March 5, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
One of the most decorated players to ever don the Notre Dame uniform, former All-American basketball legend Adrian Dantley (’76) returned to campus March 5 to become the fourth Monogram winner inducted into the prestigious Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor.
A number of his former teammates and other basketball Monogram winners joined Dantley for a reception in the Monogram Room – hosted by the Monogram Club and the Notre Dame department of athletics – prior to the men’s basketball game versus Providence in Purcell Pavilion. Former Irish cagers in attendance included Tom Hansen (’74), Peter Crotty (’75), Roger Anderson (’76), Casey Newell (’85) and Chris Nanni (’88).
Dantley flew in from his home in Washington, D.C. earlier in the day, along with his wife, Dinitri, mother, Virginia, aunt, Muriel, son, Cameron, and daughters, Kayla and Kalani.
At halftime of the basketball game, Dantley was welcomed onto the court by University of Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins (’76, ’78) and associate athletics director Jim Fraleigh (’88), who unveiled a banner welcoming Dantley as the newest member of Purcell Pavilion’s prestigious Ring of Honor. He joins Austin Carr (’71), Ruth Riley (’01) and Luke Harangody (’10) as the only Monogram winners to earn the distinction.
Speaking before the game, Dantley credited his success at Notre Dame to his ability to always put forth an exceptional level of determination.
“I’ve always felt like to be the best, you have to work hard and put a lot of effort into it,” Dantley said. “I always believed in being fit and staying health-conscious. I always kept my cool, kept my patience and stayed consistent.”
Former teammate Tom Varga (’75) fondly recalled Dantley’s furious work ethic, and spoke at length about his elite basketball skill set.
“Adrian is a man of few words – he just did his job and was a true basketball nut,” Varga said. “He played and practiced all the time, and was one of the most naturally strong guys I ever played against. He still doesn’t get enough credit for the amount of quickness and smoothness that he had. I never played with a guy who could take a charge better than Adrian Dantley.”
Dantley made an immediate impact on the men’s basketball program upon arriving at Notre Dame, and he credits some of the great Irish student-athletes from his native Washington, D.C., for providing him with the motivation to attend the University, including Carr, Collis Jones (’71), Sid Catlett (’71) and Bob Whitmore (’69).
“Adrian was Mr. Everything,” basketball Monogram winner Jim Monahan (’67) said. “He was a leader on and off the court and just a tremendous player. He continued to fuel the success of the program after Austin Carr left – he came right in and took over where he left off.”
Named the national player of the year as a junior in 1975-76 by the United States Basketball Writers Association, Dantley was a two-time first-team All-American in 1974-75 and 1975-76. He also was a member of the United States Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal in Montreal in 1976.
He averaged 18.3 points per game as a starting forward as a freshman for the Irish in 1973-74. Dantley finished second nationally in scoring as a sophomore with a 30.4 average, ranked fourth nationally in scoring as a junior in 1975-76 with a 28.6 average and served as captain of Digger Phelps’ Irish team as a junior. He played on teams that finished 26-3, 19-10 and 23-6, earning mention on NCAA all-regional teams as a sophomore and junior.
Dantley ranks third on the Irish career scoring list (behind Austin Carr and Luke Harangody) with 2,223 points. He posted a 25.8 career scoring average and a 9.8 career rebound average and made more free throws (615) than any player in Irish history.
While making the decision to pass up his senior season to make himself available for the NBA draft in 1976, long-time Notre Dame fencing head coach and University academic adviser Mike DeCicco made Dantley promise to return to campus and earn his degree. Dantley made good on the promise, and completed his undergraduate studies in 1978. Dantley and DeCicco have remained close ever since.
“I’m proud of the job he has done throughout his career and I think that’s all you can say,” DeCicco said at the Ring of Honor reception. “You wish that all the athletes that come here can accomplish everything they set out to do. He certainly did that and then some.
The sixth overall pick in the 1976 NBA draft by Buffalo Braves, he was named the NBA rookie of the year in 1977 with a 20.3 scoring average and a 7.6 rebound mark. Dantley played 15 seasons in the NBA, averaging 24.3 points per game. His 23,177 career points ranks 21st all-time in the NBA. In all but four seasons as a professional, Dantley averaged 20 points or better, including topping the 30-point mark four straight years (1981-84). The six-time NBA All-Star (1980-82, 1984-86) was named NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1984, the year he led the league in scoring (30.6).
He was an assistant coach at Towson State for two seasons from 1993-95 and was an assistant for eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets. He briefly served as the Nuggets’ head coach during the 2009-10 season.
A scholastic All-America player at DeMatha Catholic High School (Md.), he was born Feb. 28, 1956, in Washington, D.C. Dantley became the sixth individual with Notre Dame connections to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in ’08. He joined George E. Keogan (enshrined in 1961), Elmer H. Ripley (1973), Edward “Moose” Krause (1976), Raymond J. Meyer (1979) and J. Walter Kennedy (1981).