|Tia Lewis, Celeste Hill and Shakeva Richards|
It was great to see Nyree Roberts and Celeste Hill and always super cool to hug Shareese Grant and remind her of that CAA title with her name on it (ask Tina Martin if you can't remember which one). Where you find Jen Nuzzo, there's Megan Pym, now a civil engineer in Newport News. Mom Kelly Bradley was in tow with Connor, the son she dotes on with glee, as was her former teammate Stacy Himes, easily the most stunning firefighter in Hampton Roads.
No Ticha -- a last-minute demand for the sports agent created a glitch -- but Jazz was there. The diminutive Walters admitted she spied the spot on the floor where she drained that marvelous 3 that sent ODU to the Sweet 16 -- the team's last NCAA tournament appearance all the way back in 2008.
Former Lady Monarch coaches, players, trainers and managers all congregated in the Constant Center to celebrate ODU becoming the fourth Division I program to reach the 1,000-win milestone, a feat achieved on Dec. 15 with a win over Howard. The first 1,000 fans in the doors for the afternoon's ODU/Florida International game received shirts to mark the occasion, many of them signed by the greats in the Big Blue Room afterward.
As pleasant as it was, as many chapters of the ODU story that stood at midcourt on this day, the one missing piece was Wendy Larry, who as a player, assistant to Stanley and head coach for 24 years had a hand in 793 of those 1,000 wins.
Larry hasn't set foot in the Constant Center since March 16, 2011 when the Lady Monarchs were beat in the first round of the WNIT. She did return to campus for her induction into the school's Hall of Fame last year where many of these same folks celebrated the moment with her. But her absence looms large on days like this, particularly for a program that has been unable to successfully tie its past with its present.
There is no animosity toward current coach Karen Barefoot, whose contagious enthusiasm is impossible not to admire. But those of us who remember haven't forgot. And an awful lot of players, assistant coaches and fans remember what happened when Wendy's contract was not renewed after a 20-11 season. It was a curt dismissal, a lack of appreciation for a coach who kept the Lady Monarchs nationally relevant even after the major conference supported women's basketball with budgets and resources ODU struggled to match.
Whether Wendy deserved to be let go or not has never been the sticky point; how the change in regime was handled continues to leave a sour taste, an uneasiness that prevents ODU past from getting too close to ODU present. Tennessee doesn't come to town anymore, the CAA logo has been replaced by Conference USA, and so much of what was doesn't relate to what is.
There is no Wendy Larry day at ODU. There is nothing with her name on it. Her name is almost whispered in the building, not shouted. Never cheered.
Make no mistake. Like the others, Wendy was invited, always is. Yet several of her confidants couldn't foresee her embracing what occupied 35 years of her life any time soon, if ever. The fence has never been properly mended.
Until it is, there will be an Old Dominion and a New Dominion, an elephant in the room every time the two get together in one place.
See more photos of ODU's alums on our new Instagram account