Carnesecca, other St. John's greats to be honored

Updated: January 19, 2006, 2:13 PM ET
Associated Press

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 Pittsburgh.

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 coached."

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 me."

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 school.

"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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press