By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It was a silent reminder, every time they walked into the gym.
“There’s a banner that says ‘1978,’ and every day we’d just look there (and think), ‘We’ve got to put another one up there,’” Steve Kennedy said.
Sunday afternoon, Kennedy and his Sydenham Golden Eagles teammates earned the right to do just that, as they defeated the defending champion Frontenac Falcons 48-35 to win the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior basketball title, the school’s first in 37 years.
The Eagles weren’t just aware of the history, though. Last week, they were introduced to it. After their semifinal victory over the Kingston Blues Thursday, Jim Crozier, the man who coached that Sydenham team in 1978, paid them a visit.
“He told us how much he loves the way we play, the way we go inside and out, and how much he likes that,” Kennedy said. “It brought a smile to my face and I think everybody else, too.
“It was very cool. I’ve never had an experience like that.”
As it turns out, Crozier later coached at Bayridge, where, for four years, one of his players was Shaun Kennedy, the current coach of the Golden Eagles. Crozier knew of the undefeated season Sydenham was assembling, and called his former protégé. “He was very interested in seeing us play,” Kennedy said.
“He sort of latched onto the energy and spirit of this team.”
Kennedy, no relation to the player, said his athletes have been tuned into “the 1978 thing” all along.
“That 78 piece has been with us as a theme all season,” he said. “Any one of these kids could have told you what year the last championship was.” They were thrilled, he said, to meet the man who coached that team.
“It was really neat. All these guys, they knew right off who he was. They had never met him, but they knew the legend of him.
“He even took the time to go around individually and tell them what he liked about them. Not, ‘Here’s what you need to change,’ but, ‘This is what I see in your game that I like.’ It was a pretty special thing.”
Crozier was at Sunday afternoon’s contest, standing high across the floor in the Queen’s Athletics and Recreation Centre, opposite the team’s bench, watching with several members of that last Sydenham championship team.
“It was nice to have them here,” said Sydenham forward Ben Lusk. “It was a big boost, having the community behind us.”