Harvard's Rivard connects in home finale

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- When it was over, Laurent Rivard went back to the beginning.

And not just to the beginning of Saturday night’s home finale against Columbia, whom the Crimson routed 80-47 to secure at least a share of a fourth straight Ivy League title, but all the way back to 2009. To before he had ever donned the black and crimson in Lavietes Pavilion.

“I remember when people were asking me ‘Where are you going next year?’ and I’d say ‘Harvard,’” Rivard said. “And some people would ask me, ‘Are you playing basketball there?’”

That question didn’t play well with the native of St. Bruno, Quebec.

“I was kind of insulted,” Rivard said. “It kind of just said that Harvard wasn’t on the map yet. But Jeremy Lin had started doing it -- the whole team, but him -- then Linsanity came and that’s when we got more attention. And Coach did a great job of building the program each year, and now we’re here.”

Now, almost five years since the doubters wondered why any self-respecting basketball player would sign on to play at Harvard, Rivard is a senior and a co-captain for the second straight season. After he splashed six more 3-pointers -- tying his career high -- to lead the Crimson past the Lions, Rivard is tied for third all-time in the Ivy League in made 3s with 276.

His final 3 at Lavietes just so happened to be a memorable one, as he got fouled on his follow-through and swished the free throw to a standing ovation.

“I was just like, that’s Laurent,” junior Wesley Saunders said with a laugh. “That’s what he does. He’s probably one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen, if not the best shooter.”

And he’s one of only a handful of players who can say he’s had at least a share of the Ancient Eight title in each and every one of his seasons.

For a little perspective, before the 2010-11 Harvard team managed a share of the Ivy title -- falling to Princeton in the playoff game and missing the NCAA tournament -- the men’s team had never won the Ancient Eight.

Tommy Amaker’s vision -- on and off the court -- has changed that.

Not that you’ll catch Amaker saying that anytime soon.

“We’ve worked hard, as everyone does, and we’ve been fortunate, and I think you have to be,” Amaker said when asked about the four-season run of titles.

Then the coach turned the attention to his players, specifically seniors Rivard, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry.

“Those guys have been sensational for us,” he said. “I think they have believed and trusted, and I think they really love the system and the style that we have. I think that they have bought into that whole-heartedly and I think you see that in how they play and how they share the ball. It’s been fun to coach them.”

Though some of the details may have changed from season to season, the core tenets have remained the same -- defense first, offense second and championships over all.

Rivard’s finish Saturday night seemed as close to a Hollywood script as you’re likely to get in real life -- senior converts four-point play, leads team in scoring in final home game, leaves court to huge ovation as team wins -- and the Crimson enjoyed it in the moment.

“I felt like he deserved it,” Amaker said of the emotional moment. ”He’s been that guy for us his entire time here at Harvard.”

It made Rivard think of how it all started for him.

“I still remember the first game I played in college. I went 0-for-11, 0-for-7 from 3,” he said, rattling off his stats from his game at George Mason on Nov. 13, 2010. “But Coach and all my teammates always had confidence in me. They always told me to keep shooting, even if I was having a bad game. Really throughout my whole career it’s been like that.

“Finishing my career at Lavietes with a game like that, in front of the crowd -- a lot of people from back home are here -- it’s amazing.”

But creating a nice moment for their outgoing seniors wasn’t the Crimson’s ultimate goal.

“Coach started talking about winning championships when he was recruiting us,” Rivard said. “We weren’t even at Harvard yet and he was talking about winning championships. We got a taste of it my freshmen year. ... But we’ve always wanted more. We weren’t satisfied with just a share.

“We always stayed hungry because we always wanted more. And Coach has done a great job of keeping us hungry, and not [letting us] be satisfied.”

You can bet that until Rivard and his fellow seniors secure one more Ivy League win, either on Friday at Yale or on Saturday at Brown, and guarantee themselves one more trip to the NCAA tournament, one more chance to upset a favored opponent on the big stage in March and one more chance to prove doubters wrong, satisfaction will have to wait.

Because this story’s not over yet.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.