Thereafter, SU dipped a bit, then went into a free-fall: 4-19 in 1960-61, 2-22 the year after, when the program lost its first 22 games of the season. This was the worst team in the country, with an NCAA-record 27 consecutive losses over two winters. Fortunately, a Rice team came along and expunged the Orange from record-book infamy.|
For this program to rise from the ashes, it would take an all-new look. Dr. George L. Manley was the benefactor, providing the bucks for Manley Field House to be built. Fred Lewis came in as coach. He recruited Bing from Washington, D.C. And after a year when Bing played freshman ball (frosh could not play varsity on the college level at that time), the Orangemen were back on the winning track. As a senior, Bing averaged 28.4 points per game (24.8 for his career). Bing & Co. set an NCAA scoring record, averaging 99 points a game, and reached the ’66 NCAA Regional final, losing to Duke. After two more seasons, Lewis would depart.
Frosh coach Roy Danforth, who played for Lewis at Southern Mississippi, was elevated. In Danforth’s third year, the Orangemen—led by 6-11 Bill Smith—made it to postseason play. The NIT still looked pretty good back then, and it was SU’s first tournament action since the ’67 NIT.
SU basketball was back, never to really crumble on the court again. Little did anyone know at the time, but the program was Gound for higher ground, uncharted territory as SU hoops and the collegiate basketball landscape were soon to undergo dramatic changes.
That ’71 NIT initiated a national pace-setting run of 22 successive trips to postseason play. An opening-round victory in the ’72 NIT was the program’s first postseason win since the ’66 NCAAs. And in 1973, the Orange returned to the Big Dance for the first time in seven years. SU wouldn’t be a nonparticipant in the NCAAs again until the eighties—and then, on the heels of the greatest collegiate game ever played in Syracuse.
In the seventies, a program given rebirth by Bing grew because of the clothesline jump shots of Greg “Kid” Kohls, the scrappiness of Roy’s Runts personified by under-sized forwards Mike Lee and Mark Wadach, and the stylish play of Dennis DuVal. Then came a fairy-tale trip.
Of SU’s three Final Fours—’75, ’87, ’96—the first and last were similar. Both were unexpected, none more so than a quarter-century ago, when SU arrived at the crossroads of a season. Having blown huge heads (combined cushions of 40 points) in back-to-back Manley losses to Rutgers and West Virginia, the latter made worse appearing on the ECAC televised game of the week, the Orange found itself with a 14-7 mark and down 12-zip at George Washington. SU rallied to win and didn’t lose again until arriving after a magic carpet ride to the Final Four in San Diego. Nine straight Ws.
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