For decades, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe has kept a close eye on the Celtics. Over the weekend, Ryan headed to the opposite end of the state to check in on a local rivalry.
Friday night, the bleachers of the Chandler Athletic Center were full at Williams College as a Western Massachusetts tradition continued.
“Well, of course, the rivalry game – I’m well aware of the rivalry, this is the 225th meeting and I know we’re looking at two top 10 teams," said Bob Ryan, the sportswriter and former Boston Globe columnist who’s covered some of the biggest moments over the past 40 years. He was in Williamstown to watch the Williams College Ephs take on the Amherst College Mammoths. The schools have been rivals in just about everything for nearly two centuries. In hoops, the two New England Small College Athletic Conference teams compete at the Division III level. Williams came in 19-3, Amherst 18-3.
“I’m trying to compare them in my mind to another team I saw this week – I saw MIT play, and they’re ranked number six," Ryan told WAMC. "And I think there’s very little to choose among those three teams in terms of the quality of the competition.”
Ryan said that the kind of ball he saw at Chandler that night avoided what he perceives as a modern pitfall of the game.
“We’re in a world of 3-point mania, and it’s distorted the game immensely," said the veteran sports journalist. "And I was pleased to see that there wasn’t a total emphasis on chucking up 3s the way I’m seeing on so many levels, including Division III being played. But this game was an old-fashioned game, people wanted to get inside first, a lot of people went to the basket, and a three was involved, but it was incidental. It wasn’t the focal point of the game, and it has become the focal point of the game on many levels.”
Amherst won 84-79, its 104th win in the rivalry series. Williams leads with 121.
Ryan praised guard Bobby Casey, who scored 29 points and added 6 assists for the Ephs.
“Obviously I love Casey," said Ryan. "He’s got a big heart and he’s got scrap, and certainly is a good – if you want to call him a point guard, whatever – he’s the leader, the floor leader, there’s no question about it. And a variety of big men, they can do stuff, but some of those shots didn’t fall tonight and I’d really have to see the team another time to make a more definitive judgement but clearly a team – the ranking was warranted. And it’s disappointing loss, no question, but I’ve got to give Amherst credit for seizing control on the road and beating them twice now and you’ve got to give Amherst credit for this.”
Turning to the Celtics – who had high expectations and are now in fourth place in the Eastern Conference – Ryan says their defense has proven to be anemic far too often.
“I think they’ve been too casual about their approach many times this year," he said. "They know they’re good, but they’re not as good as they think they are, these young guys.”
Ryan retired from the Globe in 2012. He’s currently in season five of his new show, Bob Ryan’s Boston Podcast.