Temple players and coaches stood in a circle in the locker room, holding hands as tears rolled down their cheeks. This — a shocking upset loss in the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament — was not how their season was supposed to end.
They thought this was the March for John Chaney to finally reach the Final Four and some Owls were dreaming of bringing a National Championship to North Broad Street. Everything was lined up for Temple to march though the bracket.
But then Seton Hall’s star point guard rolled his ankle and was replaced by a player who knocked down seven three-pointers, ending Temple’s March Madness in a stunned Buffalo, N.Y., locker room.
“It’s not something I like to think about,” Owls guard Quincy Wadley said. “There were a lot of sick feelings in that locker room.”
College basketball has swooned this month over St. Peter’s, the 15th seed from Jersey City who upset blue-blood Kentucky in the first round and plays Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center in the Sweet 16. The Peacocks are full of players who were overlooked by bigger programs and are coached by Shaheen Holloway, a feisty former guard from Queens who requires his players to match his toughness.
But for Temple, the coach of this year’s Cinderella will always be known as the Seton Hall player who rolled his ankle 22 years ago and put into motion the most painful loss in Temple history.
Dan Leibovitz, then an assistant to Chaney, still hasn’t watched the tape from that game. Too painful. The Owls went to the Elite Eight a year later but that couldn’t wash away the sting from Seton Hall.
“Maybe a little,” Leibovitz said of the pain. “We just felt like we had all the elements that you would need. It was just an incredible team. We all felt it was poised to make a run.”
Temple entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the East Region after breezing through the Atlantic 10 tournament. Four weeks earlier, they won on the road at No. 1-ranked Cincinnati. The Owls were ready for March.
“Everyone pretty much feared us when we stepped onto the court,” Wadley said. “Knowing that we were one of the best coached teams and best prepared teams and knowing that we had the talent to make it happen.”
They rolled Lafayette in the first round and jumped out to an early lead against Seton Hall in the second round when Holloway started on a fast break. He drove into the lane and stepped on Wadley’s sneaker as he started a layup. Holloway managed to make the shot but his season was over.
Seton Hall already faced an uphill climb and now their best player was headed to the hospital. Chaney’s elusive Final Four felt closer. And then Ty Shine came off the bench.
“It’s one of those eerie things that stays with you,” Leibovitz said. “When he checked into the game, he just kind of brought this energy and this swagger. The second that he walked onto the floor and the referee was about to put the ball in play, he kind of clapped his hands and was ready to play defense. I can’t describe it but it wasn’t like he was coming into the game nervous. He was coming into the game like, ‘OK. Watch this.’ ”
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Shine knocked down a couple quick threes and Seton Hall rallied without Holloway to enter halftime ahead by two. The Owls were in trouble.
“What they were doing, they weren’t going to beat us with Xs and Os. That wasn’t going to happen,” Wadley said. “It was one of those things where someone gets hot and they’re shooting to that magnitude, by the time you identify where they are and what’s happening, he’s already hit five three pointers. He’s already on fire.
“The thought process was, ‘Oh, he’ll cool off.’ He never cooled off.”
For Temple, Shine’s name is equivalent to Chico Ruiz or Joe Jurevicius. The guy who came off the bench, knocked down seven threes, and crushed a program’s dream. He finished with a career-high 26 points, more than three-times his career average. Another player to haunt Philly.
Shine played 23 minutes in Seton Hall’s first-round win over Oregon and shot 1 for 8 from the field as Holloway’s backup. He was in Temple’s scouting report but not to this extent.
“It was a bittersweet type of thing,” Shine said. “We’re all there because we want to play. I wanted to play in the game and I wanted to start. It just wasn’t my time. So any chance that you get an opportunity to get on the court, you want that. I didn’t want it to happen the way that it did. That was Shaheen’s last year and we had almost like a brother type of relationship.”
Temple’s season nearly ended in regulation before Mark Karcher’s three pointer forced overtime. Temple was off the ropes but the final blow was coming. Pepe Sanchez fouled out before OT, leaving the Owls without their star guard.
Temple led by two with 40.2 seconds left in OT, needing one more stop to keep their Final Four dream afloat. They couldn’t get it. Shine dribbled around a screen and drained a three over Lynn Greer’s hand to put Seton Hall ahead by one with 18.9 seconds left. Holloway had returned from the hospital and cheered his understudy from a wheelchair pulled next to the bench.
“It was the basketball Gods. I’m telling you,” said Wadley, who runs the International Stars Basketball Academy in Washington. “There was one time, he hadn’t even looked at the basket yet and squared up, let the ball go, and it just rolled off his fingertips. I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ He looked at me and started smiling. It was one of those days.”
Seton Hall pulled out a 67-65 overtime win over Temple but lost by two to Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16 as Holloway remained sidelined. His final college game was the one that stunned Temple. Shine was a starter the next year and saw his face on the cover of a few magazines when the season began, but the Pirates couldn’t recapture that magic they found in Buffalo.
“It was like a life changer, to be honest with you,” Shine said. “It was a nice experience and put me on that national spotlight for a second. I thought they would’ve won it all if it wasn’t for the upset. I thought they were that talented of a team. I was really big on those guys. They had a complete team with great upperclassmen.
“I could have had 1,001 other good games but that’s just what people are going to remember Ty Shine for.”
Shine remains close with Holloway, who spent most of his professional career overseas before starting his climb up the coaching ranks in 2007. He landed at St. Peter’s in 2018 and is expected to be hired soon as Seton Hall’s next coach.
“It didn’t bring tears to my eyes but it brought chills to my body,” Shine said of watching Holloway return to the Sweet 16.
Temple’s path to the 2000 Final Four may have been clear if they found a way to stop Shine. Duke, the East’s top seed, was knocked off by Florida. There wasn’t a roadblock waiting for them. The Owls finished the season ranked No. 5 in the nation and were 22-3 that season when Sanchez played.
Sanchez, Karcher, Greer, Wadley, Lamont Barnes, and Kevin Lyde made the Owls a trendy title pick. But that was because no one knew who was coming off Seton Hall’s bench.
“It’s hard to make the claim that it was the best team because it didn’t make the deepest run,” said Leibovitz, who is now associate commissioner of SEC basketball. “But in my 10 years there, it was definitely the best team we had. I think it’s just a conversation between that team and the 87-88 team.
“We wanted to get to a Final Four so badly for Coach.”
The locker room, Leibovitz said, was “absolutely devastated, heartbroken, and silent” before Chaney gathered everyone in a circle. This was the last time, Chaney told his team, this group would be together. The tears flowed as a dream fell short.
Years later, Leibovitz bumped into Holloway at a recruiting event. The loss still stung and he finally had a chance to let Holloway know.
“I said, ‘That game and that day was one of the worst days of my life,’ ” Leibovitz said. “He said ‘Mine too.’ We talk about the story and we forget that a guy broke his leg.”