I'm in for whatever IC59 says.... he's seen every player
I've been putting this off for a long time because of how long it will take me to type this. And I want to thank ichoops for the compliment, but he's confusing me with OT whom I believe has seen every player who has put on an Iona uniform. I have seen all the guys pictured in this thread, although I never saw John O'Hagan play for Iona. I did get to see him play in a semi-pro game at Eastchester HS for the Tuckahoe Hose Company in a contest vs. The Ralph Branca All Stars. After the game I was turned down for a Ralph Branca autograph, because I didn't say please. Lesson learned. John was a big tough guy from All Hallows with BB skills. The first star of Iona BB. O'Hagan was a bodyguard for JFK in 1960 when he was running for president.
The first Iona team I saw play was 1953-54, Richie Guerin's senior year. So I'm going to start with the guys I didn't see play and wished that I had. I'll start with Joe DiStanislao our first center at 6'6 from NewRo HS. Joe played in 97 games and scored 800 points (Media Guide). Other guys on those early Iona teams were Frankie O'Shea, a guard, who frequently showed up in write ups about the Iona games, "Big Dan" Walsh, 6'7, who I was told that he was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets. Years later Big Dan would attend games at Mucahy in a wheelchair. Manny Kennedy, the first black Iona player and Jim "Jumbo" Lyons. Jumbo might have been the first player to transfer in to Iona, back in the forties, coming from NC State. Years later another Jim went from Iona to Raleigh. Bob Santini, 6'5 and a very good player was drafted by the NY Knicks but didn't make the team,or at least I don't believe he did. If anyone knows differently, please correct. Santini was a year ahead of Richie Guerin, and Gene Roberti (PG) was also on that team. Probably our best team of the first decade. At 6'8, Wally McCarvill (724 points/1002 rebounds) was the center and John McIvor (Iona HOF) was also on that team. A graduate of Regis HS, John was awarded the Biology Medal upon graduation. Coach Jim McDermott told me that McIvor was the toughest guy he coached and one of the best defenders.
I started at the College in 1955, and the best team of my four years was the '57-58 team. In West Point history their class of 1915 was called, "the class the stars fell on" as 53 of 164 graduates attained General rank, including Eisenhower and Bradley, among others. At Iona, as good as the ('57-58) team was, it was their excellence after graduation that defined them. Leading scorer Joe Bernardi went on to a successful business career. Reserve center, Rudy Eckhardt earned a PHD degree. I'm guessing it was the first for an Iona BB player. Second high scorer on the team, Ralph Savarese (889 points in 64 games) earned a law degree and not only became a partner in a top law firm in Washington, DC, but the MANAGING PARTNER. Stan Hill, third black player for Iona headed up one of NYC's largest labor unions. Larry Blaney who still holds the single game rebounding record (33) was a successful Realtor in Northern Westchester after a stint in the US Coast Guard. And still another lawyer from that team, Bob McGuire went on to become the NYC Police Commissioner. I was told that we would bring potential recruits to NYC Police Hqs. and let them sit at the same desk, that Teddy Roosevelt used to sit at. Another reserve from that team was Tommy Collins, a guy that I worked with at The Telephone Company, a Division Manager who died much too early. As did a reserve guard, Frank Geczik, who became a Dentist, and maybe our only dentist for a guy that played BB at Iona. I'm guessing that George Carter, 6'5 forward was our 3rd leading scorer and a graduate of Cardinal Hayes, and another guy who did very well in business. Team finished 18-6 and just missed out on making the NIT, the Big Dance at the time. In two of our final three games, that year we beat St. Francis, at MSG, and St; Peter's at Mount St. Michael's. Both SFNY and SPC made the NIT, and we missed out. Willard Mullin, famous sports cartoonist for the World Telegram and Sun had a great cartoon of a Gael with his head bowed, after the news broke that Butler and not Iona got the final bid. Heartbreak.
Onto the sixties and the arrival of posters, EPatrick, Super, JPR, jerseygael,qs and posters whom I'm sure I'm forgetting. But that will have to wait for a day or two so that I can catch my breath. I'm only going to follow the Gaels until the advent of Jim Valvano to New Ro, because there are plenty of you that know just as much, if not more, of modern Iona.
Post by hurtinturkey on Jun 4, 2020 15:07:50 GMT -5
Bob Santini, did play four games for the Knicks in November of 1955. Thank you for the great history lesson. I didn't start following the Gaels until I arrived on campus in 1972. Really enjoy reading your history!
I'm back to finish up my history of Iona BB prior to the arrival of Jim Valvano. Unfortunately, the period of 1960-1976 wasn't nearly as successful as the forties and fifties, and that could also be said for college BB in the NY Metro Area. So, before starting with phase two about Iona, I'll add some memories of the forties and fifties. I think it's fair to say that the 1940's and 1950's represented the Golden Age of college BB in NY. Objectively, we had five elite teams and six VG teams. And a big reason for that was the coaches at those schools: Elite-SJU (Frank McGuire/Joe Lapchik); NYU (Howard Caan/Lou Rossini); LIU (Claire Bee); CCNY (Nat Holman); and Seton Hall (Honey Russell). VG-Fordham (Johnny Bach); Manhattan (Ken Norton); Iona (Jim McDermott); SFNY (Danny Lynch); SPC (Don Kennedy): and Columbia (Lou Rossini/Jack Rohan). Even some of the lesser programs, Wagner (Herb Sutter) and Yeshiva (Red Sarachek) had good coaches.
As an aside, McDermott, Norton, Lynch and Kennedy were often reffered to as the Irish Mafia of college BB. McDermott (LaSalle) and Kennedy (Regis) came up through the NYC Catholic HS League, as did Lou Carnecessa who took over at SJU. Not sure about the others.
In the 1960's NYC was no longer referred to as the epicenter of college BB. And there were a number of reasons why that happened. The betting scandal of the early 50's didn't help, but, imo, it didn't kill it, either. The main reason was the popularity of the NBA/NY Knicks. And the underground railway from NY to the Carolina's, along with the advent of television which showed games from all over the country. I'm not sure when AAU BB started but when it did, it took away a lot of the clout of HS coaches, and thus made it harder for guys like McDermott, whose contacts were the HS coaches, to recruit. And when you throw in O'Connell gym, it's not surprising that our program went into a tailspin.
Looking at the period from 1960-1975 we won 157 games and lost 187. And when you take out the Warren Isaac years (38-24), it was even worse. Thus, there were only three guys pictured at the start of this thread that played during this period and were only coached by either McDermott or Gene Roberti. Isaac, McMahon and Hyland. But in my opinion there were additional players who deserve a most honorable mention. And I hope that posters who started at Iona in the sixties and seventies will add their insight, as well.
I'll start in the early sixties with three guys who had an All Hallows connection. Two were about 5'8, Kevin Reilly and John Carey. Carey play in HS at Molloy but was a long time coach at AH. Reilly was built like a fire plug, and had a great long range shot. Unfortunately, there wasn't a 3pt rule at the time. Carey was better off the dribble and scored 508 points compared to Reilly's 628. But I think it fair to say that Red Reilly played on the better Iona team. Also, believe he had a son who also played at AH and at West Point in college. The third guy was Tommy Burke. At 6'3 TB played in the front court in HS but was in the backcourt at Iona. I think it fair to say that the top PG's in Iona history were Vickers, Grimes and Machado. However, if you only want to count passes that brought you to your feet my two best were Tommy Burke and Tony Hargraves. Tony who played in 126 games compared to 62 for Tommy Burke certainly had more of them, but TB had many HL passes as well. I believe TB held the MSG record (single game) for assists, nine in a game against Manhattan. Not sure how long it lasted.
Now, I'm going back to Kevin Reilly's team ('59-60). Their record was 13-5, and highlighted by a win over Fordham at Rose Hill. Kevin had three teamates who were VG ball players, Jim Raysor, at the time, the most athletic black at Iona, and two tough Irish guys, Joe Tighe and Tommy Fitzgerald. Not only tough, but football tough. In HS Fitz played QB at ST. Cecilia's and Joe the DL at LI Military Academy. Upon graduation, both played semi-pro FB for the Westchester Crusaders. They played their games at Memorial Field in Mt. Vernon. Joe was part of the team's front four described by the PA announcer as,"The Half Ton of Fun". Joe went on to a successful business career in the adult beverage industry and would be instrumental in the formation of the Goal Club. And I believe everyone knows of Tommy Burke's service as a Trustee of the College. Both died much too early.
Early Risers-The first two players that I remembered were John Holland and Harry Hart, the shorter of the two Harts that played for Iona. Neither had much of an offensive game, but both could jump out of the gym. They were the first to impress me in that way. Harry Hart coached the Iona Women's team for a number of years, and he might have also coached Blessed Sacrament, though I'm not sure.
My more active involvement with Iona BB started with the Long Step Forward and the eventual building of the Mulcahy Center. Unfortunately, the new Mulcahy Center didn't help very much, record wise, as we were 4-19 in 1974-75. What was needed was a new coach and the finalist I was hoping for was Frank McLoughlin, who I believe was an Assistant at Notre Dame. But no, we ended up with some guy from Bucknell. As they say the rest is history.