On my way home from work, I stopped in at the Snapping Turtle to have a cold one with a few of the boys. Whale, a hard-core Hoya hoop fan, the kind who's so loud at games that fathers, schooling their children on how to act in public, use him as an example of how not to behave, met me at the door.
"I mad," he said, holding a frosty draft. "Real mad."
"It's a nice day out, Whale," I replied. "You've just gotten married, job's going well, there's a 'Skins game on the tube this weekend, what's got your dander up?"
"I can't believe Big John's dropped the AU Eagles from his schedule," he said. "Now the Hoyas don't play against any school in the city."
"That's true," I agreed.
"Heck," Whale bellowed. "It's a sad day in Washington when the best coach in the country, who used to struggle against American and George Washington and who used to get trounced by Maryland, can't keep an open date for one local team."
"Maybe he's still mad about losing to AU when he had Patrick Ewing in the middle," I suggested. "It hurts being beaten by an area underdog in your own home town."
"Eddie Tapscott's greatest victory as head coach of the Eagles," Whale proclaimed. "I was there, incredulous, and mad as hell after we lost. But I was happy for coach Tap. I mean, he grew up in Washington. Hoya fan or not, I always pull for our own.
"Don't you remember going over to Fort Myer during Big John's first season to see the underdog Hoyas play a respectable AU team? Georgetown freshman Merlin Wilson squared off against local great Kermit Washington. The Hoyas lost, but played the Eagles pretty tough, even though Kermit scored 44 points and grabbed over 20 rebounds."
"The last NCAA player to average 20 points and 20 'bounds," Whale offered, loud enough for those working in the kitchen to hear.
He downed his draft and ordered another.
"Here's what I think," he said, his nose glowing like the exit sign overhead. "Washington's a hoop-crazed town, right? D.C. basketball is inner-connected. Big John's a local, Eddie Tapscott's a local, Howard's head coach A. B. Williamson's local."
"Who'd he coach in high school?" I asked.
"Eastern," Whale answered, irritated by my bad memory. "I saw him in the finals of the '74 Knights of Columbus tournament. St. John's beat 'em. And that was the day after the Cadets upset Dunbar of Baltimore."
"With or without Skip Wise?" I asked.
"With him," Whale answered. "But that's not the point. Maryland's Bob Wade coached Dunbar of Baltimore. He was a 'Skin under Lombardi. Come on, that makes him a local too."
"What about head coach John Kuester over at George Washington?" I asked. "No local connection there."
"The heck there's not," Whale snapped. "Big John was an assistant under Dean Smith during the '76 Olympics in Montreal. Kuester played for Dean. He's not a 'Skin but he's connected."
"Okay," I surrendered. "What's your point?"
"Every year when the season begins, Big John and the Hoyas fly over to Hawaii to play teams like Hawaii Hilo, right? Have you ever seen Hawaii Hilo play? Well, I have," Whale said, without waiting for my reply. "Our old summer league team could beat 'em."
"Maybe so," I agreed. "But let's be logical, Whale. If you lived in Hawaii and owned a smooth-gliding surfboard and a pair of Air Jordans, which would you choose if everyone went around yelling: 'Surf's up!'?"
"That's not the point," he answered, his expression pained. "Big John's among the most influential basketball coaches in the country. If he'd throw us all a bone, Washington could restore some of the cross-town rivalries. We could have a holiday tournament with eight local teams."
He began counting: "Georgetown, Maryland, George Washington, American and Howard, which, incidentally, should have been invited to last year's NCAA tourney.
"Include George Mason from across the Potomac and toss in Navy for patriotic reasons. Then add the winner of a game played between Wil Jones' UDC Firebirds and Jack Bruen's Catholic Cardinals, and Washington would have one helluva local tournament."
"Where would you hold it?" I asked.
"At the Capital Centre," Whale concluded.
"Yeah," I said. "But we'd still have to pay Abe Pollin $3.50 for parking." -- Sean Kelly is a member of The Post's national news staff.