(WVUE) - Welcome in to Juan's World and I have to tell you....I didn't see this coming. No way in the world did I see the UNO Privateers punching a ticket to the Big Dance.
Twenty-one years ago, 1996, was the last time someone may have said....I didn't see this coming. But, I'm saying it now because how could you? Be honest with yourself and tell me how you saw this basketball team, after all it's been through the last five years, making it to the NCAA Tournament?
Well, I guess I should ask Mark Slessinger what 'he' saw when he took this job six years ago. When he took this job when it was in limbo. Division II, Division III, Division what? 'Sless' is a company guy that knows what to say and when to say it. And leading up to the Southland Conference Tournament, he said all the right things about how this program has gotten to where it is right now. He thanked the administration. He thanked the players that bought in early and stuck through it until now. He thanked the fans for never giving up on them. He thanked, he thanked and he thanked again. But, he never stopped to think that, maybe, HE is the reason why the 'Teers' are where they are today.
It took the right kind of coach to take over a dazed program. One that needed direction and nurturing, patience and understanding. Not only of what this team is but what it could be and should be based on what it once was over 20-years ago.
Slessinger understands all of that. He knows that Ervin Johnson isn't Magic in these parts. But, his game was pure magic when he led the 'Teers' to a pair of NCAA appearance in 1991 and 1993.
He understands the enormous shoes he's trying to fill by getting back to the NCAA tournament. Trying to leave his mark on the tournament like Tic Price did the last time UNO made it here or Tim Floyd, prior to Tic, punched a couple of tickets to the big dance.
Now, it's Slessinger's turn to make re-write the history books. He's just the fourth to take UNO to the NCAA Tournament. And he did it because he understands who the University of New Orleans is. Oh, and he knows how to coach as well. Congrats 'Sless' and the 'Teers'. Finally, the dancing shoes fit.
On selection Sunday, UNO was given a No. 16 seed and will face fellow No. 16 seed Mt. St. Mary, Tuesday evening. The winner will face No. 1 seed and defending National Champion Villanova.
Juan's World, Juan's World...Excellent!!!!