For sports fans, nothing more needs to be said to identify one of the most hallowed halls of hoops: Madison Square Garden. Its court has been home to NHL and NBA championships; countless performances; the first ever Wrestlemania; and the National Invitational Tournament (N.I.T.).
And now, at least for this week, The Garden is also home to Valpo Basketball during the N.I.T. and also the Crusaders newest fan: retired FDNY Firefighter, Pete Daniti.
“I attended my first [N.I.T. game] in 1970 when Marquette beat my hometown favorite St. John’s,” Daniti told IIMM. “It was the first college basketball game I attended and it sparked a love of college hoops in me for my whole life.”
As a fan of hoops, Daniti loved the NCAA Tournament,, but the N.I.T. was New York’s tournament; his tournament. And that would never change.
“The N.I.T. is just in my NYC DNA,” Daniti added.
The story of how Valparaiso became Daniti’s team, and how the town became his adopted home, is about a community and its desire to treat him as one of their own.
“I was one of several representatives from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that toured the country visiting every Carpet One store in the country,” Daniti said. “We presented each store owner with a shadowbox containing a piece of World Trade Center steel that thanked them for their huge donation to America’s Bravest, which is building smart homes for our catastrophically injured veterans.”
And it was here in Valpo where one family went above and beyond to treat him like a lifelong part of the community, and the reason Daniti says Valpo will always feel like home to him.
“I visited Tudor Carpet One in Valparaiso and the Tudor family treated me like gold,” Daniti explained. “I had never been to Indiana before but the Tudor family and this community always made me feel like a Valpo resident.”
And when the N.I.T. came to town this year, with the Crusaders in tow vying for a championship, Daniti said it was no question as to where he would be on Tuesday.
“I texted the Tudors and told them send me a shirt, I am going to The Garden to go watch Valpo!”
And that’s how Daniti came to be at his hometown tournament, one game away from seeing his adopted hometown team achieve greatness in the arena that sparked his love of the game.
And you better believe Daniti will be there at the championship game, sitting in The Garden, to watch the Crusaders go for glory.
“I am looking forward to an even better Thursday.”