The NBA lockout is at last over, and there will be basketball at the Garden this season and, next year, in Brooklyn. The NBA brings with it the obligatory pomp and pyrotechnics, both of which are always appreciated. Lord help you if you get in between me and a T-shirt shot out of a cannon. But before all that begins anew, let’s take a moment to appreciate the best basketball deal in town: Brooklyn’s St. Francis Terriers, one of seven Division I college-basketball programs in the city and definitely the most charming.
St. Francis is a Roman Catholic institution located just off the Borough Hall 2/3/4/5 exit in Brooklyn, and its basketball court is located in an ugly, nondescript building that owes more to your local YMCA or rec center than the faux grandeur of the refurbished Garden or Barclays Center.
It has become my favorite place to watch sports in New York. The gym holds 1,200 people—but never holds 1,200 people—and you can buy popcorn and a Coke from student-cafeteria workers. The dance team that hops on court at halftime makes up in enthusiasm what it lacks in, oh, practice. The seats are so close to the action that you could goose the referee on every inbound pass. The coach, Glenn Braica, has lived in Brooklyn his whole life and spent five years working for the Board of Ed. There’s a seat reserved on the bench for a priest. I once struck up a conversation with one of the team’s dancers while she performed at center court. It’s a casual place, is what I’m trying to say here.
This isn’t a charity case, though. The Terriers are an improving team that has an outside chance to win the Northeast Conference this year and took Seton Hall to overtime in November. And that’s my favorite part. St. Francis has never reached the NCAA tournament, but one of these days, it’s gonna get hot in the Northeast Conference tournament—won last year by Long Island, which plays at the WRAC center just a twelve-minute walk away—and make it to the Big Dance. I can’t wait until it happens because I’ll be able to say I watched the team get there alongside members of the dance team—who honestly look surprised when you ask them to take a picture with you—and the parents of almost every player. In the front row. For seven bucks. You can have your ’Melo and Jay-Z. Go, Terriers.