Bona fans set to turn MSG into ‘Reilly Square Garden’

Kyle Lofton and Mark Schmidt have both called it a ‘cult’. The St.Bonaventure lead guard and coach are making reference to the word cult in a positive way. The ‘cult’ is the Bonaventure faithful. Alumni and students packing Reilly Center and taking to the road to follow their beloved Bonnies. They will be out in droves for the NIT semifinal on Tuesday, planning on transforming  Madison Square Garden into ‘Reilly Square Garden’. Count it. For the record,  here are a  few examples of how the NIT run has impacted the Bona community…


      Bonaventure student Dominic Grecco aka ‘Captain Beer’ (a recognizable face in the crowd during several Bona telecasts) reached out on social media to obtain donations for gas money to get to Charlottesville, Virginia for Bona’s quarterfinal matchup with Virginia. Within hours Grecco had $6,000 in donations from alumni, enough to send about 8 carloads of students with gas, food and hotel expenses covered. 


     A Buffalo News article chronicled the exploits of Chris Allan. A ‘78 Bonaventure graduate, Allan was a team manager when the Bonnies captured the 1977 NIT. An avid fan who takes to the air or sky for Bona games, Allan has attended 24 of the 32 games this season in  person. Allan, who lives outside of Philadelphia, estimates he has traveled 24,000 miles (15,000 by car and 9,000 by air) to follow the Bonnies during the current campaign . Through the three rounds of the NIT, he hasn’t missed a beat and looks forward to getting to The World’s Most Famous Arena on Tuesday. 


     In less than 48 hours nearly 600 alumni and friends donated $48,000 to send 8 coach busloads of students to New York for the NIT semifinal against Xavier. That total in donations has  now surpassed 50K. 


     The Bona team arrived on campus around midnight last Tuesday after their thrilling 52-51 victory at Virginia. Several hundred students were there to greet them. The next morning approximately 150 students were lined up prior to the opening of ticket sales. 


    Upon the Bonaventure team’s arrival in New York Sunday there were a few fans outside their midtown Manhattan hotel to greet and wish them well. 


     When the Bonnies were in the NIT Final Four in ‘71 and ‘77, the go-to place was McAnn’s almost across the street from the Garden. McAnn’s, your casual ‘dive bar’ with great food and low priced drafts, is no longer there. Shortly after the Bonnies punched their ticket to New York, a  pre-game alumni and friends reception was set for Jack Doyle’s on 35th street. The demand was so great that a second site, The Tailor Public House on 8th avenue was added. 


    For those calling on divine intervention prior to a glass or two, a pre-game mass was set for 3 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st street. A little prayer sent to a Franciscan as the Bonnies prepare to face Xzavier, a Jesuit school, couldn’t hurt.  


From that ‘77 championship team, coach Jim Satalin will be in attendance. Glenn Hagan, a star guard on that team, will make the trip from his Rochester home as well. Both Satalin and Hagan are enjoying this current run and see similarities from four and a half decades back. Satalin and Hagan are definite, don’t be surprised if others from that group are in attendance. Wanting to share the memory while admiring what the present day group has accomplished.  


There are scores of other stories, anecdotes  and memories flooding social media these days. From the past, impromptu post game parties spilling outside of packed McAnn’s to the present, students petitioning for the cancellation of classes this week. 


This is in all probability to be the last NIT with its ‘Final Four’ staged at the Garden. The nostalgic feeling  around these next few days is enticing. That is far from the only thing attracting nearly an estimated 800 students (that is over one third the school enrollment) and numerous alumni  to New York. It is the devotion and passion the fan base has for their Bonnies. They inundated Charleston during the classic in November. They were not in full force, but were represented in Colorado, Oklahoma and Virginia in the NIT. They will be out in full force Tuesday for the meeting  against Xavier. Similar to the  team they love, they are the ultimate road warriors.  If Bona survives and advances to Thursday’s championship game…Let’s say a lot of bar keeps and those counting receipts from the Garden concessions will be just as excited as the devout Bona fans making MSG their home away from home.