It was March of 1997. The Mid Continent Tourney—Moline, Illinois. It was almost a home game for Western Illinois, as they were coming off a thrilling overtime victory over second-seeded Buffalo. Their opponent in the title game was Valparaiso, and Bryce Drew.
JayAnthony Joseph went for 23 points and led a ferocious attack. However, it wasn't to be, as Valpo beat the Leathernecks for the third year in a row, once again keeping Western from its first ever trip to the NCAA tourney.
Little did anyone know, this would be the last great chance for Western to make the big dance
Tonight, the 2008-2009 version went into a home game, needing a win just to make the conference tournament, and lost—putting an end to a 9-20 campaign in Jim Molinari's first season.
Coaches have come and gone.
There was Jim Kerwin who had a great deal of success in the mid 90's, but was never really able to recruit the kids from Chicago, St. Louis, and other metro areas.
Then there was Derrick Thomas. He was supposed to be the guy who could recruit. He did, but just at the junior college level, thus the team never got a chance to gel for more than two years.
Now it is Jim Molinari that will be trying to piece together what is wrong in the unfriendly confines of Western Hall.
9-20 overall. 6-12 in the Summit League. Unacceptable from a school, inside a state that has had so much basketball success. Not just the Illini, but Southern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, and Bradley. Now, if the team an hour away in Peoria can field quality teams, why can't Western?
Are there any other fans out there that are sick of their basketball alma mater being the sister of the week?