Monday, June 5, 2017


Maplewood, N.J. - On Thursday night at Maplewood Country Club, Seton Hall Athletics enshrined four individuals and a team into its Hall of Fame Class of 2017, honoring Doug Cinnella '86 of the baseball team; Debbie Hartnett '89 of the women's basketball team; John Kelly '63/MBA '68, a former chairman of the Seton Hall Board of Regents; Bryan Spoonire '95 of the men's track & field team; and the entire 1952-53 men's basketball team that finished ranked No. 2 in the nation and won the National Invitation Tournament.

Click here for: Sights and Sounds from the Seton Hall - Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony  (Grandpa Jack is interviewed in this clip (FF to 1.50) and talks about Richie Reagan.)

The Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame now includes 232 individuals and two teams.






Click the video below to play the induction ceremony speech by Jack Milani: 



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News 12 New Jersey, Interview of Jack Milani by reporter Nick Meidanis






The 1952-53 men's basketball team was the first inductee of the evening, and three members of the squad were in attendance - Henry Cooper, Jack Milani and Arnie Ring. Ring is also in the Hall of Fame as an individual, inducted in 1980.

Led by coach John "Honey" Russell, the Pirates won 27 consecutive games to start the season, qualified for the National Invitation Tournament and defeated St. John's in the championship game at Madison Square Garden to win what was then considered the premier postseason tournament in college basketball. Seton Hall was ranked No. 1 in the country for six consecutive weeks and ultimately finished the year ranked No. 2 with a 31-2 record. The 31 wins match the 1988-89 team for most victories in school history, though the 1952-53 team still holds the school record for best winning percentage (.939).

"1953 was a great year for Seton Hall basketball," said Henry Cooper, who was a junior on the team that season. "We all gave up certain things in order to make that team work, and a team like the one that we had was very finely tuned. We had two All-Americans, a premier shooter in Harry Brooks, a racehorse that could cover the court in nothing flat in Ron Nathanic and Arnie and I did our work trying to keep Walter from fouling out. I had a very good record for percentage as a foul shooter, so I think I could have shot the ball, but everybody has to give up something, and I think that most of us that have some time under our belts now realize every day in life."



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SETON HALL, 1952-53
What they accomplished: Won the NIT, which was more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament at the time. Spent six weeks ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 and ended up with a 31-2 record.

Key players: Big man Walter Dukes (26.0 ppg, 22.2 rpg) was an All-American who set rebounding records that will last forever. Richie “The Cat” Regan (14.2 ppg) ran the show at point guard and later ushered the Hall into the Big East. Arnie Ring (8.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and Harry Brooks (12.2 ppg) played key roles.

Why they were great: Honey Russell’s boys possessed tons of experience; Regan and Dukes led them to marks of 25-3 and 27-7 in the previous two seasons. And Dukes was simply unmatched in the middle — dominant in ways that are unimaginable today.

Legacy: It’s hard to compare eras, but there’s only one New Jersey team that can claim a true national championship, and this is it. Beating St. John’s in the NIT final made it that much sweeter.


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Jerry Carino@njhoopshaven

Published 5:00 a.m. ET May 31, 2017 | Updated 12:44 p.m. ET June 1, 2017

The NIT championship squad is being inducted into the Pirates' Hall of Fame. Two former players recall the wild and sometimes scary journey.

The March 16, 1953 issue of Life Magazine contains what has to be one of the most startling photos in college basketball history.

There, on page 118, is Seton Hall University basketball player Mickey Hannon lying unconscious on the court after the Pirates were attacked by Louisville fans at the Louisville Armory.

The Hall wore a target that on that road trip two reasons: A No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 and the presence of a black superstar, Walter Dukes. The 7-foot All-America center was barred from hotels in the segregated southern city; the team opted instead to sleep on a train during the visit.

Louisville won the game and the bad blood didn’t end there — keep reading — but the Pirates got the last laugh. Later that month they captured the NIT title, besting St. John’s in the final before a Madison Square Garden throng of 18,500.

“It was the biggest crowd ever to see a basketball game east of Chicago,” said Arnie Ring, who started at forward for Seton Hall. “The NCAA Tournament had 7,000 out in Kansas City for their final game (Indiana’s one-point win over Kansas).”

(Photo: Seton Hall University)

The March 16, 1953 issue of Life Magazine contains what has to be one of the most startling photos in college basketball history.

There, on page 118, is Seton Hall University basketball player Mickey Hannon lying unconscious on the court after the Pirates were attacked by Louisville fans at the Louisville Armory.

The Hall wore a target that on that road trip two reasons: A No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 and the presence of a black superstar, Walter Dukes. The 7-foot All-America center was barred from hotels in the segregated southern city; the team opted instead to sleep on a train during the visit.

Louisville won the game and the bad blood didn’t end there — keep reading — but the Pirates got the last laugh. Later that month they captured the NIT title, besting St. John’s in the final before a Madison Square Garden throng of 18,500.

“It was the biggest crowd ever to see a basketball game east of Chicago,” said Arnie Ring, who started at forward for Seton Hall. “The NCAA Tournament had 7,000 out in Kansas City for their final game (Indiana’s one-point win over Kansas).”

All true. The Big Apple was the sport’s epicenter and those Pirates were the toast of the town. They’ll be toasted again Thursday night as Seton Hall inducts the squad into its Hall of Fame.

Ring will be there and so will his old frontcourt mate, Henry Cooper. They’ve got fascinating stories to tell about that epic winter.

Seton Hall's 1952-53 NIT championship squad. (Photo: Seton Hall University)

'A lot of Jim Crow stuff'
First, a quick primer on the leading characters:
Head coach John “Honey” Russell is a Naismith Hall of Famer who did two tours as the Pirates’ skipper. In between, he was the inaugural head coach of the Boston Celtics.

Point guard Richie Regan would become a singular force in Seton Hall history, ushering the school into the Big East and hiring P.J. Carlesimo. In 1953, he was nicknamed “The Cat” for his quickness and guile as playmaker.

Then there was Dukes, who averaged 26 points and 22 rebounds per game amid racist taunts (Cooper remembered players on two different teams calling him the N-word), extra-sharp elbows and unkind refs’ whistles (he once was called for a foul on the pening tip).

“Aside from being a brilliant player, he was just as outstanding as a person,” Ring said. “He put up with a lot of Jim Crow stuff, but he handled it by getting 35 points and 35 rebounds and winning the game. That’s how he got back at them.”

Russell was so concerned about refs ringing up Dukes out of spite that he routinely tasked Cooper with defending the opponent’s best big man. On the other end, “Walter could have scored many more points,” Cooper said. “He was the second guy on our team in assists, after Richie.”

Dukes’ selflessness enabled Regan (14.2 pg), Harry Brooks (12.2 ppg), Ring (8.6 ppg) and Ronnie Nathanic (8.2 ppg) to help light up the likes of Villanova, Xavier, Boston College, Memphis State, Louisville (at home) and seventh-ranked Fordham as the Pirates opened the season with 27 straight wins and held the No. 1 ranking for six weeks.

They were the toast of New York, in more ways than one.

“We had a manager, Dick Scott, whose dad was deputy fire commissioner in New York, so anytime we wanted to get into pubs, nightclubs, what have you, if we had Dick with us they knew his father could shut them down on a moment’s notice,” Cooper recalled. “We got good treatment in addition to being a spectacle for the people in those places — all these tall guys coming in.”

'Dazed and prostrate'
The joyride took a detour on that early March road swing, first with a loss at Dayton and then the debacle at Louisville. Life Magazine reported that the players “went after each other with elbows, body blocks and half nelsons” and things escalated after “a head-on collision left Dukes dazed and prostrate on the floor.”

Said Cooper, “Walter got the ball and this guy (a Louisville forward) popped him in the jaw. Dukes went down, we lost the ball and Walter was called for walking.”

All hell broke loose during postgame handshakes. Life reported that a Seton Hall player, thinking he was about to be attacked, threw the first punch. Then maniacal Louisville fans poured onto the court.

“Somebody came out of the stands and grabbed Walter’s miraculous medal and ripped it off his neck,” Ring said.

In 1989, Regan told Newsday that the man said to Dukes, “You call yourself a Catholic” as he yanked the medal away.

Hannon got clobbered in the back of the head by a rampaging fan and collapsed to the floor, out cold. 

“Harry Brooks had to get 13 stitches across his eye,” Cooper said. “Harry was from Union City; he was a tough guy with tough friends.”

When Louisville made the NIT a few weeks later, Cooper said, “The word got out that (Brooks' friends) were going to meet the Louisville team on the train and beat them up.”

e whole mess “was so bad that the FBI got involved,” Cooper said. Only threats of expulsion by Seton Hall's brass kept everyone at bay.

"We did something special'
When the season ended the Pirates chose the NIT over the NCAA Tournament, without a moment’s hesitation. Thanks to clutch play by Regan, they survived the opener against Niagara despite Dukes fouling out with eight minutes left. Then they routed Manhattan before taking down St. John’s 58-46.

“They had a ticker-tape parade down South Orange Avenue,” said Ring, who grabbed 22 rebounds in the final. “The (Newark) mayor had a big dinner for us and invited the coaches of the teams we beat — they showed up.”

Seton Hall finished 31-2 and remains the only New Jersey college basketball team that can lay claim to a national title.

Ring and Cooper are in their mid-80s now, and both live in Florida. Ring’s wife of 56 years, Carol, passed away a few months back, but their nine grandchildren will be at the induction. Cooper and wife Pauline have been married 62 years, though she is battling Alzheimer’s now; this is the first time he’s left her side in a decade.

Dukes died in 2001 and Regan in 2002. When the group reunited over the years there was a common sentiment, one that will be celebrated — perhaps for the final time — on Thursday.

“We said we did something special,” Ring said. “It was.”

Staff writer Jerry Carino: jcarino@gannettnj.com.


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In 1953, Seton Hall Was in Bloody Battle for Top Spot

February 05, 1989|STEVE JACOBSON | Newsday  (Found in the Los Angeles Times)


The night after losing its 27-0 record, Seton Hall slept on the train in the station in Louisville, Ky. Walter Dukes, the All-America, folded his 7-foot body into the Pullman bunk and dealt with the outrage privately.

The city of Louisville was newly and only partially integrated then and Dukes and backup center Frank Minaya were not welcome in hotels. Change was coming slowly.

http://articles.latimes.com/images/pixel.gifThe last time the national rankings seriously concerned Seton Hall was in March of 1953 and Seton Hall had alternated with Indiana in the first and second spots in the polls all season. At Indiana, which went on to win the NCAA, people were convinced Eastern bias dominated the polls.

Seton Hall was a week from beginning its winning run through the NIT, which was still equal to the NCAA tournament then. It was three games from a perfect regular season.

Then the Pirates went west and wound up on the cover of Life magazine with Mike Hannon unconscious on the floor of the Louisville Armory and an angry crowd surging around them.

"I felt we lost one game on the trip, and one game was taken from us," recalled Arnie Ring, now a vice president at Morgan Trust.

"We thought we could finish undefeated; we were very brash," recalled Richie Regan, executive director of the Blue Pirate athletic fund, former athletic director, former coach and an All-America guard on that team. "We were all from New York and New Jersey; we thought that was the best basketball area in the country, and it was."

Seton Hall had Regan, who went on to three seasons in the NBA. Most of all it had Dukes, the leading rebounder in the country. Regan recalls that Dukes could have been an Olympic runner if he'd devoted himself to it. "He never tired in a game," Regan said. "He'd make a basket and be back at the other end to block a shot on a break."

They excited the school and New York in the aftermath of the big scandal of 1950, which did not involve Seton Hall. Channel 13 was in New Jersey then and all the Seton Hall games were on TV. They played in the same little Walsh Gym, which they didn't think was so little then, but they set a Madison Square Garden attendance record against St. John's in the NIT final.

They had defeated Dayton and Louisville earlier in the season. Dukes had been the subject of taunting by Western Kentucky at the Garden and strong-armed by West Texas State, and overcame it. "I would think it would have affected him," Ring said. "He was a brilliant fellow, but he was shy."

They played a tough game at Dayton and lost, 70-65. The controversy was that the official Dayton scorebook said Regan had fouled out with five minutes to go and Seton Hall claimed he had only four personals. "To this day I say I had four fouls," Regan said.

They accepted their defeat and got on the train to Louisville and were told they could not stay in a hotel on arrival. Their car would be dropped off in the yard, hooked up with heat and water. Dukes, who had been recruited from Rochester, N.Y., by former Seton Hall great Bobby Davies, was meeting Jim Crow.http://articles.latimes.com/images/pixel.gif

"We didn't like that we couldn't stay in the hotel because of them, not only because they were teammates, but they were terrific guys," Regan said. "They certainly didn't like it, but it might have been easier because their teammates were with them. We even tried to make light of it."

Ring remembers rooming with Dukes on trains and hotels on earlier trips and considering this situation a fact of life. "It was a conservative time," Regan said. "In the '60s there would have been pickets and sit-ins and everything."

Louisville was a good team, led by Chuck Noble and Phil Rollins. The game was rough from the outset and the crowd was hostile. "The same referees we had in Dayton called a different game," Ring said. "Richie couldn't move without being called for walking."

"Home cooking," Regan said.

Several times they came close to fighting. There were few police in the armory, but they were watching on TV in the station house. "We were scared stiff; 7,500 vs. 12," Regan said. In a desperate effort, guard Harry Brooks struggled for a rebound and his mouth was split by an elbow.

The fight broke out with seconds to play and Louisville realistically out of reach. Bottles flew onto the court. Regan recalled Dukes, who'd scored 35 points, standing his ground in the melee when a man ran out of the crowd, said to Dukes, "You call yourself a Catholic," and ripped the miraculous medal off Dukes' neck. "We were afraid for Walter and Frank in a hostile crowd," Regan said.

A spectator hit Hannon in back of his neck and he crumpled to the floor. "I started to go into the crowd after the guy," Ring said, "and Richie grabbed me. He said, 'No way I'm going in there with you; they'll kill us.' "

Three Dominican priests who'd been traveling with Seton Hall went onto the court and rushed Dukes out of the armory. The team dressed without showering. "We got our clothes on and got the hell out of there," Regan said. Ring remembers a police escort. "We never saw Walter again until we got on the train," Ring said.

They went to get something to eat with the trainmen in a diner across from the stockyards and rumors kept filtering in that the crowd was coming to get them. "I think we were too hungry to leave," Regan said.

Harry Brooks died a few years ago. Dukes got his law degree during his 10 years in the NBA, has fallen on difficult times and has become reclusive. The last his teammates saw of him was at the midnight practice that opened this season. This is the next best season since his team was 31-2.


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Life Magazine, March 16, 1953
Pages 115-118 




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