Brandyn Curry goes back to work for Harvard basketball
The fallout was so quick that there was no way for Brandyn Curry to map things out.
When a cheating scandal last fall swept up 125 Harvard students, including Curry and basketball teammate Kyle Casey, he was forced to withdraw.
“Everything shook up kind of fast,” Curry said. “I really didn’t know how everything was going to be, but I knew I was going to try and just make the best of the time and I was definitely going to try and stay in touch with the team as much as possible, be involved as much as I could and just see how it went.”
The door was open for him to reenroll, but one of the conditions was that he had to maintain employment — at a for-profit or a nonprofit — for six months.
In a blink, Curry went from manning the point to manning the phones.
He wasn’t Harvard’s cocaptain and floor general anymore. He was a life insurance agent. He decided to take a sales job with the National Agents Alliance.
For three seasons, Curry had carved out an identity as the pass-first point guard of an upwardly mobile Crimson basketball team, an extension of head coach Tommy Amaker, who was in charge of turning Harvard into a team that not only could run with the Ivy League but become a player on the national level.
But Curry quickly realized his new job would require a different skill set.
“You just had to be good on the phone,” he said.
Aside from early morning meetings, his schedule was essentially make-your-own-hours, but Curry found himself doing most of his work at night, since that’s when most people were in their homes.
He usually had a list of leads, so the calls weren’t completely out of the blue.
“But they were cold,” he said.
Meanwhile, he kept a watchful eye on the Crimson, from the loss to the University of Massachusetts that could have sucked the air out of the team just two games into the season, to the win over Cornell that helped seal the Ivy League title, and finally to their NCAA Tournament win over New Mexico, which effectively scorched brackets around the country.
“I was just keeping up with everything,” Curry said. “I was staying on top of my workouts, staying in contact with them. I was watching.
“It was just nice to be able to sit back and watch them play. I’ve never got a chance to actually see that.”
As proud as he was, he was still distant from it all.
“Oh, it made me miss school a lot more,” Curry said.
When the Crimson open their season Nov. 10 at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-Off, Curry and Casey will not only rejoin the team, they will be its captains.
The team they return to will have even higher expectations than the one they left. Harvard could conceivably start the season ranked.
“Those guys were able to mature,” Amaker said Thursday at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tip-Off Breakfast at TD Garden.
“Being away, sometimes that can give you a different perspective on things certainly.
“[Curry] is in a great place. He’s excited, as he should be. I think he’s happy and he’s grateful and he’s thrilled to have an opportunity to finish his career and to be a Harvard graduate.
“So there’s no doubt that it’s a new dynamic for him and our team and now it’s all about us just coming together and meshing right.”
Last season, in Curry’s absence, freshman guard Siyani Chambers had to grow up fast. He became Amaker’s brain on the court, averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 assists and earning Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors as well as being named first-team All-Ivy.
Chambers stared all 30 games and was on the floor for 37.8 minutes a night.
But Amaker is certain there won’t be any issues with the two of them coexisting, in part because even when he was away — and, in fact, when Chambers was still being recruited — Curry always had the younger guard under his wing.
“Brandyn was the one that recruited Siyani,” Amaker said. “When Siyani came to visit, Brandyn was the guy that said, ‘Hey, let me tell you about this place or let me tell you about this crazy guy that I play for.’
“So that relationship has been there and it’s only going to be solidified more by what they have an opportunity to do together. I think they’re going to be dynamic together.”
Last year’s Ivy League championship was Harvard’s third straight, but possibly its most challenging. Without Curry and Casey, the Crimson spent the start of the season searching for an identity, losing three of their first five games. Their championship hopes were still dangling in the balance on the final day of the season, and it wasn’t until Princeton fell to Brown that they could celebrate.
“Last year, there was kind of a hole at the beginning of the season,” said senior guard Laurent Rivard. “We were able to fill that gap as we advance through the season. We had some lows but always kind of dug ourselves out of those holes. But starting this season, we don’t have any holes here.”
Curry’s impact goes beyond what he adds to games, Rivard said.
“He’s a leader on our team,” Rivard said. “He’s the one who works the hardest outside of practice, always in the gym working on his game. Obviously that’s good to have, showing the way for the younger players. He’s a great leader.”
Seeing the potential for another NCAA bid, Curry already has started making up for the lost time.
“It’s great because now we can just focus,” he said. “Just focus on everything that we need to focus on, focus on getting our young guys acclimated to the system, focus on some older guys handling some injuries, focusing just on our team. It’s nice to be able to do that.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve definitely got a special group this year, but a lot of work needs to be done and it’s just nice to be able to focus on that.”