The  history Of 
Saint Bonaventure Basketball

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Much of this history is paraphrased from Mark V. Angelo's  The History of St. Bonaventure University pages 214-217.

Basketball was the last major sport introduced into college life at St. Bonaventure and it didn't really catch on until the twentieth century.  The main reason for such a late appearance was a lack of playing facilities.  This deficiency proved to be a motivator for the administration.  The Laurel of March 1901 described the feeling of basketball fever among the students quite nicely.  "The basket ball craze has struck the college at last.  It was rather slow in coming, but when it did strike it hit hard.  At the present writing, a room is being fitted up in the new college and before this issue reaches its readers everything will be in full swing.  If we are to judge by the enthusiasm displayed and all the talk that is going the rounds, we have several players of stellar transcendency in our midst.  This will no doubt result in a great many spirited games." (Laurel 230) (Angelo, 214)

    By the end of 1901 basketball equipment was gathered up by the university.  Until a gym was built, practice and games among students were outdoors. A room in the New College Building (which stood where De la Roche is now) was probably used for basketball, but the room was constricted and the ceiling too low to play an actual game.  Professor Patrick Driscoll coached the first ever basketball team at St. Bonaventure in 1902.  The players included: Burke, Tracy, Rochford, and Girvin, all former football players.  There are no official records of any games or statistics for any games that were played at that time. (215)

    The gym was considered unsuitable for basketball, so the enthusiasm and excitement for the basketball program died down until intramural basketball reappeared in 1905.  The basketball court was probably in the handball court, behind Alumni Hall, that Father Joseph Butler had erected in 1896.  It served as the basketball court until the erection of Butler Memorial Gymnasium in 1916. (215)

    In 1907 a Basketball Association was formed to provide financial support for the growing basketball movement in hopes of creating a lasting program.  Although we know little about this original association we do know the key players involved in the Basketball Association: Eugene Quinlan was the president, Daniel McNichol served as the vice-president, Bernard J. McNichol was the financial secretary, Joseph Carrol was the manager, John J. Dwyer was the master of properties, and Father Gabriel Nangle served as the assistant manager and director of operations. (215)

Basketball continued as an intramural sport, and, in 1916, an intercollegiate team was created.  Since Butler Gym hadn't been finished, the first game, versus the University of Buffalo, was played in the Olean Armory.  The game took place March 11, 1916 with Buffalo winning 51-18.  The 1917 season was canceled, since the "Great War" made construction materials hard to come by and the Olean Armory was being used for military purposes.  The old gym had been demolished, so even that inadequate facility was no longer available.(216)

1919 team
Standing: Rev. Gregory Carr, OFM (Athletic Director), Vincent McGolderick, Maurice Gavigan, Eugene McMahon (manager), Edward Murphy, Richard C. Phelan (coach)
Sitting: William Heine, William Garvey (captain), Thomas Walsh  
From the May 1920 Laurel

It wasn't until the post-war period that the intercollegiate program was firmly established.  The first game was played in Butler Gymnasium versus an Alumni team on December 11, 1919.  Under coach Richard Phelan, the collegians won 29-18.  The season continued with games versus Seton Hall, Cathedral College, Grove City College, Westminster, St. Francis of Loretto, Canisius, and Duquesne, with a season of 6-10.(216)

Basketball prospered over the coming decades under coaches Al Carmont, Glenn Carberry, Jack Flavin (1926-27, 13-5), Fred Ostergren and Mike Reilly.  Most of these coaches also handled other intercollegiate teams, especially football.  The program was cancelled from 1942 to 1944, during the Second World War, but reappeared in the 1944-45 season under coach Anslem Kreiger (2 years, 15-10), director of athletics, and a former All-American basketball player at Providence College.  Harry Singleton coached the 1946-47 season (10-11), after which Ed Milkovich (or Melvin) took over for six years (6 years, 98-47).  (217)

This was one of the peak periods for St. Bonaventure basketball.  The 1950-51 team was 19-6, but was defeated in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament in its first visit to that event.  The 1951-52 team did better, going 21-6 and making it to the semifinals of the same tournament.  We see them here in a 1952 Bonadieu photo of the semifinals versus Dayton.  A former player, Edward Donovan (8 years, 139-57), took over the coaching duties in 1953, leading the team to another semifinal appearance in the National Invitational Tournament in 1957.  (217)

Of course, the best was yet to come.  With the demise of football in 1952, "Basketball Is Now No. 1 Bona Sport" ("Basketball") was the headline.  Resources could now be concentrated on the basketball team.  But that's another story...

Post 1915 history added 3/10/04 by D. Frank
Photos added by D. Frank 3/19/04
Last updated:  01/30/09

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