Many times during his tenure as the United Township boys' basketball coach, Marc Polite wears a shirt from his previous coaching stint.|
The front reads Florida Gulf Coast University.
"The kids are like, 'What's that? Where's that?'" Polite said.
In recent days, interest in FGCU shirts are gaining popularity.
A historic run from a No. 15 seed to the Sweet 16 has the Eagles as this season's NCAA tournament darlings. As history unfolds, Polite watches with interest since he helped lay the foundation of the program during a five-year stretch as a FGCU assistant coach under Dave Balza.
"Unbelievable," Polite said of the Eagles being the first 15th seed to win two games in one NCAA tournament "The level they're playing at, it's fun to watch and fun to see, especially with the connections I have there."
The memories made last weekend even more special.
Though Polite is no longer is part of the staff, he takes pride in knowing he was part of FGCU during its infancy as a program.
"That's one thing we always said when we were on staff," Polite said. "That was one of the healing parts of getting a chance to go down there. We always said we were making history."
History took 11 seasons.
When Polite arrived at the Fort Myers, Fla., school in 2003, the Eagles had completed one basketball season with the hopes of one day ascending to Division I status. In the first year, they went 23-9 against a schedule featuring Plymouth State, Clearwater Christian and Trinity Baptist.
"Initially, we knew it was going to be an uphill climb," Polite said. "It's tough with the other teams you're playing against and recruiting against."
Two things made early recruiting easier.
The first were basketball facilities Polite described as "top notch." The second was a campus featuring beachfront dorms.
"I vividly remember many times having recruits on campus and taking them to the beach. They were wowed with what we had," Polite said. "It's a beautiful place. We use to call it 'Club Med.'"
As a Division II member through the 2007 season, the Eagles were 114-39. Polite left for UT in 2008 when FGCU began its transition to Division I.
Within the four-year transition process, it averaged 9.8 wins per season before firing its head coach.
All that seems to be a distant memory as the Eagles faced third-seeded Florida in the South Regional semifinal on Friday night.
"They're legit. They have talent. They have guys who can play the game," Polite said. "They're for real."
Watching from afar is Polite.
"I follow them year-round," Polite said. "I definitely stay connected with the program. I'm pretty familiar with the personnel."
However, the familiarity could not sway him to pick FGCU to advance in his bracket. The Eagles ultimately busted Polite's bracket.
"They did," Polite said, "as with probably 99.9 percent of the country's."
A busted bracket is a fair trade for history.
"That was a loss I was happy to take," Polite said of his pool-sheet pick. "To be honest, when I was writing (Georgetown) in, I had second thoughts. I knew the team was dangerous."
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