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His name is synonymous with St. John's basketball and on Tuesday night in front of 16,314 fans including former President Bill Clinton Lou Carnesecca, one of the worlds most famous coaches, was honored at the Worlds Most Famous Arena as the Hall of Fame coach became the first collegiate coach to ever have a banner raised in his honor to the roof of Madison Square Garden at halftime of :St. John's 60-55 win over Big East rival Connecticut.
I cant explain the chills I had, Carnesecca said. It was a wonderful honor and it was great to see all my friends share in this night with me and my family.
Carnesecca's banner, with the number 526 for the amount of wins in his 24 years as St. John's head coach, is the 13th banner to be raised at Madison Square Garden and joins former Knicks coach Red Holtzman as the only two coaches to have that honor bestowed upon them.
Joining Carnesecca on the court for the halftime festivities were former players George Johnson, John Warren, Bill Wennington and Jayson Williams, Carneseccas longtime assistant coaches Ron Rutledge, Brian Mahoney, College of Charleston head coach John Kresse and St. Johns Director of Basketball Operations Alex Evans, who served as a graduate assistant coach for Carnesecca in 1989, as well as Carneseccas wife Mary and their daughter Iness and her husband Jerry among others.
Former Seton Hall coach and television commentator Bill Rafftery and Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay who served as co-MCs for the ceremonies then introduced a video tribute put together by NBA Entertainment featuring former St. Johns greats and current NBA players Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson, who along with Wennington made up Carnesecca's only Final Four team in 1985, offering their congratulations to their former coach. Wennington also spoke about the 76-year-old Carnesecca, about the man who cared about his players well after their collegiate playing days.
Coach has been a big part of my life and it wasnt just when I was here, he kept the relationship up for the past 15 years since Ive been out," Wennington said after the ceremony. Its really great for me to see him get acknowledged for his achievements.
After former Knicks star Willis Reed, who also has a banner raised in his honor at the Garden, joined the man who gave Reed his first coaching job in 1980 to help raise the banner in St. John's colors red and white, Carnesecca addressed the crowd.
What can you say about this place? There have been so many great teams, so many great players, said Carnesecca, who opted to wear a navy-blue suit rather than one of his traditional sweaters. This arena is the greatest arena in the world and its in the greatest city in the world and has the greatest fans in the world.
Some of his former players and assistants shared their thoughts of Carnesecca, whose coaching career started at St. Anns (now Archbishop Molloy) in 1951 and is as known as much for his raspy voice and self-deprecating humor as some rather memorable sweaters.
To be a part of someone who grew up in the city, was raised in the city and to see someone like that represent the city so well for so many years, its just such a great honor, Rutledge said. Im just so happy and proud of him.
Coach made me a man first, a student second and an athlete third, added Williams. Hes one of the greatest individuals Ive ever met in my life and hes being put up in the Worlds Most Famous Arena, what else can you say?
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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