Michael Tuck knows what it's like to lose at Loyola. Part of the Greyhounds' disastrous 1-27 team in 2003-04, he was a raw recruit embarrassed by the losses and an air of acceptance at Reitz Arena.
Three years and one medical redshirt season later, Tuck now knows what it's like to win, too. The Greyhounds (18-13) have won 51 games during the past three seasons, with a chance for more heading into tomorrow's 2:15 p.m. quarterfinal against Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in Albany, N.Y.
No one can better appreciate the transformation Loyola achieved under coach Jimmy Patsos than the 6-foot-7 post player from Toronto.
"Back then, I wanted to hide my face, not go out, not let anybody see me," Tuck said. "It's like the hardships you go through that make you stronger. If I hadn't gone through that, I might be taking this for granted."
Neither did Marquis Sullivan take winning for granted when the former Archbishop Spalding standout signed with Loyola after Patsos' 6-22 debut season in 2004-05.
Sullivan, who along with Rudy Gay had been part of a basketball revival at Spalding, felt the pull of Patsos' budding program.
"I thought coming in I could really help this team to a winning season, and we won 15 with Andre Collins," Loyola's 6-1 junior sharpshooter said. "I just put my faith in Patsos, and it turned out well."
Tuck, Sullivan, Collins and eventually Gerald Brown all became building blocks in the restoration of Loyola's dilapidated program. Tuck gave the Greyhounds a big body who could bang inside and shoot from outside. Sullivan became the master of the arc, raining threes down on the defense.
Patsos is quick to find similarities in Tuck and Sullivan.
"They both came off the bench for a while," he said. "Both were willing to sacrifice for the team. They both care about the program."
What stood out about Tuck, Patsos said, was his willingness to give up his scholarship for the 2004-05 season so the Greyhounds could bring in Hassan Fofana, a transfer from Maryland. Tuck spent his year away from Loyola renovating houses and building swimming pools in Canada. He also worked with his high school team and caught a new perspective of the game from the bench.
When he returned to Baltimore in 2005, "it was like coming to a totally new school," Tuck said.
What he remembers from the 1-27 season was the team's indifference to losing under then-coach Scott Hicks, and the fans who rooted for the Greyhounds to break the NCAA Division I record for consecutive losses. The streak went to 31 - two short of the record - before they beat Marist at home on Jan. 29, 2004.
"When we won, everyone on the team was really, really happy, but I was like, this is embarrassing," Tuck said. "Fans rushed the court, and we didn't break the record for worst team ever in basketball."
Tuck went from being the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's sixth man of the year last season to averaging 11.7 points this season with a field-goal percentage of .511. Sullivan inherited Tuck's role as sixth man this season when Patsos decided the Greyhounds needed a spark off the bench. He also inherited Tuck's league Sixth Man Award yesterday with his 12.4-point scoring average, which is second on the team, and his 89 three-pointers at a .432 clip.
"Lots of mid-major teams that had better programs than us recruited him," Patsos said. "He had the guts to sign with us when we were down."
Loyola is the fourth seed in this weekend's tournament, after a loss at Marist cost the Greyhounds a No. 1 seed and the regular-season title.
"It's been a nice run so far, but our main goal is to win the MAAC tournament," Sullivan said. "That's what we're here to do."
Note -- Loyola freshman guard Brian Rudolph was named the MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year yesterday with Marist's Jay Gavin.firstname.lastname@example.org