollum's "Absolute Madness," originally published in The Players' Tribune.