Concussion symptoms, stemming from an injury suffered in a game at Princeton in February 2014, caused Mullins to miss the entire 2014-15 campaign. The Ivy League does not generally permit medical redshirts, so Mullins’s final year of eligibility will be played in Berkeley.
Introduced one week ago as the 23rd coach in Columbia history, Jim Engles has a lot on his plate: hiring a staff, meeting new players, replacing a legendary senior class… and finding decent cell phone service in Levien Gymnasium.
Once we switched to a land line, I spoke with Coach Engles in a wide-ranging interview for this special episode of On The Vine. Among the news that will interest Lions fans: Kyle Smith’s entire 2016 recruiting class has committed to being at Columbia next year, Jesse Agel is definitely coming on board as an assistant coach, and one of Engles’ goals for next year’s team is making the Ivy League Tournament.
One moment that stood out to me came from near the end of the interview (a full transcript of which is available below the audio file). I asked Engles to speak directly to Columbia fans, and here’s part of what he said:
I watched the championship game on TV, and I saw how the crowd reacted, and I saw the gym packed. Those are moments for these people, because they want to see those moments. They want to win a championship. And that’s exactly how I envision this. That’s what I want to do. I really want to win for all those people who’ve been with Columbia for such a long time, and have been fans through the good times and the bad times.
Many thanks to Coach Engles for coming on the show, Columbia Athletics for making him available, and Miles Johnson and Sam Tydings for contributing questions.
Here’s the full transcript of the interview. Any errors of transcription are mine alone.
MANHATTAN — At a hastily called press conference in Low Memorial Library, Columbia star guard Maodo Lo announced his retirement from the game of basketball, citing his intent to begin a career as an artist.
Though most in attendance expected Lo, the third leading scorer in Columbia history, to declare for the NBA Draft, the 6-foot-2 scoring guard stated that he felt a call to the world of studio art.
MANHATTAN — The week between Christmas and New Year”s is often a sleepy week, even in the bustling metropolis on the Hudson. But it was anything but quiet uptown on the Monday evening after Christmas, as a robust crowd saw the Columbia Lions win their fifth consecutive game, defeating the Howard Bison, 72-59.
Facing off against the nation”s leading scorer, Howard”s James Daniel, the Light Blue”s much-maligned defense put on one of their best performances of the season in controlling the Bison.
While Daniel finished with 36 points, the slick guard did so on an inefficient 9-29 shooting, and 2-10 from beyond the arc. The quick feet of Maodo Lo, along with alert help defense, prevented Daniel from getting any clean looks at the basket.
“I thought I emphasized it enough in practice: he”s the leading scorer in the country, he”s the leading scorer in the country,” coach Kyle Smith (Hamilton “92) said with a laugh after the game. “We wanted to be better defensively, and I think we were.”
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because no Ivy mascot is cuddlier than Roar-ee. Especially not the creepy Quaker guy.
Some nights, you have the feeling you’re going to see something special.
The night of March 7, 2015, five seconds before tip-off, I sat down next to Toothless Tiger on Jadwin Gym’s press row. The first words out of my mouth?
“I think Maodo goes for 40 tonight.”
As it turned out, this prediction was wildly inaccurate.
Don”t worry, Columbia fans: the greatest basketball player of all time isn”t graduating just yet.
Okay, that”s hyperbole from a Columbia fan. But you can”t deny that “Chairman” Maodo Lo was one of the Ivy League”s best players in the 2014-15 campaign. And, despite rumors out of German media that Lo was declaring for the 2015 NBA draft, the junior guard made it clear on Thursday that he”ll be wearing Columbia blue next year.
“He did go through some preliminary discussions, with the help of coach (Kyle) Smith, to see what his potential pro prospects are, but he had every intention on coming back,” Columbia Sports Information Associate Director Mike Kowalsky said. “They were just doing their due diligence.”
In the Ivy game I’m sure you all were watching on Friday night, Columbia put out a horribly uninspired performance in the Palestra, falling to Penn 54-46. The Lions scored just nine points in a nightmarish first half, knocking down just three of the 20 shots they put in the air.
Sitting on the bench, watching three after three clang off the rim (or, in Cory Osetkowski’s case, miss everything entirely), Steve Frankoski sat, unusually quiet, with a large brace on his right ankle.
Frankoski’s playing time on this team has fluctuated over the course of the season, but he started to come on down the stretch. The senior picked up his first start in Columbia’s rout of Brown, and scored six points in the first three minutes the next night at Yale.
With nine seconds left, Kyle Castlin was suddenly all by himself.
Isaac Cohen had flung a floating touch pass, a perfectly weighted through ball that would make the likes of Mesut Ozil proud, over the pressing defense of the desperate Yale Bulldogs. Castlin, breaking away from his man, hauled in the pass in stride, nothing but an empty basket ahead of him.
The freshman rose up and put down a two-handed slam, sending a disappointed crowd of 1,900 out into snowy New Haven. The small clique of Lions fans behind the bench went nuts as Kyle Smith let out a celebratory fist pump, Castlin’s dunk providing the exclamation point on a weekend to remember for Columbia.
Several weeks ago, I was inspired by The Ancient Quaker’s epic power poll. If the AQ can create a ranking of the Ivy basketball teams so detached from Planet Earth that Penn would come in at No. 1, why couldn’t I do the same?
Behold, then: a totally scientific and rational power poll, with just three weekends left in the season.
I will follow the guideline established by the AQ from his power rankings: “I’ve decided to rank the teams as I see them which of course has nothing to do with reality.”
For six beautiful seconds, it was the biggest shot of Jeff Coby’s life.
The sophomore forward from Florida doesn’t have the traditional build of a three-point shooter. He’s 6-foot-9, a prototypical power forward who attempted just three shots from long-range his freshman season. As most Kyle Smith players are required to do, Coby added a three-point shot during the offseason, hitting a respectable 10 of 32 so far during this campaign.
None, though, were quite as important as that 10th shot. In the sauna that is Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, the 10th shot arced through the air after a brilliant feed from Maodo Lo found Coby all by himself, the clock running down, and the Lions needing a three to complete a brilliant second half comeback against a Harvard team that led by 17 at halftime.
It went in. The Columbia corner of the gym exploded. For six seconds, Coby was the hero.