SF Chronicle: ‘Our time’: Will Saint Mary’s finally break through in the NCAA Tournament?

Connor Letourneau writes about what the Gaels bring to March Madness — and the sense of family that sustains the basketball program.

by SMC in the News | March 15, 2023 | March 17, 2023

As the Gaels head into the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, San Francisco Chronicle writer Connor Letourneau talks with SMC Coach Randy Bennett about how the Gaels appear well-positioned to ascend new heights—not just this year, but for seasons to come.

A few takeaways from the story:

Over the past several years, [Athletics Director Mike] Matoso has worked to ensure that the athletic department is better aligned with college administration. His hope is that St. Mary’s will leverage a deep NCAA Tournament run into more national exposure and, ultimately, increased revenue that can be spread throughout a school of 2,843.

For decades, Bennett has relied on the same detail-oriented approach: relentless defense, spaced-out offense and plenty of toughness.

But even if opponents know what to expect, they still must contend with the Gaels’ most talented freshman since Patty Mills (2007-09). A four-star recruit from nearby Campolindo High School, Aidan Mahaney has begun to receive NBA buzz for his timely shot-making and smooth ballhandling.

At almost every St. Mary’s game, a dozen or so former players can be seen chatting on the sideline. What brings them back is their relationship with an old-school coach who appreciates the subtle comforts of small-college life.

“Randy could leave for bigger jobs, but there’s something special about St. Mary’s that he has really tapped into,” said E.J. Rowland, a guard on Bennett’s first NCAA Tournament team, in 2005. “Everyone knows everybody there, and that’s what’s so great about it. You’re not just on a team when you play there. You’re part of a family.”


Read more: the full story in the Chronicle.