It wasn't New Orleans but it felt like Mardi Gras.
When the University of the District of Columbia basketball team arrived at its victory party in the Skyline Room of the Holiday Inn early this morning, the hall surged with a charge of rhythm and joy. A throng of well-wishers boogied to a disco beat and a song was born.
"Who dropped the bomb?" came the chant from 300 dancing UDC fans. "Who dropped the bomb on Florida (Southern) U.?" Twenty minutes later they were still dancing to the same beat, singing the same words. They danced all night. It was 5 a.m. before the last stragglers drifted away.
On the first day of spring, UDC opened what seems likely to become an athletic era by defeating Florida Southern, 73-63, at Springfield Civic Center to become NCAA Division II national champion.
The question: what's next?
The answer: more of the same, evidently, unless something completely unexpected comes along.
There is not a senior on the UDC squad, so no one will be lost to graduation. And two tall guys called Slim and Bird, the heart of the team, have stated their unequivocal intention to return for one more year.
"Slim" is 7-foot first-team all-America center Earl Jones, who led the Firebirds in the final with 24 points. Last week, while his teammates were practicing, Jones, a sophomore, was asked in an interview about his intentions for next year.
"I'm coming back to school," he said.
"To UDC?" he was asked.
His coach, Wil Jones, was listening in and beamed. "That's the first time he said that," said the coach.
"Bird" is 6-7 forward Michael Britt, who averaged better than 20 points and 11 rebounds this year as he made second-team all-America. He and Jones both would be certain high selections by the pros if they chose to enter the NBA draft.
But Britt, a junior, has said all season that he wants to graduate and will stay for his senior year.
If anything, UDC should be stronger next year than it was in compiling a 25-5 record this year. If there was a weakness on the championship team it was inconsistency at the power-forward position. Freshman Jeff Carmichael and sophomores Cedric Caldwell and James Neal shared duties across the floor from Britt.
Next year they will be joined by 6-6 Johnny Jones, a teammate of Earl Jones in 1980 at Spingarn High in Washington. He made all-conference his freshman year at Fairmont (W.Va.) State, but grew homesick and transferred to UDC. He had to sit out this season but will be eligible next year. It should profit everyone but the scorekeepers, who will have to contend with two Joneses on the floor and one coaching.
Point guard Kenny Payne and shooting guards Greg Carson and Mike Daniels are juniors and will return, along with reserves Weaver Blondin and Phillip Morgan (soph omores) and backup center Al Holland (freshman).
In addition, there is the prospect of improved recruiting possibilities now that UDC's program has gained exposure with the national title. Athletic Director Orby Moss said that inquiries from prospective players had already begun increasing last week, even before the trek to Springfield.