There was no NCAA Tournament until the thirties. Dollard’s squad in 1917-18 won 16 of 17 games and was selected as national champion by the Helms Foundation. Andreas’s team in 1925-26, led by the legendary Vic Hanson, had a 19-1 mark and also was Helms’s choice as national champ.
In that era of the center jump following every made basket and a designated free-throw shooter, the Orangemen lived a spartan life. No comfortable apartment living, grand hotel accommodations on the road, plane travel. SU players lived in Pneumonia Hall. With no heat or hot water and one light in the ceiling, they slept on cots. On a long winter trip to New York City, for example, they’d trudge through the snow to the train station.
Still, the early years spawned success—and fine players such as All-Americans Lew Castle, Joe Schwarzer, and Hanson. Before Manley’s doors were opened to Bing and Boeheim in 1962, SU hoops was played in Archbold Gym, the Jefferson Street Armory, the Fairgrounds Coliseum, and the War Memorial.
A team dubbed the Reindeer Five—the fast foursome of Ev Katz, Dan Fogarty, Tuppy Hayman, and captain Ken Beagle, plus “Slim” Elliott—won 34 of 40 games from 1929-31. In the late thirties, a squad was nicknamed the S-Men. Not for Syracuse, out for Sonderman, Simonaitis, Schroeder, Stewart, and Sidat-Singh.
Following a war-time suspension of the sport in 1943-44, Bullet Billy Gabor guided the 1945-46 team (23-4) to the most victories in school history until nearly 30 years later. That Gabor-led squad had an average winning margin of 22.1 points, by far the most by any SU basketball team.
Andreas’s hand-picked successor was assistant and ’36 captain Marc Guley. Talk about highs and lows! The Guley years began with the 1950-51 team, led by Jack Kiley, which beat host Bradley for the National Campus Tournament crown. Those dozen seasons—which included the contributions of SU’s greatest football player, Jim Brown—were highlighted by Vinnie Cohen leading the Orangemen to their first NCAAs in ’57. SU was ousted in the East Regional final by North Carolina, the eventual unbeaten national champion. Ironically, Brown—second in scoring as a sophomore, but a nonstarter the following year—passed up playing hoops that senior season. Certainly he would havejprovided added scoring, rebounding, and depth. Could he have been the difference in a nine-point loss to the Tar Heels? We’ll never know.
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