Champions: 1973 Providence College Friars

Forty years later they are still the team that most excited me as a fan and their near miss at winning it all is still probably my greatest sports disappointment.

THE TEAM

Providence was led by three future NBA players who played fast break Showtime basketball years before the Lakers did:

  • Ernie DiGregorio – G
    (24.6/3.2)
  • Marvin Barnes – C
    (18.3/19.0)
  • Kevin Stacom – G
    (17.8/3.9)

PRELUDE 1971-1972


It was their third year under Coach Dave Gavitt and their first trip to the NCAA under his tenure.  (Under his predecessor Coach Mullaney, they went three years in a row from 1964-1966.)

  • Record 21-6
    3-0 Regular Season Against Ranked Opponents
  • Beat #7 USC and #17 Jacksonville on the road
  • Ranked as high as 14th
  • Lost to Penn in the first round of NCAA

In a sign of what was to come, in an early season game against Buffalo State, Marvin Barnes set a school record with 34 rebounds and 12 blocked shots

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Photos from PC Cowl Digital Commons.

THE ROAD TO WESTWOOD


The season began with a new home – the 12,000 seat Providence Civic Center that is now known as the Dunkin Donut Center (or the Dunk).  They opened it with a 93-57 drubbing of Fairfield, with Ernie D. scoring 37 points.

For Providence, their early schedule lead to one big game – a January 20th date with #1 UCLA at Pauley Pavillion.   Providence came into the game 10-1, that included a 15-point win over ranked South Carolina at the Utah Classic.

Despite their two star players being hobbled with the flu, Marvin Barnes held Walton without a point in the first 12 minutes and the Friars were within 8 at halftime.  Walton would rally to score 18-points, as UCLA pulled away by 24 in the second half for their 59th consecutive win – only one shy of the record.

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Photos from PC Cowl Digital Commons.

RETURN TO THE DUNK


 

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PC Cowl Digital Commons

Providence returned home from Westwood and would win their last 14 games, including an impressive victory over #13-ranked Jacksonville which was my first basketball game.  They ended the regular season ranked 9th in the nation.

Ernie D. was a consensus First Team All-American and Marvin was a Third-Team All-American.  Ernie set Providence season records for assists and field goals, while Marvin set a record for rebound average per game (19.0).

 

NCAA First Round – Williamsburg, VA


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Providence 89
St Joseph’s 76

Ernie D had 31 points, 27 in the second half and Marvin had 21 points and 17 boards, as the Friars cruised past the Mike Bantom led St Joseph Hawks.

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Photos from PC Cowl Digital Commons.
Providence Table
Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi
Player MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK PF PTS
Ernie Digregorio 40 14 21 .667 3 4 .750 2 6 2 0 4 31
Marvin Barnes 40 10 21 .476 1 2 .500 17 2 1 4 4 21
Kevin Stacom 40 5 11 .455 2 2 1.000 3 2 0 1 2 12
Francis Costello 36 4 8 .500 1 2 .500 11 2 1 0 2 9
Charles Crawford 31 2 4 .500 0 1 .000 5 1 0 0 1 4
Nehru King 13 4 8 .500 4 4 1.000 2 0 1 0 0 12
School Totals 200 39 73 .534 11 15 .733 40 13 5 5 13 89
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2018. 

Eastern Regionals Semifinals – Charlotte, NC


Providence 87
Penn 65

Providence avenged its 1972 first round loss with a blow out win led by Marvin Barnes’ 10-10 shooting – an NCAA record that held until Kentucky’s Kenny Walker went 11-for-11 in 1986.

Providence Table
Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi
Player FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST PF PTS
Marvin Barnes 10 10 1.000 0 0 13 0 3 20
Ernie Digregorio 9 21 .429 0 0 3 10 2 18
Nehru King 7 11 .636 4 4 1.000 6 1 2 18
Kevin Stacom 7 9 .778 2 2 1.000 5 5 0 16
Charles Crawford 6 6 1.000 0 0 3 0 1 12
Francis Costello 1 3 .333 0 0 4 4 4 2
Rich Dunphy 0 0 1 2 .500 1 0 0 1
Gary Bello 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dave Modest 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Al Baker 0 1 .000 0 0 3 0 0 0
School Totals 40 61 .656 7 8 .875 38 20 12 87
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2018.

Eastern Regional Finals – Charlotte, NC


Providence 103
Maryland 89

This was Providence’s second trip to the Elite 8.  In 1965, the 4th-ranked Friars were crushed by Bill Bradley’s Princeton Tigers 109-69.

Coach Gavitt was up against Maryland’s Lefty Driesell whose Terps also featured three future NBA-ers:

  • Tom McMillan – F
  • Len Elmore – C (still the ACC’s all-time leading rebounder)
  • John Lucas – G

They billed themselves as the “UCLA of the East”.

Lefty showed little respect for Providence, repeatedly referring to “Ernie What’s his name” — although keep in mind that Lefty is famous for saying “I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid”  It seemed he and much of the basketball world were looking forward to a matchup of the pre-season #1 and #2 teams in UCLA and Maryland in the finals.  That would have to wait until December 1973 as Ernie D had other plans.

Ernie D. came out on fire scoring 20 points in the first half, but he was too hot and quickly picked up 4 charging fouls.

135173What I remember from this game are 4 things:

  • Curt Gowdy butchering Ernie’s last name like Frankie Valli trying to sing country;
  • Ernie getting cosmic revenge of some sorts by faking out the NBC camera crew with his passing wizardry;
  • The growing sense of dread with each foul Ernie picked up until he fouled out with twelve minutes to go with the Friars up by 12; and
  • My amazement as the rest of the team – Barnes, Stacom, Nehru King, Fran Costello and Charlie Crawford played their best twelve minutes of the year and Providence literally ran away with the game.
Afterward, “Snoop Ernie D” walked by Lefty and said, “I bet you remember my name now.”  Lefty reportedly was so mad about the loss that he drove back to Maryland that night.
For the Friars, it was on to St. Louis and a hoped-for rematch with UCLA in the title game.  We all could taste it.

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Photos from PC Cowl Digital Commons.
Providence Table
Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi
Player MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST PF PTS
Kevin Stacom 40 10 17 .588 4 5 .800 2 1 3 24
Marvin Barnes 40 8 18 .444 3 5 .600 15 0 2 19
Charles Crawford 40 2 4 .500 3 3 1.000 5 0 2 7
Francis Costello 28 2 5 .400 4 4 1.000 6 2 4 8
Ernie Digregorio 27 14 21 .667 2 2 1.000 3 5 5 30
Nehru King 25 7 9 .778 1 3 .333 7 2 1 15
School Totals 200 43 74 .581 17 22 .773 38 10 17 103
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2018.

THE FINAL FOUR – St. Louis, MO


National Semifinal

Memphis St 98
Providence 85

In the semifinal game against Memphis State, Providence’s fast-break offense sprinted to a double-digit lead in what was beginning to look like a potential blow out when disaster struck.  Providence’s star center Marvin Barnes, who averaged 18.3 points and 19 rebounds (compared to 20.4 points and 16.9 rebounds for Bill Walton), scored 12 points in the first 11 minutes of the game.  Barnes, however, would injure his knee and not be able to play the rest of the tournament.

Gavitt faced a tough choice.  He could have switched to a four-corners style offense to hold on and stagger their way into the title game with UCLA, but he was too classy for that and ultimately Memphis exploited Barnes’ injury to comeback and win 98-85.  NBC announcer Curt Gowdy later told Gavitt it was the “best half of basketball he had ever seen.”

Two days later Bill Walton dominated Memphis en route to the championship (just as Barnes had dominated Memphis in the first half)  and Gavitt and Providence fans were left to wonder “what if?”

Providence Table
Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi Basi
Player MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK PF PTS
Ernie Digregorio 39 15 36 .417 2 2 1.000 2 7 1 0 4 32
Francis Costello 38 5 5 1.000 1 1 1.000 8 3 0 0 5 11
Charles Crawford 38 5 12 .417 0 0 15 1 1 0 3 10
Kevin Stacom 37 6 15 .400 3 3 1.000 5 3 1 1 5 15
Nehru King 30 2 6 .333 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 4
Marvin Barnes 11 5 7 .714 2 3 .667 3 1 0 0 4 12
Rich Dunphy 3 0 1 .000 1 2 .500 1 0 0 0 0 1
Al Baker 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Gary Bello 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
School Totals 200 38 82 .463 9 11 .818 36 15 4 1 22 85
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2018.

 

Record and Stats


Schedule and Results Table
G Date Type Opponent Tm Opp W L Streak Arena
1 Sat, Dec 9, 1972 REG @ St. Francis (NY) W 94 58 1 0 W 1 Pope Physical Education Center
2 Mon, Dec 11, 1972 REG Fairfield W 93 57 2 0 W 2 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
3 Fri, Dec 15, 1972 REG N South Carolina W 79 64 3 0 W 3
4 Sat, Dec 16, 1972 REG N Santa Clara L 92 97 3 1 L 1
5 Tue, Dec 19, 1972 REG Oregon W 73 60 4 1 W 1 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
6 Sat, Dec 23, 1972 REG DePaul W 107 80 5 1 W 2 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
7 Tue, Jan 2, 1973 REG Brown W 83 53 6 1 W 3 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
8 Thu, Jan 4, 1973 REG Rhode Island W 79 59 7 1 W 4 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
9 Sat, Jan 6, 1973 REG @ Canisius W 77 64 8 1 W 5 Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
10 Wed, Jan 10, 1973 REG Western Kentucky W 118 88 9 1 W 6 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
11 Sat, Jan 13, 1973 REG Duquesne W 87 79 10 1 W 7 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
12 Sat, Jan 20, 1973 REG @ UCLA (1) L 77 101 10 2 L 1 Pauley Pavilion
13 Wed, Jan 24, 1973 REG Massachusetts W 91 78 11 2 W 1 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
14 Sat, Jan 27, 1973 REG Jacksonville (13) W 87 84 12 2 W 2 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
15 Wed, Jan 31, 1973 REG @ Boston College W 73 64 13 2 W 3 Roberts Center
16 Sat, Feb 3, 1973 REG @ Niagara W 70 66 14 2 W 4 Gallagher Center
17 Wed, Feb 7, 1973 REG Saint Joseph’s W 81 75 15 2 W 5 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
18 Sat, Feb 10, 1973 REG @ Rhode Island W 102 81 16 2 W 6 Keaney Gymnasium
19 Mon, Feb 12, 1973 REG Cleveland State W 113 79 17 2 W 7 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
20 Thu, Feb 15, 1973 REG @ Holy Cross W 94 75 18 2 W 8 Worcester Auditorium
21 Tue, Feb 20, 1973 REG @ Villanova W 86 71 19 2 W 9 Villanova Field House
22 Sat, Feb 24, 1973 REG Seton Hall W 87 65 20 2 W 10 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
23 Sat, Mar 3, 1973 REG @ St. John’s (NY) (17) W 93 90 21 2 W 11 Madison Square Garden (IV)
24 Mon, Mar 5, 1973 REG St. Bonaventure W 103 88 22 2 W 12 Dunkin’ Donuts Center
25 Thu, Mar 8, 1973 REG @ Brown W 93 80 23 2 W 13 Marvel Gym
G Date Type Opponent Tm Opp W L Streak Arena
26 Sat, Mar 10, 1973 NCAA N Saint Joseph’s (18) W 89 76 24 2 W 14
27 Thu, Mar 15, 1973 NCAA N Pennsylvania (18) W 87 65 25 2 W 15
28 Sat, Mar 17, 1973 NCAA N Maryland (8) W 103 89 26 2 W 16
29 Sat, Mar 24, 1973 NCAA N Memphis (12) L 85 98 26 3 L 1
30 Mon, Mar 26, 1973 NCAA N Indiana (6) L 79 97 26 4 L 2
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2018.
Per Game Table
Rk Player G MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST PTS
1 Ernie DiGregorio 31 36.0 11.2 23.5 .478 2.1 2.6 .802 3.2 8.6 24.5
2 Marvin Barnes 30 34.8 7.9 14.5 .544 2.5 3.6 .688 19.0 2.9 18.3
3 Kevin Stacom 31 35.8 7.7 13.9 .552 2.4 2.8 .862 3.9 2.5 17.8
4 Francis Costello 31 3.7 7.4 .500 1.7 2.6 .650 3.8 9.1
5 Nehru King 29 3.7 6.6 .563 1.2 1.5 .818 3.9 1.1 8.7
6 Charles Crawford 31 2.3 4.5 .500 1.0 1.5 .696 6.0 5.5
7 Ron Norwood 14 4.7 1.1 2.4 .455 0.5 0.6 .778 1.0 0.7 2.6
8 Al Baker 25 0.8 1.8 .444 0.9 1.4 .647 2.5 2.5
9 Rich Dunphy 21 2.5 0.8 1.7 .444 0.9 1.6 .576 1.1 0.4 2.4
10 Dave Modest 10 2.5 0.8 1.6 .500 0.2 0.4 .500 0.4 0.4 1.8
11 Mark McAndrew 15 2.5 0.5 1.2 .444 0.2 0.3 .600 1.1 0.1 1.3
12 Gary Bello 23 0.4 1.3 .300 0.3 0.4 .667 0.5 0.8 1.0
13 Thomas Walters
Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 3/31/2018.
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