Jan. 20, 2006
On a night that was meant to honor their prestigious achievements, the common theme in the highly anticipated St. John's Legacy Honors night was the exact opposite. Each individual recipient honored his teammates, honored his coaches and honored the university and what it has meant in his life. Like all great players and great people, the honorees acknowledged that they did not reach this point in their lives without their coaches and their teammates. And that is what has made them Legacies in Queens and in the game of basketball.
Athletics Director Chris Monasch and University President, Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., got the night started by thanking the 10 honorees for what they've done for the university. Their hard work spanned over half a decade, from Joe Lapchick and Dick McGuire in the 1920's, 30's and 40's to Walter Berry, Mark Jackson and Chris Mullin in the mid-1980's.
"We gather tonight to honor the people who, over the years, have contributed in many ways to the continuation of the wonderful legacy that is ours," Harrington said. "We celebrate those years, and we celebrate that legacy. Perhaps we much more importantly thank those men who, through coaching or through playing, have made this program what it is."
After Fr. Harrington's speech, emcee Mike Crispino presented the first of the 10 honorees, Joe Lapchick, who was represented by his son, Richard. Richard spoke of his father's contributions to St. John's and the game of basketball, which included helping to break the game's color barrier. Lapchick is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and is still widely known for his class, integrity and sportsmanship on the sidelines.
A video of Tony Jackson demonstrated the two-time consensus All-American's rare talents. One of the greatest shooters and rebounders in school history, he was also perhaps the most gifted basketball player in the program's nearly 100 years of existence. His wife Patricia accepted the honor on Jackson's behalf and spoke of his fondness of basketball and how his experiences at St. John's helped mold him into a better player and person.
"St. John's basketball gave Tony a great opportunity for him to use the skills that he knew best," said Jackson's wife, Patricia. "The time spent here was memorable and very exciting for him. Not too long ago, after his passing, my daughter made a remark about her father. She said, `Tony never let basketball define him. He always defined basketball.'"
Mark Jackson, the school's all-time assist leader, made a living on the court by helping others do what they do best. On Friday, he reflected on how St. John's University helped him and what it meant to him to live a 'legacy'. An All-America selection and the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1987, his fondest thoughts were for Coach Lou Carnesecca and teammate Chris Mullin, who he referred to not as a 'gym rat', but a 'gym scientist' for his work ethic.
Lloyd "Sonny" Dove's three children, Leslie, Zaynid and Kimberly, all spoke on their father's behalf. Dove is one of two players in St. John's history to record 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, ranking among the top 10 on both of the school's all-time lists. Dove's three kids thanked their father for the importance he placed on education, and thanked their mother for her support over the years.
With 1,424 career points in just two seasons, it was common knowledge that Walter "The Truth" Berry could score. Watching live video footage and hearing Lou Carnesecca wonder in amazement just how he got the ball in the basket further put his talents into perspective. The 1986 BIG EAST Player of the Year and John R. Wooden Award winner for national player of the year, Berry echoed the sentiments of those who spoke before him. He thanked his teammates, Carnesecca and his family for all of the successes he enjoyed at St. John's and as a professional overseas.
Honoring Alan Seiden presented one of the many times that people questioned "What if?" as in "What if the 3-point shot existed in Seiden's era?" One of the best pure shooters in program history, Seiden also wasn't afraid to have the ball in his hands in key moments of the games. Carnesecca, who was a young assistant on Joe Lapchick's staff at the time, said that with two minutes on the clock, Seiden would be the first guy he'd want with the ball in his hands. His guts and shooting touch helped lead Seiden to 1,374 career points, consensus All-America honors in 1959 and an NIT Championship.
Dick McGuire most humbly referred to himself as the "least athletic of the honorees", but many teammates, fans and Hall of Fame voters would beg to differ. A 1993 inductee into the Hall, McGuire was one of the best pure point guards of his time and one of the best in school history. As the team's floor general in the early 1940's, McGuire helped lead St. John's to a 1944 NIT Championship and won the Haggerty Award, which was given annually to New York City's most outstanding collegiate player, twice.
1985 Wooden Award winner and current Golden State Warriors general manager, Chris Mullin, was the second of two Wooden Award winners to be honored. His immediate praise went to Carnesecca, but he gradually recognized teammates, administrators, coaches and even doctors throughout his speech. His uncanny shooting touch is what impressed those who saw him play the most, but his swagger and work ethic are what ultimately lifted he and the mid-1980's team to the next level.
"With Coach [Carnesecca], basketball always overlapped into life," said of his former coach. "He always talked about doing for others. That was always the St. John's way."
Perhaps the most touching moment of the night came when Malik Sealy's son, Malik Sealy, Jr. spoke on his father's behalf. Confessing to the large crowd that it was his first speech, he quickly won the crowd much like his father used to as a forward at St. John's. Sealy, who passed away tragically in an automobile accident with a drunk driver, could score points in bunches, but his lasting impression was one of care and compassion. Make no mistake, though, Sealy still ranks second on the school's all-time scoring list with 2,402 points, first with 900 career field goals and first with 238 career steals. He will forever be remembered both as a person and a basketball player.
St. John's legend Lou Carnesecca was the last honoree of the night, and, as he usually does, quickly won the crowd with his charm. He was the common thread between all other nine honorees and would go on to credit all of his successes to them - much as they did to him. "You can't coach talents, they can only let you coach them," the Hall of Famer said. And the talents let him coach them to 526 career victories, five Postseason NIT Championships and 18 NCAA Tournament berths.
Carnesecca would end the historical night by fast-forwarding to present day, where the buzz surrounding the 2006 Red Storm seems to grow by the minute. The coach sees a turnaround happening before us: "We're coming back, and we're going to come back strong," Carnesecca said.
A speech by Lou Carnesecca capped Legacy Honors night on Friday.