NEW YORK – Morning in Manhattan was coming fast, the sun starting to rise outside Mike Hopkins' coffee-cup cluttered, seventh-floor hotel room. The Syracuse assistant sat in a desk chair trying to watch game film. Staffer Kip Wellman was sprawled out on the bed, lending an extra opinion.
It was around 6 a.m. following a six-overtime victory over Connecticut. Both were fighting off heavy eyes. Then Hopkins' phone rang – "Jonny Flynn," read the caller ID.
"What's Kip doing in your room?" Flynn asked.
"Forget that, what are you doing up?" Hopkins said.
Flynn told Hopkins to look out his window and there across the way, waving from their hotel room was Flynn and teammate Paul Harris. Neither one had even come close to doing what they were supposed to be doing – sleeping in preparation for a game against West Virginia later that day.
"Too amped up," Flynn said, laughing.
So after playing 67 minutes against UConn, Flynn caught three hours of sleep, grabbed a two-hour afternoon nap and returned to Madison Square Garden less than 20 hours after the epic win. He then proceeded to play 45 more minutes, score 15 points and dish nine assists in a 74-69 overtime victory over the Mountaineers.
Saturday night comes top-seeded Louisville in the Big East finals.
"Tonight we're getting some sleep," promised Harris. "I think we'll be real energized tomorrow."
If so, look out Louisville. Who knows what the friends from Niagara Falls, N.Y. – and the rest of their resilient teammates – can accomplish with a bit of rest?
Syracuse has now played three games and seven overtimes in three days and doesn't look a bit worse for wear.
"I told the guys before the game, 'We came this far we might as well go win this,' " Harris said. "It's all mental. If you think you're tired, you're tired."
The Orange don't think they're tired, they think they're peaking. Talent has never been the issue with this team, consistent effort has. Yet no one has shown more heart in the postseason than Syracuse, which just keeps digging deep and finding ways to win. Against WVU it was gut-it-out defense, of all things, that did it.
When Hopkins was watching that tape deep into the night, it wasn't what West Virginia did that concerned him most; it was how they did it.
Bob Huggins' teams are famed for their relentless style, making the Mountaineers about the worst possible opponent to face after an emotional, exhaustive battle with Connecticut.
There's no handbook on what to do after a six-overtime game. The only time in college history that's been exceeded (once) or duplicated (twice) the teams didn't have to play the next day, let alone with the team's two most important players not following orders.
First, the friends eschewed the team's healthy choice late night dining options and instead sent one of Harris cousins, in town for the tourney, out on a McDonald's run.
"Nothing else was open," Harris laughed.
Harris got chicken nuggets, Flynn a double quarter-pounder with cheese. With that sitting in their stomachs they proceeded to take phone calls and text messages, watch "SportsCenter" over and over and bounce off the walls despite legs that were still cramping. They never even bothered to turn off the light until Hopkins ordered them to sleep.
"I was so hyped from the win, I couldn't go to sleep," Flynn said. "I didn't think I'd be up when the sun came up, though."
Head coach Jim Boeheim doesn't worry about Flynn because there's never anything to worry about. His competitiveness has rubbed off on everyone. The entire team is tired, they just don't show it. When one more extra session was needed Friday, everyone just laughed about it.
Flynn has now played 35 of 40 minutes Wednesday, 67 of 70 minutes Thursday and 45 of 45 Friday.
"I don't know why the coach took him out those minutes," Boeheim cracked. "Not good coaching."
Flynn admitted he was so exhausted that sometimes he was cramping while walking the ball up the court. He didn't have as many run outs and the usually go-go-go guard paced himself. Still, he wasn't taking a seat on the bench.
"I didn't want to lose the game knowing I could help," Flynn said.
"All the great players I've had hate to come out," Boeheim said. "I had the first eight games we played one year, we were winning by an average of 35 points a game and Billy Owens was only playing 30 minutes. [He] said, 'Coach, I didn't come here to play 30 minutes.'
"Learned a long time ago good players, they want to be in the game."
One more game for Syracuse here, minutes' wise nearly its fifth in four days. Flynn has vowed to rest. That promise alone might give Louisville nightmares.
- Mike Hopkins
- Paul Harris
- Jonny Flynn