NEW YORK -- Sometimes it's too easy to play the name
association game in college sports.
As soon as St. John's is mentioned, Lou Carnesecca follows.
The proof comes this weekend when the school honors two former
coaches and eight players with "Basketball Legacy Honors."
St. John's has never retired a uniform number and the only
banners hanging from the ceiling in its on-campus Carnesecca Arena
are for teams that won the Big East Conference, reached the NCAA
Tournament or won the NIT.
That will change Friday night when the "Legacy" honors will be
bestowed at a private ceremony with public acknowledgment coming at
halftime of Saturday's game at Madison Square Garden against No. 9
The 80-year-old Carnesecca had a special relationship with the
other nine honorees, whether as a classmate, assistant or coach.
"I can really look at each one and have such wonderful memories
about them," said Carnesecca, one of three Basketball Hall of
Famers in the group.
Joe Lapchick, whom Carnesecca served as a longtime assistant, is
the other coach being honored. The eight players are: Walter Berry,
Lloyd "Sonny" Dove, Mark Jackson, Tony Jackson, Dick McGuire,
Chris Mullin, Malik Sealy and Alan Seiden.
Mullin and Berry, who led St. John's to its most recent Final
Four, were national players of the year in 1985 and 1986,
respectively. McGuire, who played alongside his brother, Al, at St.
John's in the 1940s, was considered the best college guard of his
era. Mark Jackson, who also played on the 1985 Final Four team that
was ranked No. 1 in the country, was the NCAA's career assist
leader when he graduated.
"I went to school with Dick. He was Ivy League smart so I sat
next to him but it didn't do me any good," said Carnesecca, who
never played for St. John's but had 526 victories as its coach.
"Then there was coach Lapchick, and all the other guys I
Tony Jackson and Seiden played together in the late '50s. Dove
was a star in the late '60s, and Sealy was a standout from 1988-92.
Lapchick, Dove, Tony Jackson, who died in October, and Sealy,
who was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves when he was killed
in an auto accident in May 2000, will be honored posthumously.
Lapchick was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966, while
Carnesecca went in in 1992, a year before McGuire.
Carnesecca doesn't hesitate when asked if there is one moment
that stands out for him.
"I think one of the greatest seasons ever was when coach
Lapchick won the NIT in 1965 and the players carried him off the
court into retirement," said Carnesecca, who took over the next
season. "His quote was 'What a way to go.' That's a wonderful
picture I have of St. John's. Of course, the Final Four was so
great, but with coach Lapchick, that made such an impression of
St. John's entered its 98th season of basketball fifth on the
all-time win list (1,677) and eighth in winning percentage (.676).
There have been two Final Fours (1952, 1985), a record six NIT
titles, 11 consensus All-Americas and two nicknames -- Redmen and
the current Red Storm.
"People who have watched the program over the years appreciate
what has been achieved and who contributed to it," St. John's
athletic director Chris Monasch said.
He, too, turned to Carnesecca and what he has meant to the
"It really comes to life with him spanning the 50, 60 years and
he's touched all of their lives directly, it's not a six degrees of
separation," Monasch said. "It shows what a treasure he is and
how lucky we are to have him around."
Why did it take so long for St. John's to honor its own?
"It's always been our tradition to do things that way as part
of the Vincentian mission and spirit," Carnesecca said, referring
to the school's founding order of priests. Then he dated himself
with a musical reference. "We're not Harry James. We don't blow
our own horns around here."
They will this weekend.