March 24, 2005
The University of Notre Dame official athletics site, www.und.com , continues its tribute today to the school’s celebration of 100 Seasons of Basketball. Spanning the entirety of the college basketball season, www.und.com, will update this section of the site every weekday 100 times in an effort to highlight Notre Dame’s 100th Basketball Season in 2004-05.
The updates will change between trivia questions, quick bios from Notre Dame’s all-century team, various “On this date in Notre Dame Basketball” elements and more.
Also available this season is the book 100 Seasons of Basketball, produced by the University of Notre Dame Sports Information Office and Notre Dame Sports Properties. The book is available exclusively through the Notre Dame Bookstore (call 800-647-4641 or to go www.ndcatalog.com).
#98 (Thursday, March 24, 2005)
A look back at Notre Dame’s NCAA Tournament history…
by Andrew Soukup
Notre Dame had just lost to Duke in the 2002 NCAA Tournament’s second round, and David Graves fought back tears as he left the court.
The eighth-seeded Irish, making just their second NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years, had pushed top-seeded perennial power Duke to the brink of postseason elimination. Notre Dame had led much of the game and, with seven minutes remaining, held a seven-point advantage before Duke charged back to win, 84-77.
So Graves, a senior, looked back at Notre Dame’s progress in his four years by looking down at his uniform.
“This,” Graves told a packed press conference room as he pointed at the word “Irish” emblazed on his chest, “This is pride. This means something now. “It didn’t before.”
Graves, of course, was referring to the 1990s, when the Irish were as present in college basketball’s premier postseason event as water in a desert. That drought stood in stark contrast to the rest of Notre Dame’s March Madness history, where the Irish qualified for a Final Four and had Austin Carr set numerous tourney records that still stand today.
But Graves might have been on to something. A year after Duke squeaked past Notre Dame, the Irish cracked the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1987. And a bevy of talent on the Irish roster suggests that Notre Dame may be ready for a decade of postseason success not seen since the 1970s.
In order to put Notre Dame’s postseason history in perspective, however, it is necessary to look at a fateful NCAA decision which made it possible for Notre Dame officials to even consider letting the school’s basketball team play in the postseason.
Up until the 1950s, teams in the NCAA Tournament often traveled around the country to various tournament sites. Notre Dame school officials had prevented its basketball players from traveling because they feared the players’ academics would suffer. However, when the NCAA adopted a regional system–where teams played tournament games based on their geographic location–Irish leaders allowed the basketball team to play in the postseason.
So Notre Dame, under coach John Jordan, made its NCAA Tournament debut in 1953, crushing Eastern Kentucky 72-57 at the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Coliseum to advance to the regional semifinals in the tournament’s 22-team field. The Irish would get knocked out of their first tourney a round later, losing to eventual national champion Indiana in Chicago by 13 points.
Ironically, Notre Dame’s first tournament loss was to a better team. Other Irish teams would also find themselves knocked out of tournament play after two contests, but those games were widely considered upsets.
The Irish and Hoosiers were frequent second-round opponents over the next decade. In 1954, Notre Dame edged Indiana by a point before losing to Penn State in the regional final. In 1958, a seven-point victory over the Hoosiers preceded a 89-56 thrashing by Kentucky in the regional final.
In the 1960s, Notre Dame made the NCAA Tournament four times but lost in the first round every year. Their fortunes began to change, however, with the maturation of Carr, who played his first season for the Irish in 1968-69.
Playing in the Athletic and Convocation Center for the first time, the 1968-69 Irish were huge preseason favorites, picked by one magazine to edge annual power UCLA for the national title. The resulting 20-7 season and first-round tourney exit was largely viewed as a disappointment, but it set the stage for Notre Dame’s–and Carr’s–record-setting postseason in the year to follow.
The red-hot Carr carried the Irish through the regular season as he took the first steps toward putting his name atop the Irish scoring lists. He put his name on the national record books when the postseason began, too.
In the first round, against Ohio University, Carr buried 25 of 44 field goals and 11 of 14 free throws to finish with 61 points, a single-game NCAA Tournament record that still stands, in leading the Irish to a 112-82 win. In that game, Jackie Meehan tallied 17 assists, a school record.
Carr continued his scoring binge the next game against Kentucky, tallying 52 points. But the Irish still lost, 109-99. It wasn’t the first time–nor the last–a highly touted Irish team would get knocked out of the NCAA Tournament earlier than many thought it would.
Carr’s scoring dominance continued the next year, but so did Notre Dame’s early exits. The Irish senior, who would be voted national player of the year, cranked out another 52-point performance against TCU. But the Irish again were stunned in the regional semifinals, falling to Drake, 79-72, after the Iowa school scored a two-pointer with three seconds left to send the game into overtime.
His Irish career over, Carr had scored 289 points in seven tourney contests (including consolation games) to place him prominently in the NCAA record book. After Carr’s senior year, coach John Dee resigned, paving the way for the most successful postseason coach in Irish history, Digger Phelps.
Beginning in 1974, Phelps coached the Irish to eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
A breakthrough occurred in 1978. In late February, Phelps had his team wear green socks, which player Kelly Tripucka called “the ugliest things I ever saw.” But the socks worked. The Irish crushed Houston, 100-77, in the first round, and beat Utah, 69-56, on St. Patrick’s Day to advance to a regional final for the first time in 20 years.
That set the stage for a dramatic game against third-ranked DePaul, considered by many the sentimental favorite to win since legendary coach Ray Meyer had his best chance to coach in the Final Four since 1943. All the Irish did was outscore DePaul 47-31 in the second half, en route to an 84-64 blowout, to qualify for their first Final Four in school history. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Phelps leaped high into the air, later declaring that upon having reached college basketball’s premier showcase, “The rest is gravy.”
Notre Dame was poised to be the first school to win both the football and basketball titles in the same academic year, but had to get past Duke first. Behind a 32-of-37 performance from the free-throw line, the Blue Devils outlasted a ferocious Irish comeback to win, 90-86. Notre Dame lost the consolation game against Arkansas when the Razorbacks hit a jumper with one second left to win, 71-69.
Still, 1978 represents Notre Dame’s most successful postseason in school history. The Irish would get close the next year–losing to eventual champion Michigan State (led by Magic Johnson) by 12 in the regional final–but haven’t gotten past the Sweet 16 since.
In fact, Phelps led the Irish to six straight NCAA Tournaments beginning in 1985, but the Irish made it to the regionals only in 1987. When Phelps resigned in 1991, he had led the Irish to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances in 20 seasons and runner-up trophies in the National Invitation Tournament in 1973 and 1984. But then the Irish hit an 11-year dry spell, where their best postseason appearance was a 2000 runner-up finish in the NIT.
However, more than a decade after Phelps left Notre Dame, Mike Brey arrived to lead the Irish to three NCAA Tournament appearances in four years, including a Sweet 16 berth in 2003.
And based on Notre Dame’s historical success, combined with their recent run, it’s not tough to image that the name on the front of Graves’ jersey will keep meaning something after a half-century of Irish-style March Madness.
100 Years in 100 Days comes to and end with updates #99 and #100. Notre Dame’s 1978 Final Four team will be featured in both updates.
#97 (Wednesday, March 23, 2005)
Legend of the Hardwood – Monty Williams
Monty Williams represents the final `Legend of the Hardwood’ – the top 25 players in Notre Dame Basketball history as voted on by a select panel and Notre Dame fans on www.und.com.
100 Years in 100 Days has just three updates left.
By Pete LaFleur
Pop quiz: Which former Notre Dame standout suited up with numerous Top-50-level NBA players and several Hall of Fame-type coaches?
Follow-up question: Which former Irish player once received the crushing news that he would never play again due to a heart condition diagnosed prior to his sophomore season?
The answer to both questions is the same man–Monty Williams–who showed tremendous heart, literally and figuratively, after enduring two years away from college basketball action. The highly regarded forward made a spirited return with the Irish and ended up being the first-round draft selection of the New York Knicks in 1994. Nine years later he had fashioned a solid professional career and reached the coveted vested status in the NBA’s pension plan.
All this from a player whose competitive basketball career appeared over on that fateful day, Sept. 9, 1990. It was then that doctors discovered Williams had a rare condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which involves thickening of the muscles between the chambers of the heart.
It was a scary time for elite basketball players with heart conditions. Loyola Marymount standout Hank Gathers died the previous season due to a different heart ailment. Three years later, Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis suffered a similar death and the public later learned that Lewis had suffered from HCM.
Ultimately, new research helped show that Williams could return to the court because he did not have any additional high-risk symptoms (beyond HCM), placing him at the opposite end of the spectrum from Lewis. It signaled a new chapter for Williams.
“Basketball was my passion and connection to friends back home. They weren’t calling anymore to talk about seeing me on TV. Of course, that was all fake and fleeting,” said Williams, now the proud father of three daughters, as well as a prospective coach.
“Enduring those two years was the best thing for me,” says Williams, who drew on his faith and was able to refocus on his communications studies. “I re-evaluated what was most important for me and it put things in perspective.”
Of course, basketball still remained important to Williams and he wasted little time reminding people why he had been a prized recruit at Potomac High School. His teammates elected him co-captain of the 1992-93 Notre Dame squad and Williams responded with a team-leading 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, followed by 22.4 and 8.2 averages in 1993-94. He also played on the U.S. Under-22 National Team that won the World Championship in 1993.
Williams had a game suited for the NBA: quick step, smooth shot, rim-rattling dunks, solid ball-handling and relentless defense. The Knicks selected him with the 24th pick in the 1994 draft. He also went on to play with the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers.
The player who was told he’d never play again had gone on to battle alongside the likes of Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Dominique Wilkins, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill and Allen Iverson. His top coaches weren’t too shabby either: Don Nelson, Greg Popovich, Doc Rivers and Larry Brown.
Nowadays, Williams’ daily routine revolves around four more important All-Stars. He and his wife of nine years, the former Ingrid Lacy, met during his first week at Notre Dame. They reside in San Antonio with their three daughters.
“Some days, I don’t feel like a man with all this potpourri and hair shampoo around the place,” joked Williams. “But it has helped smooth out my hard edges with all these delightful girls in the house. It’s been perfect for me.”
#96 (Tuesday, March 22, 2005)
Legend of the Hardwood – Bob Whitmore
By Pete Sampson
During Bob Whitmore’s varsity career at Notre Dame, the 6-7 Irish center often called on his size for an advantage. Except, that is, when the Irish matched-up with UCLA and its 7-2 center, Lew Alcindor.
Later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, not to mention the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Alcindor presented Whitmore with an impossible task. It might have been the only one Whitmore faced during his Notre Dame career from 1967-69, the same years UCLA won three straight national championships. Other than annually running into perhaps the greatest college player of all time, Whitmore ran over, around and through the competition on most nights.
Paired with forward Bob Arnzen–the dynamic “A&W” classmates–Whitmore helped Notre Dame to a 41-16 record in his final two seasons. Arnzen ranks 10th all-time in Irish scoring and Whitmore places 11th.
Whitmore’s biggest contribution to the Notre Dame program, though, isn’t his single-game record of 30 rebounds. It’s not the fact that he grabbed 18 or more boards in a remarkable 17 games. The six times Whitmore scored at least 20 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in a game, also an Irish record, don’t capture what Whitmore meant to Notre Dame, either.
What sets Whitmore apart in Irish lore is his hometown of Washington, D.C., where he played high school ball at DeMatha Catholic under coaching legend Morgan Wootten. During Whitmore’s junior and senior seasons, DeMatha finished 55-3. When Whitmore chose to attend Notre Dame, he helped open a pipeline of talent that for years flowed west from Maryland to Indiana.
Austin Carr soon followed Whitmore, as did Collis Jones and Sid Catlett…Don Williams…Adrian Dantley…Tracy Jackson…Tom Sluby…
While Dantley was the only player among them to attend DeMatha, it was Whitmore who helped build Notre Dame’s reputation in the Washington, D.C., area. Even current coach Mike Brey worked under Wootten as an assistant at DeMatha in the 1980s.
A draft pick of the NBA and ABA, Whitmore returned to Notre Dame as a graduate assistant during the 1973-74 season, perhaps the program’s greatest ever. With Dantley starring on the court that year as a freshman, Whitmore counseled his fellow DeMatha alumnus off it, making sure the dynamic forward took care of his work in the classroom instead of concentrating too much on basketball.
Dantley went on to earn consensus All-America honors and still ranks as the program’s second all-time leading scorer. He also ended up receiving his degree despite leaving for the NBA after his junior year.
Whitmore may never be remembered as the marquee figure in Notre Dame’s pipeline to the Washington D.C. area, but it may have never flourished without him. The direct route from the nation’s capitol to the capital of college football helped give Notre Dame its top two all-time leading scorers and its current coach.
The face of the Irish program might not have been the same without Whitmore’s contributions, on and off the court.
Also – on this date in Notre Dame Basketball history –
March 22, 1949 – Head basketball coach Moose Krause is promoted to athletics director, a post “Mr. Notre Dame” would hold for a record 32 years.
March 22, 2003 – For the first time in 16 years, Notre Dame advances to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament after its 68-60 conquest of #10 Illinois. The win is an Irish single-season record fifth victory against a top-10 ranked foe.
#95 (Monday, March 21, 2005)
Legend of the Hardwood – Kelly Tripuka
By Lou Somogyi
The Tripucka name instantly evokes memories of a Golden Age at Notre Dame. As the starting quarterback for Frank Leahy’s unbeaten 1948 team, Frank Tripucka was part of the school’s Golden Years in football (1946-49). Three decades later, Tripucka’s second-youngest son became the centerpiece of a Notre Dame basketball era that rivaled the John Moir/Paul Nowak-led run from 1936-38.
Kelly Tripucka’s interest in basketball was piqued by watching his boyhood hero, Austin Carr, and his competitive streak was honed by four older brothers who were star athletes.
From 1970-76, Tracy and Todd Tripucka were among the nation’s scoring leaders at Lafayette University. Meanwhile, T.K. Tripucka suited up for Fordham and Mark Tripucka played football for Massachusetts.
“That had everything to do with me developing as a player,” said Kelly Tripucka, who received All-America notice each of his last three seasons. “I was always getting knocked around, pushed down, kicked out and told I was too young to play.
“I was stubborn to the point where no matter how many times my brothers kicked my ball the other way, I always came back.”
While growing up in Essex Fells, N.J., Kelly was “the fifth guy” among his brothers in five-on-five pickup games against talented college athletes. Building on a biblical theme, the last soon became the first.
“My older brothers finally began to say, `Hey, Kelly’s pretty good!’ ” Tripucka said.
Good enough to be named the New Jersey High School Player of the Century by a panel of experts for the Newark Star Ledger.
Also enrolling with Tripucka at Notre Dame in 1977 were two other high school All-Americans–Tracy Jackson and Gil Salinas–plus future NBA first-rounder Orlando Woolridge and Stan Wilcox, now an associate commissioner for the BIG EAST conference.
As a freshman, Tripucka was named the NCAA Midwest Regional MVP while leading the program to its lone Final Four. It was the highlight of a sensational four-year run that included:
â€¢ A 92-26 (.780) record, the most career victories by one Irish class.
â€¢ A Top 10 ranking in 58 of the 64 regular-season weeks from 1977-81. The Irish never fell below 14th.
â€¢ Nineteen victories against ranked foes, four of them versus No. 1. Tripucka’s highlights also included 15 second-half points to help rally the Irish against No. 1 Marquette in 1978, a 28-point effort in a two-point triumph versus No. 1 DePaul (25-0) in 1980 and a 30-point performance as a senior to upset No. 1 Kentucky. During his career, Tripucka shot .548 from the field and .798 from the foul line. Among the 43 all-time 1,000-point scorers at the school, only Adrian Dantley surpassed Tripucka in both categories (.562 from the field and .800 from the foul line).
In 2001, Kelly joined his father in the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, making them the first father/son duo to achieve the distinction. Whether on the gridiron or hardwood, the Tripuckas added luster to the Golden Dome.
Previous 100 Years in 100 Days updates:
Week 15 (#85-#90) Austin Carr Week
Week Eight (#50-#54) ND – UCLA ’74