"If you're looking for someone who's sad, you won't find him here," said senior Ralph Dalton, as he and the rest of Coach John Thompson's "kids" packed up after losing the most stunning championship game of college basketball anyone can remember. "We had a very successful season. There's nothing to be sad about." Heaven knows, the Hoyas had come to play -- and did their high-level best. But who in heaven -- except the irrepressible Rollie Massimino, coach, cheerleader and miracle worker of Villanova -- would know that the Wildcats would play nearly perfectly and win the game?

Sad? It was a marvelous game, with incredible shooting, intensity and intelligence all up and down the court. As Coach Massimino said of the Hoyas, "They played great. Bu for tonight, we were as good as they were." Was this a successful season? At 35 wins and 3 losses, you could say so. Of course the Hoyas were disappointed not to become the Final One. But as Coach Thompson said, "I don't want them to hang their heads or go around and cry and make a lot of excuses. We know how to win, and we know how to lose." It was important to this proud coach, to his team and to the town whose hearts they have captured, that this loss -- like the 1982 title game that the Hoyas lost to North Carolina and Coach Dean Smith -- was to a man and a basketball program worthy of respect.

"Honest programs" is the way Coach Thompson put it -- in which players are selected and trained to be more than performers and fund-raisers, in which they are also to mature and earn degrees. As anyone who has followed the Hoyas for the past four seasons knows, the story of Patrick Ewing, like the young man himself, stands out for special respect. At Villanova, too, the men of Mr. Massimino do more than play games; they also graduate and depart with an education as well as the echoes of their glory on the court. There is much to celebrate.