St. John's Basketball: Teams Of Tradition

Dec. 6, 2007


1952 NCAA Finalists

Bob Zawoluk of the 1952 St. John's NCAA Finalist team.

Accused by basketball fans and writers alike as undeserving of their surprise NCAA bid after a hasty and unexpected ousting from the NIT by La Salle, St. John's set out for Raleigh, N.C., determined to at least justify its presence in the Eastern Regionals. The justification would have to come at the expense of the host team, NC State, which had won 29 successive tournament games at home.

The Redmen, as they were known, needed to beat Coach Everett Case's team in order get a chance to avenge an 81-40 loss to Adolph Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats, who defeated them earlier in the year. Rupp's squad routed Penn State in its NCAA opening round game, 82-54. After falling behind early, St. John's, led by Dick Duckett's outside shooting, surged back to take a 28-25 halftime lead. In the third period St. John's wrapped things up, outscoring NC State 19-8. In the end it was St. John's 60, NC State 49 with four St. John's players hitting double figures. Bob Zawoluk was the high scorer for St. John's with 12 points, followed by Duckett and Jack McMahon, who each had 11 apiece. Jim Davis added 10, flicking in five set shots.

In the second round the speculation was that it would take a miracle for the Redmen to upend the Wildcats. Frank McGuire's boys took the court hoping to keep it respectable. For a change, St. John's came out relaxed from the start. In their first meeting against the Rupp men down in Lexington, St. John's shot just 16.7 percent going 10-for-60; in Raleigh, SJU shot 24-for-53 (45.2 percent). St. John's took the early lead and never looked back. Zawoluk and McMahon were sensational in their scoring efforts. Zawoluk set a new NCAA scoring record with 32 points in the game. Ronnie MacGilvray won over the crowd with his rebounding and stifling defensive play.

The spark generated by the unbelievable Kentucky triumph carried over to the next game. St. John's had a heart-stopping 61-59 win over favored Illinois in Seattle, Wash. The following night in the championship game, Kansas' Clyde Lovellette personally brought the high-flying Redmen back to earth. The massive center broke the NCAA record for points set days before by Zawoluk with a 33-point performance. The Jayhawks went on to defeat St. John's, 80-63, in the NCAA championship game to capture the crown.

1985 NCAA Semifinalists

1985 St. John's Final Four team.

On their way to the second Final Four appearance in school history, the Redmen began the journey slowly in Salt Lake City, easing past Southern University, 83-59, before escaping Arkansas, 68-65. Against Southern, St. John's had three players who scored 20 or more points, led by Walter Berry's 24 with 13 rebounds. Bill Wennington contributed 23 while Chris Mullin added 21 in the game. Mullin keyed the Redmen to the victory over Arkansas with 26. Joe Kleine had 23 for the Razorbacks.

The wins earned St. John's the right to advance to the West Regional in Denver, Colo., and a meeting with Kentucky. Mullin netted 30 and Willie Glass contributed down the stretch to lift the Redmen to an 86-70 win. That game marked the final contest for Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall.

The Elite Eight matchup between Lou Carnesecca's St. John's squad and Jim Valvano's NC State team was a back-and-forth affair that earned the tongue-in-cheek moniker "Spaghetti Western" from the sportswriters. Mullin scored 15 of his 25 in the second half, finding an answer for every Wolfpack run. NC State hung close until the Redmen managed a 10-point lead with 1:22 to play, and shortly after Carnesecca allowed it to sink in - St. John's was headed to the 1985 Final Four.

"With five seconds left in the game, I looked up at the clock and kept thinking, `We're going... we're going.' I am very much elated to think I'm finally going after 1,000 games," said Carnesecca at a postgame press conference. "When I'm going to my grave, this I'll remember."

Patrick Ewing and Georgetown stood between St. John's and the title game, which the Redmen had not reached since 1952. The rivalry was intense, as St. John's had defeated the Hoyas earlier that season in Landover, Md., to take the No. 1 national ranking. Georgetown won the next two meetings, once at Madison Square Garden that snapped the Redmen's 14-game conference win streak, and once in the BIG EAST Tournament title game.

The Hoyas would prevail, 77-59, ending the storybook season for St. John's but giving Redmen fans a campaign to remember always.

1943 NIT Champions

1943 NIT Champions.

On the way to its first NIT title, St. John's just got by its opening round matchup against Rice Institute of Houston, Texas. St. John's next edged Rice in the closing seconds, 51-49. Hy Gotkin's one-hander at the buzzer proved to be the game-winner. The team then faced local rival Fordham in the semifinals. St. John's defeated the Rams 69-43 and were led by Harry Boykoff's 22 points. St. John's defeated the University of Toledo, 48-27, to capture its first National Invitation Tournament. Harry Boykoff was named Most Valuable Player of the Tournament, scoring 56 points in the three games.

Season Highlights

  • Head coach Joe Lapchick led the squad to a 21-3 record.
  • Captain Andrew "Fuzzy" Levane was awarded the Lt. Frank C. Haggerty Trophy, being selected the MVP of the Metropolitan area.
  • Levane was awarded the C.Y.O. Trophy, donated by the Brooklyn Chapter of the C.Y.O.
  • St. John's received bids to both the NCAA and the NIT.
  • Harry Boykoff, St. John's 6-9 center, was awarded the most valuable player award of the sixth annual NIT. This marked the second time that a St. John's player received such a distinction. Bill Lloyd of the 1938-39 team received it previously.
  • Boykoff was picked on several All-America teams. He received a gold basketball, emblematic of his selection on the All-America basketball team appearing in The Sporting News.
  • Levane was also selected on one All-America team.
  • St. John's defeat of Fordham settled the dispute as to who was the 1942-43 metropolitan champion.
  • Three players were named to the All-Metropolitan team: Boykoff, Larry Baxter and Levane.

    1944 NIT Champions

    1944 NIT Champions.

    In the first victory on the way to back-to-back NIT titles, St. John's defeated Bowling Green in the quarterfinals by a score of 44-40. St. John's was led by Bill Kotsores' 15 points. Kotsores scored 15 more points against Kentucky to help the team to a 48-45 victory. St. John's won its second consecutive title with a 47-39 victory over DePaul in the championship game. Ray Wertis led the team with 12 points. Bill Kotsores was named MVP, scoring 40 points in three games.

    Season Highlights

  • During head coach Joe Lapchick's eighth year at St. John's, the varsity played 23 games and won 18.
  • Dick McGuire was awarded the Lt. Frank C. Haggerty Trophy, being selected as the most valuable basketball player in the Metropolitan college ranks.
  • St. John's accepted a bid to the NIT and it won the seventh-ever NIT title by defeating DePaul in the finals. This marked the second consecutive NIT championship for St. John's.
  • Bill Kotsores was named the Most Valuable Player of the NIT. This marked the third time in seven years that a St. John's player received such a distinction.
  • Captain Hy Gotkin was awarded the MVP and the Most Outstanding Player Award of the Year by the St. John's Athletic Association. Gotkin became the second recipient of the Lt. Frank C. Haggerty gold medal.
  • McGuire and Gotkin were placed on the All-Metropolitan team by the Basketball Writers Association.
  • Five of St. John's players were picked by the basketball writers to play on the Brooklyn All-Star team vs. the New York All-Star team, in a game which sponsored the Sale of War Bonds for the Fourth War Loan Drive. Brooklyn won the game, 47-43.

    1959 NIT Champions

    1959 NIT Champions.

    St. John's defeated Villanova in the first round by a score of 75-67. St. John's was led by Alan Seiden with 25 points and Lou Roethel added 21. Tony Jackson exploded for 27 points against third-seeded St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals, leading the team to an 82-74 victory. Roethel scored 22 and Jackson added 20 in a 76-55 win over the Providence Friars in the semifinals. St. John's took its third NIT title by defeating top-seeded Bradley 76-71 in double overtime. Seiden scored 22 and Jackson had 21 points and 27 rebounds in the game. Jackson, who was named MVP of the tournament, totaled 81 points for the four games.

    Season Highlights

  • Head coach Joe Lapchick led his team to a 20-6 record.
  • St. John's captured its first ECAC Holiday Festival title with a 90-79 victory over St. Joseph's in the final. Tony Jackson was named Most Valuable Player.
  • Alan Seiden surpassed 1,000 points for his career against Temple on Jan. 3, 1958.
  • St. John's captured its third NIT title with a 76-71 double overtime win against Bradley. Tony Jackson became the fourth St. John's player to be named MVP of the NIT.
  • Tony Jackson set a school record with 27 rebounds in one game.
  • St. John's finished ranked 17th in the nation by UPI.

    1965 NIT Champions
    St. John's had to play both seeded teams en route to the school's fourth NIT title. In the first round, the team faced Boston College, defeating BC handily by a score of 114-92. Ken McIntyre scored 42 in the game. In the quarterfinals, St. John's played second-seeded New Mexico. McIntyre again led the team to a 61-54 victory scoring 20 points in the game. St. John's took on Army in the semifinals, and won by seven points, 67-60. In the final the team took on top-seeded Villanova, and St. John's shocked the Wildcats, 55-51. The McIntyre brothers (Ken and Rob) and Lloyd "Sonny" Dove accounted for 48 of the team's 55 points. Ken McIntyre was named MVP of the tournament. He totaled 101 points in the four games.

    Season Highlights

  • Head coach Joe Lapchick ended his career with a 55-51 win over Villanova in the Championship game of the NIT. This marked the fourth time that Lapchick led St. John's to the NIT Championship.
  • Lapchick's 1964-65 squad ended the season with a 21-8 record. In his 20 years as head coach of St. John's, Lapchick had a career record of 334-130.
  • St. John's shocked Michigan, the No. 1 team in the nation according to both the UPI and AP polls. St. John's beat the Wolverines 75-74 in the final of the ECAC Holiday Festival to capture the school's second ECAC title.
  • Ken McIntyre surpassed the 1,000 career point mark on Feb. 23, 1965 against UMass.

    1989 NIT Champions
    St. John's received a home game in the first round against Mississippi. The team defeated Mississippi 70-67 with Jayson Williams leading the way with 25 points. St. John's once again received a home bid in the second round against Oklahoma State. The team came back from a 32-30 halftime deficit to win 76-64. Williams led all scorers with 27. The squad was then sent to Ohio State for a third round meeting. That marked the second meeting between the two teams that season. The first meeting was in the final of the ECAC Holiday Festival, when the Buckeyes beat St. John's 77-72. Once again, St. John's came from behind, erasing a 17-point deficit to send the game into overtime. St. John's won the game in overtime without its star Williams (who fouled out late in regulation) by a score of 83-80. In the semifinals, St. John's took on the University of Alabama-Birmingham. St. John's won the game 76-65, as freshman Malik Sealy and Williams each scored 17 in the game. St. John's would then have to face St. Louis University, the last obstacle in its comeback season. St. John's defeated St. Louis 73-65 to capture the school's fifth NIT title and the first for head coach Lou Carnesecca. Jayson Williams was named MVP of the Tournament.

    Season Highlights

  • For the 19th time the Lou Carnesecca's Era, St. John's finished the season with 20 or more wins.
  • St. John's won a record fifth NIT title with a 73-65 victory over St. Louis.
  • Jayson Williams became the sixth St. John's player to be named MVP of the NIT.
  • St. John's won the 14th Annual Joe Lapchick Memorial Tournament with wins over LIU, and BYU in the final. Matt Brust was named MVP of the Tournament.

    2003 NIT Champions ***
    It's amazing what one free throw can do.

    The St. John's men's basketball team entered its March 2 game with perennial national power Duke with a 12-12 record. Things weren't looking bright for the Red Storm, who had lofty expectations after qualifying for the program's 27th NCAA Tournament appearance in 2001-02.

    But on that day, with a sold out Madison Square Garden crowd and a CBS national television audience watching, St. John's pulled off the upset, topping the Blue Devils, 72-71. Senior guard Marcus Hatten sealed the win with a free throw with no time left.

    And that free throw carried the Red Storm to one of the most exciting stretches of basketball in the 97-year history of the program, as St. John's won nine of its last 10 games, capping the season off with a 70-67 win over Georgetown in the NIT Championship game.

    The Red Storm finished the season 21-13 overall, and made what would be a difficult finish an exciting ride.

    After a brilliant 5-0 start to the season, the Red Storm struggled at the start of the New Year, and entered the final weeks of the season with a 12-12 overall record, and a 5-9 mark in the BIG EAST Conference.

    Four-straight losses in February left the team scrambling. The Red Storm used the motivation from the Duke win to win their final two regular season games - at Miami and at home against Rutgers - before upsetting Notre Dame in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament.

    A loss to Boston College in the quarterfinals was diminished by a bid to the NIT, where the team reeled off three-straight wins behind a raucous student cheering section at Alumni Hall - topping Boston University, Virginia and UAB - and advancing to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Final Four.

    Hatten scored 24 points and Ingram added 16 as St. John's topped Bobby Knight and Texas Tech in the semifinals, advancing to face league rival Georgetown in the finals. In that game, Hatten had 22 points, Ingram added 19 and junior college transfer Grady Reynolds - a major player down the stretch - scored 13 points and grabbed a career high 14 rebounds as St. John's won its sixth NIT Championship in program history.

    *** -- St. John's 2003 NIT Championship was vacated by the NCAA in 2006.

    1983 BIG EAST Champions

    1983 BIG EAST Champions.

    The 1982-83 season was for St. John's basketball an achievement of superlative accomplishments. Led by head coach Lou Carnesecca, the Redmen marched to a record-breaking season, including the first-ever BIG EAST Tournament Championship for St. John's.

    St. John's played 33 games, the most in school history at that time, won more games than any team prior (28), and entered the postseason for a record 38th time. After tying for first during the regular season in the BIG EAST, the team won three straight games in the league's championship tournament to take home the crown.

    The team beat defending NCAA champion North Carolina to open the season, then won 13-straight games, giving them a school-record 14 consecutive season-opening victories. Along the way, they won the ECAC Holiday Festival Tournament for the sixth time, and the third time in four years.

    Carnesecca was named Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the New York Basketball Writers' Association and several other organizations. Chris Mullin was the unanimous selection for BIG EAST Player of the Year, and the New York Writers' Haggerty Award. In addition, he became the third player to score more than 1,000 points in two seasons, connecting on nearly 60 percent of his shots from the field.

    David Russell's rugged inside play gave the St. John's offense a double haymaker and this combination was brought to explosive power by the cool play of swingman Billy Goodwin which matched the fiery competitiveness of Kevin Williams. Floor play was orchestrated by Bobby Kelly and the backbone was supplied by the center couple of Jeff Allen and Bill Wennington, with Ron Stewart and Trevor Jackson in the wings.

    In the BIG EAST Tournament, St. John's beat Pittsburgh in the first round, and then topped Villanova in the semifinals. The championship game saw Mullin score 24 points in an 85-77 win over Boston College.

    1986 BIG EAST Champions

    1986 BIG EAST Champions.

    A year after a trip to the program's second-ever appearance in the NCAA Final Four, if anyone was searching for "The Truth," they found it.

    In just his second season at St. John's, Walter "The Truth" Berry earned national player of the year honors - the second straight year a St. John's player had done so, as Chris Mullin took the award during the 1984-85 campaign - and led the team to a 31-5 record and the 1986 BIG EAST Tournament Championship.

    Berry had, perhaps, the best single season ever in St. John's history in 1985-86, averaging 23.0 points and 11.1 rebounds, while earning award upon award. He was selected as the recipient of the John Wooden Award as the nation's top college player, the Adolph R. Rupp Trophy, the Associated Press' honor, and was the Kodak Player of the Year from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He scored a still-intact St. John's record 828 points that season and grabbed 399 rebounds, which ranks as the fifth-best single season mark.

    The starting five that season - Berry, Ron Rowan, Willie Glass, Mark Jackson and Shelton Jones - ranks among the best in school history. They started every game and accounted for 86 percent of the minutes played, but had outstanding play from reserves like Marco Baldi, Terry Bross, Steve Shurina and John Hempel. Rowan finished the season second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.2 points and 4.4 assists; Glass averaged 13.3 points and 5.6 rebounds; Jackson added 11.3 points and a school record 9.1 assists; and Jones averaged 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds.

    The Redmen had rolled through the regular season, the only blemish a loss to Duke (71-70) in the Big Apple NIT semifinals. They lost only two conference games - to Boston College and Syracuse - by a combined total of six points and finished the regular season tied for first with a 14-2 mark.

    And while Berry was the leader of the team, it was Rowan who came through in the Redmen's biggest moment, sinking a 14-foot baseline jumper with eight seconds left and giving St. John's its first lead of the game at 70-69, in a win over Syracuse in the BIG EAST Championship. Berry blocked Dwayne "Pearl" Washington's shot at the buzzer as St. John's won the second of its three BIG EAST Tournament titles.

    2000 BIG EAST Champions

    Lavor Postell and Bootsy Thornton of the 2000 BIG EAST Champions.

    For St. John's, Red Storm fans and the "city that never sleeps," the 2000 BIG EAST title was almost as good as winning the national championship.

    The nets were cut, and the celebration began. Players and coaches hugged family members, staff and each other. The trophy was carried around the floor and adored by one and all.

    The night of March 11, 2000 was not just any night for the St. John's men's basketball team. The Red Storm's 80-70 win over Connecticut at Madison Square Garden gave the team its first BIG EAST Tournament Championship since 1986, but it was also the fitting end to a hectic, and at times, challenging season.

    It was fitting because this St. John's team had overcome obstacles time and time again throughout the season. And just when people were counting the Red Storm out, they came back - each time.

    The team was tough and resilient. While small in numbers - there were only eight scholarship players and head coach Mike Jarvis used a seven-man rotation for the most part - the team jelled and played without fear.

    That never-quit mentality was never more evident than during a stretch in late February when the Red Storm toppled Syracuse, Connecticut and Duke in consecutive games. The wins over the Huskies and Blue Devils marked the first time in recorded history that the national champion (UConn) and national runner-up (Duke) had lost to the same team back-to-back.

    The BIG EAST Tournament was equally exciting. St. John's used a late run to beat Villanova in the opener and then came a heated rivalry with Miami. In a tight game, sophomore forward Anthony Glover - who had missed his previous five attempts - hit two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give St. John's a 58-57 win over the Hurricanes and a spot in the championship game.

    In a rematch of the previous year's championship game, Bootsy Thornton - who earned tournament MVP honors - scored 22 points to lead four players in double figures in an 80-70 win over Connecticut.



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