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People still love Byron Mouton

(By Jahi Chikwendiu - TWP)

I saw Byron Mouton the other day at the press conference announcing he'd signed with the local Maryland GreenHawks. After the event, while we were standing by the sandwich line, I asked him if people around here still come up to talk to him.

"Oh man, crazy," he said, then told me about going to see Fairfield play at Comcast Center this fall. Two ladies sitting near the court saw him and approached. They told him their combined ages topped 120. Just so he knew.

"We love you," one of them told Mouton. "I know we're over 120 together, but we still love you."

Then they both kissed him on the cheek.

"I thought it was over, but people still coming up to me like thank you, just thanking me," Mouton told me. "It happens all the time. It's amazing. I tell my mom, my brothers and everybody I'm familiar with, people will still talk about that championship until there's another one. That's what I believe."

Hate to break it to you, Byron, but they're gonna talk about it longer than that. Couple of us in the office have been talking about the greatest D.C. sports moment of the decade; more on that next week, but I think it's got to be that national championship, right?

Heck, even some opponents are anxious to talk about the Mouton from that year.

"He was really the glue of that team," said Scooter Sherrill, who played against Mouton with N.C. State and will now be his GreenHawks teammate. "Everybody talked about Dixon, Blake, Wilcox, Baxter. Those guys got all the attention, but when we game-planned that team, it was always centered around Mouton. He was the glue."

Maybe you remember the story about Mouton my friend Eli Saslow wrote a couple years back. "Mouton Is Trying to Move On After Helping Maryland Win the NCAA National Title In 2002, but Some Fans Won't Let Him," was the subhed.

I'm sure Mouton has those moments, but when I was talking to him sure wasn't one of them.

"I only played for Maryland for two years, but it was the best experience I've ever had," he said. "We were all friends, we had no beefs. After the game we'd all go our separate ways, but when we came back, it was a family. Just a family. We never had a fight or anything. The best team I ever played on, man. It's still like that. We see each other, we acknowledge each other, we support each other, and it's great. It's real great."

Mouton spent some time with Steve Blake this summer. He talks to Juan Dixon. Lonny Baxter called last month. He dreams of being an assistant coach for the Terps one day. Last year was the first time he's spent an entire season around the area since graduating, he said, and he said he didn't like what was being said about Gary Williams.

"It was terrible, man," he told me. "I hated it. Because the man's been the coach there for 20-some years, and they defined his whole career on the last three or four years, and that was so terrible to me. How are they gonna define that man's career in three years? Ok, he didn't make it to the tournament, blah blah blah and all that, but he resurrected that whole university. I wasn't here for none of that, but after thinking about it, talking about it, and people telling me, it was crazy.

"Georgetown--not to go off subject--was predicted top 5 and all this, and they had a worse season than Maryland, and nobody talked about that. Terrible. Maryland ended up going to the tournament with the tallest guy on their team 6-6, making it to the second round, and now they love coach Williams. It's funny, man. It's upsetting, but that's just the way the business is."

Of course, if you'll recall, Mouton also seemed fairly critical of what was going on in College Park last winter. But when we talked--before the Maui trip--Mouton was extremely bullish about this year's team.

"What I love about Coach Williams is that if it's a rough start, when it's ACC time, he's got those guys playing," Mouton said. "The thing that I tell the players all the time when I go there and try to talk to them, the sooner you all buy into his system, the easier it's gonna be, and y'all can win more games as soon as you buy into his system. He has a system, and it's funny, some guys go in there and try to tell Coach Williams, 'Yo man, you need to change your offense.' Man, we won a national championship with that offense."

Oh, and the guy that got Indiana fans so fired up? Mouton approves.

"I just love Greivis," he said. "From day one when I met Greivis, he reminded me of myself. I mean, he's very passionate Some people think it's negative, some people think it's positive. Me personally, I love it, because I'm a passionate player."

And finally, his prediction for this year's team?

"I think they're gonna finish in the top 3 in the ACC, I really think that," Mouton said. "[Williams has] got those guys playing, man."

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 3, 2009; 3:23 PM ET
Categories:  Minor League Basketball , Terps  
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Good to see Moot back the area. I might just go to a Greenhawks game sometime.

BTW Moot, if yo usee this, come out to a UMD women's game sometime. We'd love to have ya.:^)

Posted by: EricS2 | December 3, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

The greatest D.C. sports moment of the first decade of the 21st century is the return of baseball. That first game at RFK is one of the greatest sports-related memories of my life.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 3, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Honestly, there isn't even another candidate for local sports moment of the decade. Mason's run to the Final Four was huge, but there's no way a non-championship-winning team goes above a championship-winner in the same tournament/league. Other big stories would be the Nats coming to exist and the Caps drafting Ovechkin.

DC United won the MLS Cup in 2004. Yeah, I know only us diehards care, but still...that and United's 2007 regular season title are the only significant pro accomplishments in the area in the last 10 years.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | December 3, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad I hit refresh and saw Chest_Rockwell's post. There have been quite a few events at RFK that I would rank above the return of the Nats. The 2004 MLS Eastern Conference Final is one of them.

Posted by: sitruc | December 3, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Sitruc, it's ultimately a subjective judgment; United's titles are among the top moments for sure but I'm a baseball fan and I'd been waiting THREE decades to hear an umpire shout "Play Ball" in my home town.

So, for me, there's no event at RFK -- or any other venue in the area -- that I would rank above the return of the Nats.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 3, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Maryland's Championship was a great moment for me personally but, I agree with Greggwiggins, baseball returning to DC was the top moment in the area in this decade.

Posted by: Section505203 | December 3, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

When I was working at the Umd recreation center I ran into a lot of current and former football and basketball players. The two that really stood out as great, easygoing, polite people were Byron Mouton and Lamont Jordan. As you might expect, Lonny Baxter was a huge d-bag whenever he would come in.

As for local sports moment of the decade, it has to be the Terps first and Mason 2nd. No offense, but there just isn't enough interest in baseball around here to make the Nats much higher, though I can understand how being at that first game would be a great experience. But I was in college when the team came back and I don't know anyone who at the time cared even slightly.

Posted by: Hobes | December 3, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I still love Byron Mouton.

The other day, watching the Terps/Hoosiers game, I was wondering which player is this team's Mouton. Closest I could come up with is Mosley.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 3, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Look, I'm Nats fan, but the Terps championship is number one for me. I waited all my life for both moments, and I'll admit to shedding a tear at both.

But Maryland's championship was the culmination of so many hopes and dreams, and it put to bed so much angst. We had watched Gary's program progess, and we had hoped and dreamed and cheered and suffered for seasons. And we had followed Baxter and Dixon for four years, building up to this possibility of a championship. While the game itself was kind of a snoozer, the moment was nonpareil.

That first home opener was an amazing night (and I was in college at the time, too, Hobes, and I definitely cared). But it was followed by so much stumbling and bumbling that now seems to rob the moment of some of that glory.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 3, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

go tar heels

Posted by: VAtoLA | December 3, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

1. Baseball returns to DC
2. Mason goes to the Final 4
3. Ovechkin is MVP
4. Maryland wins NCAA
5. The United 2004 MLS Cup win

Mason is bigger than Maryland because ACC teams have won plenty of tourneys but no other CAA team has ever come close to what Mason did.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | December 3, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

1. Redskins signing Adam Archuleta.

Posted by: jrchris | December 3, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

umd is not in D.C.

/terps hater

Posted by: jonthefisherman | December 4, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

"Couple of us in the office have been talking about the greatest D.C. sports moment of the decade; more on that next week, but I think it's got to be that national championship, right?"

Great topic. But, clearly, Mason's run to the Final Four in 2006 was much bigger - title or not title, because of the mid-major aspect and the fact Mason had not even won a NCAA game before that March. Of course, I'm biased...being a Mason gradudate three times over. I've never liked Maryland sports either, growing up in Virginia and rooting for UVA's basketball teams as a child before I had my own team to root for in Mason.

Posted by: shawnlbrann | December 4, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Top 5 moments of the D.C. sports decade:

1. MD title in 2002 (not even close)
2. MD final four run in 2001
3. MD ACC championship in 2005
4. MD football wins ACC in 2001
5. (tie) MD football crushes Tennessee/WVU in bowl games

not that i'm biased or anything....

Posted by: putnam23 | December 4, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

PowerBoater69, I like your list; except I'd flip numbers 4 and 5.

And #3 should read "Ovechkin is MVP Twice"

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 4, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Putnam23, I've weakened my own argument by agreeing with PowerBoater69 -- since Mason is in northern Virginia, not the District. Although the win over Connecticut that sent Mason to the Final Four did happen at the Verizon Center inside DC.

But, unless there were other tournament games played at Verizon Center involved, you do realize that none of those events happened in Washington, DC? College Park being part of Maryland and all that.

The question under debate is, after all, best sports moment of the past ten years in Washington, not in the DMV.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 4, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

It didn't involve any DC-area teams (unless you count the Naval Academy playing host) but I want to give an honorable mention for sports moment of the decade to the NCAA Frozen Four hockey championship games at Verizon Center earlier this year. One of the most joyous and enjoyable sports events I've ever attended, with great fans from the teams playing, good games and even a Cinderella story angle in Bemidji State University. Remember? The BSU Beavers were the lowest-ranked seed in the NCAA hockey tourney yet they got to DC and the final round by beating the #1 and #2 seeds of the entire tournament.

Based on the number of people wearing Bemidji green I saw around DC that weekend it must have been like that scene in the movie Hoosiers. You know, the one where the Hickory High basketball team heads for Indianapolis and the state championship game and the entire town leaves town to go to Indy with them.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 4, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Hobes, you've illustrated a common fallacy often expressed by people who distrust opinion polls, broadcast ratings and the like: "I was in college when the team came back and I don't know anyone who at the time cared even slightly."

So? According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are approximately 5.53 million people currently living in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area. How many of them do you know? How many of them are different from you in important ways such as age, ethnicity or economic status?

See what I mean? Just because you didn't care, or your immediate circle didn't care, you're still a very, very long way shy of being able to say "everyone agreed" or "nobody cared". Or that the opinions of those millions of other people are worth any less or more than your opinion.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 4, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

wiggins - MD's first two games of their title run were played at the phone booth in 2002. Victories over Siena and Wisconsin. There you go.....

Posted by: putnam23 | December 4, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

OK, putnam23, one of your list qualifies. And you'll note that it was on my list, too, at number five.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 4, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I know Terence Morris was sick reading this.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | December 4, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Really greggwiggins? I'm arguing that the team that has <10,000 people watch each game on TV come to the city didn't make as big an impact as a national championship. That makes me the one who "distrust opinion polls, broadcast ratings and the like?" Like I said in my first post, no offense. But anyone who thinks that the Nats are THE defining moment of the decade for this area is a person who needs to pay more attention to opinion polls and the like and stop surrounding himself with only other baseball fans. Hell, let's just have a poll to decide this. What do you say to that Steinberg?

Posted by: Hobes | December 4, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

1) UMD National Championship
2) Joe Gibbs II
3) GMU Final Four
4) Baseball returns to DC
5) Ovi

Posted by: burnskj | December 4, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Terps title is a clear cut number one. That was destiny.

Mason was cool but also a fluke.

My list:

Terps '02
Baseball Returns
Gibbs 2.0
Ovie & the Caps

Also, the cleveland-wiz playoff series after we beat the bulls was pretty damn big. Hoyas making it to Final 4 also. Somehwere in there needs to be the hat trick Ovie posted in last years playoffs.

And of course the TJ Duckett trade.

Posted by: jpfterps | December 5, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Good post JP. Glad not everyone on here has such short memories. Joe Gibbs returning to the Redskins on Jan. 7, 2004 was the signature moment of the decade for DC sports. Do all you Skins fans really not remember the euphoria of that day? I remember many Skins fans saying at the time it was the best day of their life.

As far as on the field/court moments, obviously Terps National Championship is tops. Terps football winning ACC I would put in a tie with Terps first Final Four in 01 for #2 best on field moment.

# 4 would be the 4 game win streak to reach the playoffs in the aftermath of Sean Taylor's death.

Gilbert's shot against Bulls in game 5 against Bulls in 05 playoffs including Juan Dixon's best game as a pro (35 pts) is probably my #5.

So there you have it

1) Gibbs returns 1/7/04
1a) Terps National Championship
2) Terps football wins ACC title
2) Terps first final four
4) Redskins playoff push to honor #21
5) Game 5 of Wiz-Bulls 2005 playoffs

Posted by: Barno1 | December 5, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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