Jovenitti: Looking back at four years of Pitt sports memories

By Tony Jovenitti

Insert sappy introduction here.

I’m a senior, and I’m graduating, so here’s my… Insert sappy introduction here.

I’m a senior, and I’m graduating, so here’s my sentimental final column.

For my last Top 10, I give you the top 10 memories I have from my four years at Pitt.

10. Pitt winning the Big East regular season championship. Pitt defeating Villanova at the Petersen Events Center this year to clinch the Big East regular season championship was one of the most emotional games for me. We all know that the regular season championship doesn’t really mean that much — especially when the team loses early in both ensuing tournaments — but it was the last-ever game at the Pete for senior players and students like myself. The Panthers couldn’t have scripted a better ending to the seniors’ careers at the Pete.

9. Meeting coach Michael Haywood. Bear with me here. A week after Pitt hired Michael Haywood as the head football coach, he came to Pitt’s basketball game against Maryland Eastern Shore. Haywood entered the media room and introduced himself individually to every single person in the room. I was impressed, and I even wrote in my live blog that he was a “classy guy.” Well, shortly after, he was arrested for a felony offense for domestic violence. I’ll never forget how Haywood made a fool of me — and Pitt administrators.

8. Levance Fields’ clutch 3-pointers. For the first two years of my Pitt career, I witnessed some incredible finishes by the Panthers. Many of them were thanks to Levance Fields. In 2007, he hit a step-back 3-pointer to beat Duke at Madison Square Garden. The next year, he hit a similar shot to propel Pitt past Xavier and into the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

7. Steelers winning the Super Bowl. Ok, this doesn’t really have anything to do with Pitt sports, but it affected everyone in Oakland. The Super Bowl riots of 2009 were nothing short of epic. It got a little out of hand with the damage of property, but I feel bad for people who’ve never had the opportunity to experience the pure joy of thousands and thousands of people celebrating a win like that.

6. Pitt beating WVU. For most of my freshman year, the Pitt football team was abysmal. Pitt was 4-7 heading into the Backyard Brawl against No. 2 West Virginia. If WVU beat Pitt, it was headed to the BCS National Championship game. And oh yeah, it was the 100th meeting between the bitter rivals. Yet, somehow, some way, Pitt managed to win the game. Even though Pitt finished the season 5-7, it sure felt good to ruin the hopes and dreams of our rival. The post-game riots were pretty fun, too.

5. The Pitt-Butler game. I’m sure you just cringed a bit remembering this game. But let’s face it, the Pitt-Butler game this March was one of the most bizarre/best games in NCAA Tournament history. Only the “Chris Webber Timeout Game” featured a more bizarre finish. Pitt got the short end of the stick (again), but I can always say I was in attendance for a game where there was a shot-clock violation, a go-ahead jumper, an inexplicable foul, a missed free throw, an even more inexplicable foul and a game-winning free throw all in the final 10 seconds of the game.

4. Pitt winning four games in four days. This memory is a little happier. Pitt’s basketball team struggled through the regular season in 2007-08 after Levance Fields broke his foot. But he came back in time for March, and the Panthers went on a tear to win four games in four days and win the Big East tournament. It’s always nice to see the Victory Lights shining in March.

3. Pitt’s crushing defeats. These might be the most scarring memories, but it defines us Pitt fans. We’re the Chicago Cubs fans of the NCAA. Pitt tends to get fans’ hopes up. And when it looks like they’re down for the count, the Panthers somehow find a way to come back — only to find new ways to lose at the final horn. My fondest crushing defeats will always be falling to Villanova in the Elite Eight, losing to Connecticut at the buzzer at Madison Square Garden, losing to Cincinnati by one point in football and, of course, the Butler game. OK, that’s enough depression for this list …

2. Ronald Ramon’s buzzer-beater. My first Backyard Brawl experience came in February of 2008. I had waited in line for several hours to get good seats in the Oakland Zoo, but it looked like West Virginia was going to upset the Panthers at the Pete. But WVU kept missing free throws, and Pitt kept chipping away in the final minute. It all culminated with Ronald Ramon nailing a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win the game. Whenever I’m feeling blue, I watch the YouTube video, and I’m immediately happy when I see the crowd simply explode.

1. My first day in the Oakland Zoo. In high school, I always watched Pitt games on TV and saw how much fun the student section had. When I decided to come to Pitt, I knew that I would be at as many games as possible. So when the first preseason game rolled around in 2007, I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was actually Halloween, so there were a lot of characters in the Zoo. It was one of the most exciting days of my Pitt fandom, knowing that I was finally in the Zoo.

Little did I know that it would all end with me sitting in the media rows when Pitt held up the Big East Championship trophy four years later.