slides: PC’s Top Post-season Teams
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
It has already been a special season at Providence. It can stay that way, and become a special season for all-time, with a few more wins.
Winning a Big East championship will do that for you. Saturday night in New York was just the second time in program history that a Friar basketball team won a conference crown, and going to the NCAA Tournament is now the benchmark for the players, coaches and fans. It used to be, the really good teams PC had in the past went largely unnoticed outside of Rhode Island and New England.
"Seeing it (the NCAA tournament) your entire life, and now being in it, it's definitely a blessing now," Big East Tournament MVP Bryce Cotton said. "I anticipate it being a great environment, a great crowd and that's things we've seen all year, so I feel we should be prepared."
"I've watched 'em every year, I was just hoping one day I could be a part of it," said all-Big East 2nd team forward Kadeem Batts. "And win a championship? Both of those things have come true, so I'm looking forward to playing this game Friday and hopefully staying a little while."
In the present sense, the players are living in the moment...and rightfully so. But when you give it some thought, what were the best teams in PC history? Were the NCAA teams the best? Did a Friar team have to reach the post-season or win a title to be considered memorable? And, does the current PC team deserve to be mentioned with some of the best to ever wear the black and white, considering where they've come from this season?
Our list of the Top 10 teams in Providence Friar basketball history is below. And if you care to agree or disagree, feel free to share your own thoughts.
Related Slideshow: PC’s Top Post-season Teams
There may, or may not, be any debate on this subject among Friar fans. But there might be a debate over where the 2013-14 Providence team ranks among some of the better teams - and better stories - on post-season teams in their history. So...from the early days of Lenny Wilkens and Joe Mullaney, to Dave Gavitt's Final Four Friars, to Rick Pitino, Rick Barnes and Pete Gillen-led teams, we've included them all. Where do the current Big East Champion, Ed Cooley-led Friars fall in this mix?
1972-73 NCAA Final Four
Led by Ernie DiGregorio, Marvin Barnes and Kevin Stacom, this was Providence's best shot at winning a National Title...until Barnes went down with a knee injury in the semifinals against Memphis State. An anticipated matchup for the championship with Bill Walton's legendary UCLA Bruins never materialized. But this team did finish 27-4, and entertained scores of fans across the country...while creating a buzz about PC hoops that still exists today. (rirhof.org)
1986-87 NCAA Final Four
This wasn't the best Friar team of all time...and probably not the most-talented. But it was, perhaps, the most magical. And it did have talent, led by Billy Donovan, Jacek Duda, Dave Kipfer, Ernie "Pop" Lewis and Delray Brooks. But the best attribute of this team was shooting the three, and believing in themselves. These Friars finished 25-9, and lost in the National semifinals to Syracuse. (realclearsports.com)
1996-97 NCAA Elite Eight
This Providence team was one of the most-talented teams ever assembled on Smith Hill...but as the legend goes, had a hard time getting along with each other. Pete Gillen led these Friars to within a missed jump-shot of a berth in the Final Four, but did get into overtime in the Regional Final against eventual national champ Arizona before falling. God Shammgod, Austin Croshere, Jamel Thomas, Ruben Garces and Derrick "Flight" Brown whipped Duke along the way to a 24-12 record, gaining legendary status, fame, and perhaps near-fortune. (friarbasketball.com)
1959-60 NIT Finalists
No, this team did not win the NIT...which at the time was considered the TRUE National Championship Tournament. But it was this team (along with the NIT team in 1959) that helped create the passion for Friar Basketball in Providence, and throughout the state of Rhode Island. Led by Hall-of-Famer Lenny Wilkens, and head coach Joe Mullaney, PC arrived on national scene as well. Big man James Hadnot led the Friars in scoring and rebounding. (providence.edu)
1960-61 NIT Champions
It wasn't the NCAA Championship, but at the time, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) WAS the national championship, and the Friars won it in 1961...defeating St. Louis 62-59 at Madison Square Garden in New York behind Vinny Ernst and James Hadnot. PC finished 24-5, Hadnot averaged nearly 20 points and more than 16 rebounds per game, while Ernst was a whirling dervish on the floor (look that one up)! (providence.edu)
1962-63 NIT Champions
There was one more championship team in Providence history, as two years after the first one, the '62-'63 Friars returned to the NIT throne room by winning 15 straight games to finish the season at 24-4. Former Boston mayor and US Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn led PC in scoring, along with legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson, Jr. Vinny Ernst was also on this team as a senior, winning two titles in his Providence career. (Flynn & Ernst, providence.edu)
1993-94 Big East Champion
In the Big East era, it's tough to leave this team off of any list...even though they did not have success in the NCAA Tournament in 1994. But PC's first Big East title came after a talented team caught fire in the '94 event at the Garden, led by Rob Phelps, Eric Williams, former Central HS and CCRI star Abdul Abdullah, Dickey Simpkins and Michael Smith - one of the best rebounders the league has ever seen. The Friars finished 20-10, winning the Big East, but lost to Alabama in the NCAA Tournament 1st round. (Williams & Phelps, wordpress.com)
2013-14 Big East Champion
It's hard to say, when they have yet to prove much on the national stage...but this year's Friar team deserves to be ranked with the best in school history just from the story of their journey(s) alone. Bryce Cotton came from Arizona without another Division I offer; injury and suspension depleting the roster; two transfer players playing significant roles; Coach and Providence-native Ed Cooley, whose house caught on fire during the year...it goes on and on. One heck of a ride and a story...and it's still going. (Cotton, twcc.com)
1964-65 NCAA Reg. Finals
It wasn't known as the "Elite 8" then, but the '64-'65 Friars were certainly one of the best teams in the school's athletic history. Finishing 24-2 and ranked 4th in the national polls, the Jimmy Walker-led Friars were beaten by Bill Bradley's Princeton team in the NCAA's, just missing out on the Final Four. Sophomores Walker, Dexter Westbrook and future NY Knick Mike Riordan led this group of Friars, along with James Benedict and Bill Blair. This team may have been coach Joe Mullaney's most talented. (Westbrook & Walker, friarbasketball.com)
1973-74 NCAA Sweet 16
Like some of the other great Friar squads of the past, this team ultimately stubbed its' toes in the NCAA's. But these Friars deserve Top 10 mention as PC's winningest single-season team, finishing 28-4. On the heels of the Final Four, and behind Marvin Barnes, Kevin Stacom, Bob Cooper and Joe Hassett, they were ranked as high as 6th in the nation before losing to eventual national champ North Carolina State. (Gavitt, Barnes, DeGregorio, wordpress.com)