Jan. 16, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - More than two dozen former University of Notre Dame men's basketball players from the 20-season Richard "Digger" Phelps era return to campus Sunday to see their former head coach inducted into the Notre Dame Basketball Ring of Honor at Purcell Pavilion. The event comes 40 years to the day after Phelps' 1974 Irish squad ended UCLA's record 88-game win streak.
Notre Dame will play host to Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia Tech at 6 p.m. EST Sunday (televised by ESPNU). At halftime Phelps will become the fourth Irish men's basketball representative to have his banner unveiled in the rafters (ESPNU will carry that ceremony live and also will produce a half-hour pre-game show from 5:30-6 p.m. courtside at Purcell Pavilion).
Sunday represents the 40th anniversary of that Notre Dame landmark Jan. 19, 1974, victory over UCLA that ended the Bruins' 88-game win streak (still the longest in college basketball history). Eleven members of that Irish team and Phelps will be recognized for that achievement during a first-half timeout Sunday night.
Returning members of that Notre Dame team that helped achieve the 71-70 win over John Wooden's team include Roger Anderson, Peter Crotty, Tom Hansen, Ray Martin, senior team co-captain Gary Novak, Greg Schmelzer, Myron Schuckman, senior team co-captain John Shumate (he led that team with a 24.2-point scoring average), Chris Stevens, Tom Varga and Ken Wolbeck.
In celebration of that 40-year anniversary of Notre Dame's 1974 victory over UCLA, Fighting Irish Digital Media, in partnership with 3 Penny Films, has produced a one-hour special presentation titled "88 AND 1," presented by Coca-Cola, premiering at 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, Jan. 19, on ESPN2. ESPNU will re-air the show at the following times: 10 p.m. EST on Jan. 19, 4 p.m. EST on Jan. 21, 6 p.m. EST on Jan. 24 and 1 a.m. EST on Jan. 30.
Other Phelps-era (1971-72 through 1990-91) Notre Dame players expected back for the presentation include Elmer Bennett (1989-92), Rich Branning (1977-80), Jeff Carpenter (1975-78), Gary Grassey (1982), Bill Hanzlik (1977-80), Tim Healy (1977-80), Bill Hinga (1971-72), Tracy Jackson (1978-81), Marc Kelly (1979-82), Mike Mitchell (1979-82), Chris Nanni (1987-88), Casey Newell (1984-85), Scott Paddock (1987-90), John Paxson (1980-83), David Rivers (1985-88), Gilbert Salinas (1978-81), Tom Sluby (1981-84), Kelly Tripucka (1978-81) and Stan Wilcox (1978-81).
Shumate, Novak, Crotty, Martin, Bennett, Branning, Hanzlik, Jackson, Mitchell, Paxson, Rivers, Sluby and Tripucka all served as Irish captains.
Other former Notre Dame players scheduled to be in attendance are Joey Brooks (2011-13), Jordan Cornette (2002-05), John Fannon (1954-56), Jim Gibbons (1951-53), Mike Hinga (1971), Jim Monahan (1965-67), Steve Rebora (53-55) and John Smyth (1955-57). Captains from that group include Cornette, Fannon, Monahan and Smyth.
Former student managers and statisticians returning are Mike Bruton, Joe Favazzo, Mike Gurdak, Joe Krug, Bob Lindgren, Jim McIntyre, Rachel Newsted, Rich O'Connor, Gene Pilawski, Dave Robbins, Mark Staelgraeve, Mike Sullivan, Tony Sylvester, Joe Toddy, Greg Weber and Jared Zenk.
Phelps, who led Notre Dame to a sterling 393-197 record and .666 winning percentage over his 20 seasons on the Irish hardwood, becomes the first coach inducted into the Ring of Honor. The all-time winningest men's basketball coach at Notre Dame, he joins Carr, Dantley, Skylar Diggins, Harangody and Ruth Riley.
During his coaching tenure, Phelps' Irish teams earned 14 NCAA Championship berths--including six of the last seven seasons--with his 1977-78 squad advancing to the program's only Final Four appearance. His teams posted 13 20-win campaigns and seven times he led Notre Dame to victories over number-one ranked teams. Three of those teams participated in the National Invitation Tournament, with the 1972-73 and 1983-84 clubs earning runner-up finishes.
While Notre Dame's victory over UCLA clearly remains one of the greatest upsets over a number-one ranked team in college basketball history, Phelps also directed his Irish teams to wins over six other top-ranked foes: San Francisco (93-82 in 1977); Marquette (65-59 in 1978); DePaul (76-74 in double-overtime); Kentucky (67-61 in 1980), Virginia (57-56 in 1981) and North Carolina (60-58 in 1981).
Five Irish players under Phelps--Shumate, Gary Brokaw, Dantley, Tripucka and Paxson--earned first-team All-America recognition, while 11 players were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Tripucka and Paxson also garnered Academic All-America accolades, while Paxson received a prestigious NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
Phelps spent 21 years as a collegiate coach and took 15 teams to the NCAA Championships. Prior to being named the head coach at Notre Dame in 1971, he spent the 1970-71 campaign as head coach at Fordham University where he led the Rams to a 26-3 record.
With just one returning letterman on his first squad, Phelps' team struggled through a 6-20 campaign that first season, but then advanced to the second round of the NIT that second year. In 1973-74, he piloted his Irish team to the top of the college basketball world for the first time in school history following the upset over UCLA and he went on to earn national coach-of-the-year honors following that season as his team finished with a 26-3 record. Throughout Phelps' career, Notre Dame held the number-one spot in the college basketball rankings for five weeks.
Victories aside, Phelps is most proud of the fact that all 56 players who completed their four-year playing careers earned their degrees.
Since 1993, Phelps has served as a college basketball analyst at ESPN and still calls South Bend home. When he is not on the road fulfilling his ESPN duties, Phelps often can be found attending a Notre Dame practice or sitting at press row during an Irish game.
A limited number of tickets for the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech basketball game Sunday are available at und.com/BuyTickets or by calling 574-631-7356.