1949–50 CCNY Beavers men's basketball team

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1949-50 CCNY Beavers men's basketball
Conference Independent
1949-50 record 24-5
Head coach Nat Holman
Assistant coach Bobby Sand
Seasons
« 1948-49 1950-51 »

The 1949–50 CCNY Beavers men's basketball team represented the City College of New York. The head coach was Nat Holman, who was one of the game's greatest innovators and playmakers. Unlike today, when colleges recruit players from all over the country, the 1950 CCNY team was composed of "kids from the sidewalks of New York City," who had been recruited from PSAL schools such as Taft, Clinton, Boys, Erasmus and Franklin by Holman's assistant coach Harold (Bobby) Sand.

The "Starting 5" consisted of two black and three Jewish players. The team is the only team to win both the National Invitation Tournament and the NCAA Tournament in the same year, by defeating Bradley University in the championship game of each tournament. The 1950 City team was also the first NCAA champion to have black players in its starting lineup. The players on the team were Ed Warner, Norm Mager, Irwin Dambrot, Alvin "Fats" Roth, Ed Roman, Floyd Layne, Herb Cohen, Ron Nadell, Leroy Watkins, Joe Galiber, and Arthur Glass. Students at CCNY, dubbed the poor man's Harvard because of its lofty academic standards, lived and died with every game, raising arena roofs with their unique school cheer: Allagaroo garoo gara, Allagaroo garoo gara, Ee-yah ee-yah, Sis boom bah, Team! Team! Team![1]

NIT tournament commentary[edit]

CCNY had posted a 17-5 record during the regular season, but had failed to attract any support in the final AP Top 20. The team was made up mostly of sophomores and was the last squad selected to play in Madison Square Garden's famed NIT, which had a 12-team field and was at that time more prestigious than the NCAA tournament. People took notice when the Beavers thrashed defending champion San Francisco 65-46 in the opening round. CCNY then faced 3rd ranked and two-time defending NCAA champion Kentucky and their 7-foot center, Bill Spivey, in the second round. Kentucky was a racially segregated school from the Southeastern Conference, and several Wildcats refused to shake hands with the black and Jewish CCNY players before the game. This incensed the CCNY players, who then proceeded to dismantle the Kentucky team in every aspect of the game. The final score was CCNY 89, Kentucky 50, which was the worst ever defeat for an Adolph Rupp coached team. This win was sweet revenge for the CCNY players, because Rupp was once quoted was as saying that he'd never coach a team with "kikes" and "blacks." After the game, the Kentucky state legislature called for the flag over the capitol to be flown at half-staff. The blowout win over Kentucky was even more impressive due to the fact that Kentucky had won the NCAA tournament in 1948, 1949, and would win the tournament again the following year in 1951. A Cinderella Team had now emerged in the tournament. City College then defeated Duquesne 62-52 in the semi-final round. In the title game, the Beavers squared off against top ranked Bradley, who had All-American Paul Unruh and the 5'8" speedster, Gene "Squeaky" Melchiorre. CCNY came out on top 69-61 to win the tournament. Ed Warner of CCNY was awarded Most Valuable Player honors.

NCAA tournament commentary[edit]

Things were a lot different during the early years of the tournament than they are today. The 1950 NCAA tournament consisted of an Eastern Regional and a Western Regional, with four teams in each region for a total of 8 teams in the tournament. The term "Final Four" was a misnomer, because the runner-ups in each region went to the championship game site to play a consolation game. It wasn't until 1952 that a true Final Four took place in the tournament, when the field had expanded to 16 teams in four brackets. For many years the brackets were assembled strictly by conference champions, geography, and not according to won-lost record, strength of schedule, or AP rank. Until around 1953, teams were invited to play in the NCAAs after the NIT tournament had crowned a champion. After CCNY's improbable run to the NIT title, the Beavers were immediately selected to participate in the NCAA tournament. In the first round, City College nipped 2nd ranked Ohio State, 56-55. The Beavers then defeated 5th ranked North Carolina State 78-73 to reach the title game. CCNY again faced top-ranked Bradley and won the tournament, 71-68, to score the only Grand Slam in the history of college basketball. Irwin Dambrot of CCNY was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, and Nat Holman appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Followup commentary[edit]

CCNY's double-win in 1950 was not without controversy and deserves a few footnotes. The players had taken money from gamblers in the point-shaving scandals during the 1948-1949 season and also during some regular-season games in the 1949-1950 season. No games were fixed during the post-season tournaments. Had the scandal come to light before the 1950 tournaments began, CCNY would not have been invited to participate and a different team would have won the championships. There was also a controversial play in the waning moments of NCAA Championship game. Gene Melchiorre swiped a CCNY pass and raced downcourt for the potential go-ahead basket. Irwin Dambrot and the Bradley star collided under the basket. Dambrot came up with the ball, and threw a perfect pass to Norm Mager who made the layup to seal the victory. Many people though that Dambrot had fouled Melchiorre, but no call was made. Had Dambrot been called for a foul, Bradley could have conceivably won the game. The "non-call" became infamous throughout the country.

It is interesting to note that The Final Four games of each tournament were played within the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. Shortly thereafter, the NCAA Committee ruled that no team could compete in both tournaments, and there would never again be another double champion. The Final Four of the NIT would always remain at Madison Square Garden, but the NCAA tournament left MSG after the 1961 season.

For CCNY, there were dark clouds on the horizon following the amazing double victory. The point-shaving scandal sent shock waves throughout college basketball, and most of the City College players were implicated in it. The scandal ended the NBA hopes of the CCNY players, prompted the suspension of the basketball program, and forever tarnished the '49-50 team's legacy. Ed Warner and Alvin Roth did play professionally in the Continental Basketball Association. Following the scandal, the school was moved from Division I to Division III and was banned from playing at Madison Square Garden. As a result of these sanctions, the CCNY basketball program was de–emphasized, and the school has never again appeared in either the NCAA or NIT tournaments. In the 74-year history of the NCAA tournament, CCNY was one of the most unlikely champions, and it was unfortunate that the school would not reach post-season play again. To this day, CCNY is the only NCAA Basketball Championship team that is no longer a member of Division 1. Despite the tragedy that befell CCNY in the aftermath of the point-shaving scandal, the 1950 City team is still the most celebrated college basketball team in the history of New York City. On a positive note, every one of the C.C.N.Y. players involved in the scandal eventually went back to school to earn his degree.

In another twist, the NCAA tournament has not had another game in Madison Square since the 1961 tournament, which is 53 years ago. This might be related to the point-shaving scandal of 1951 and the existence of gamblers in New York City. In 1996, the Final Four was held outside of New York City at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. On a positive note, in November, 2012, the NCAA announced that Madison Square Garden will be the site of the East Regional of the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament. After a hiatus of more than half a century, the Big Dance is finally returning to the most famous indoor arena in the United States.

Nat Holman stayed on as CCNY coach until 1959, and the school's arena was named "Nat Holman Gymnasium." Incredibly, he was 98-years-old when he died at the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Riverdale, Bronx, NY, in 1995.

Roster[edit]

1949–50 CCNY Beavers men's basketball team
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Height Weight Year High School/Junior College Home town
C Roman[2], EdEd Roman[2] 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
So William Howard Taft High School
PF Warner, EdEd Warner 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
So DeWitt Clinton High School
SF Dambrot[3], IrwinIrwin Dambrot[3] 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 175 lb (79 kg) Sr William Howard Taft High School
SG Layne, FloydFloyd Layne 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
So Benjamin Franklin High School
PG Roth, AlAl Roth 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
So Erasmus High School
SG Cohen, HerbHerb Cohen 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
So Erasmus High School
PF Mager[4], NormNorm Mager[4] 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 185 lb (84 kg) Sr Lafayette High School
PG Nadell, RonRon Nadell 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m)
Jr
PG Wittlin, Wittlin 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Sr
C Galiber, JoeJoe Galiber 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Sr
Watkins, LeroyLeroy Watkins 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Smith, Smith
Levy, Levy
Meyer, Meyer
Glass, ArthurArthur Glass
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)
  • Bobby Sand

Legend
  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • (W) Walk-on

Profile of the players[edit]

Irwin Dambrot was a 6-foot-4, 175-pound All-American forward and the only senior in the starting lineup. His free-throw defeated Ohio State 56-55 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. He also made a game-saving play at the end of the title game against Bradley to earn MVP honors. After the scandal broke, he pled guilty to conspiracy charges, ended his basketball career, and enrolled at Columbia University dental school. He served in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps and then practiced dentistry in Forest Hills, Queens and Manhattan. In 1989, Dambrot went to Kansas City for the 50th anniversary of the NCAA tournament, when all previous MVPs were invited; he met a lot of coaches and was treated royally. In December 2009, a month before his death, Dambrot was on hand in a wheelchair at Madison Square Garden when the Garden cited the double championship as the No. 1 college basketball moment in the game's 75-year history there. He had been living in Mendham, N.J. and died of Parkinson's disease at age 81 on January 21, 2010 and was interred at Locust Hill Cemetery in Dover, New Jersey.

Norm Mager was a 6-foot-5 senior and the top reserve on the team. He joined the Baltimore Bullets after graduating from CCNY, but his professional basketball career ended when the scandal broke. He became an executive with a janitorial supply company, Perfect Building Maintenance, and retired in 2000 as its president. In 2005, Mager died of cancer at age 78 at a hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Ed Roman, the team's 6-foot-6-inch center, pled guilty to charges of conspiring to fix the outcome of games at Madison Square Garden. After serving two years in the Army, Roman earned his undergraduate degree in physical education at Seattle University. He returned to New York to do work at City College and New York University toward a master's degree and a doctorate in psychology. He worked in the city public school's system in Queens. Ed Roman died of leukemia at age 57 in 1988 at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.

Ed Warner also pled guilty to conspiracy charges. He was the only one of the players to go to jail for his crimes when he was sentenced to six months at Rikers Island. He received a prison sentence because he had a record as a juvenile delinquent and was incorrigible and uncontrollable in the courtroom. In the 1960s, he was imprisoned again after pleading guilty to attempting to sell heroin. Warner had worked as a high school basketball referee, but in April 1984 he was partly paralyzed when his automobile was struck from behind in Upper Manhattan. Ed Warner died in Harlem at age 73 in 2002.

Floyd Layne became basketball coach at CCNY in the 1970s and 1980s. After he left CCNY, he became the head basketball coach at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn.

Alvin Roth was 6'4", weighed 210 pounds and played guard. He was one of the players arrested in the scandal and agreed to serve in the United States Army for a time in exchange for suspending his jail sentence. After discharge, Roth finished City College business school and became an insurance executive in Westchester County, New York.

Leroy Watkins was a 6-foot-7-inch reserve center who was not involved in the scandal, because he had very little playing time. Nat Holman put Watkins in to jump-center for the opening tipoff against Kentucky in the NIT, and he surprisingly outjumped 7-foot Bill Spivey. Watkins passed away in 2008.

Joe Galiber, a substitute player who was not involved in point-shaving, became a State Senator and served in this capacity until his death at age 71 in 1995.[5]

Schedule[edit]

Date Time Opponent# Rank# Site TV Pts Ldr Reb Ldr Ast Ldr Result Record
Regular Season
November 26, 1949* Queens College  16 - Roman    -      -    W 91–45[6][7]  1–0
December 3, 1949* Lafayette College Madison Square GardenNew York City, New York  18 - Roman    -      -    W 76–44  2–0
December 8, 1949* Southern Methodist University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  18 - Warner    -      -    W 76–53  3–0
December 10, 1949* Kings Point  19 - Roman    -      -    W 82–28  4–0
December 15, 1949* Brooklyn College Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  13 - Warner    -      -    W 71–44  5–0
December 19, 1949* University of Oklahoma Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  20 - Roman    -      -    L 63–67  5–1
December 22, 1949* University of California Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  17 - Roman    -      -    W 76–46  6–1
December 27, 1949* UCLA Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  22 - Roman    -      -    L 53–60  6–2
January 3, 1950* St. John's University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  23 - Roman    -      -    W 54–52  7–2
January 7, 1950* Loyola University Chicago Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  14 - Cohen    -      -    W 61–46  8–2
January 10, 1950* West Virginia University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  22 - Roman    -      -    W 80–55  9–2
January 28, 1950* at Muhlenberg College  27 - Roman    -      -    W 95–76  10–2
February 2, 1950* at Boston College  18 - Roman    -      -    W 64–56  11–2
February 4, 1950* at Princeton University  13 - Roman    -      -    W 56–46  12–2
February 8, 1950* at St. Francis College  21 - Roman    -      -    W 68–46  13–2
February 11, 1950* at Canisius College  15 - Roman    -      -    L 49–53  13–3
February 16, 1950* Niagara University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  23 - Roman    -      -    L 61–68  13–4
February 18, 1950* at St. Joseph's College  16 - Roman    -      -    W 75–59  14–4
February 20, 1950* at Fordham University  16 - Warner    -      -    W 66–62  15–4
February 23, 1950* Syracuse University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  23 - Roman    -      -    L 74–83  15–5
March 2, 1950* Manhattan College Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  15 - Warner    -      -    W 57–55  16–5
March 7, 1950* New York University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York  26 - Warner    -      -    W 64–61  17–5
National Invitation Tournament[8]
March 11, 1950* vs. University of San Francisco Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(First round)
 26 - Warner    -      -    W 65–46  18–5
March 14, 1950* vs. University of Kentucky Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(Quarterfinals)
 26 - Warner    -      -    W 89–50  19–5
March 16, 1950* vs. Duquesne University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(Semifinals)
 19 - Warner    -      -    W 62–52  20–5
March 18, 1950* vs. Bradley University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(Championship Game)
 23 - Dambrot    -      -    W 69–61  21–5
NCAA Tournament[9]
March 23, 1950* vs. Ohio State University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(Quarterfinals)
 17 - Layne    -      -    W 56–55  22–5
March 25, 1950* vs. North Carolina State University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(Semifinals)
 21 - Roman    -      -    W 78–73  23–5
March 28, 1950* vs. Bradley University Madison Square Garden • New York City, New York
(Championship Game)
 15 - Dambrot    -      -    W 71–68  24–5
*Non-conference game. #Rankings from AP Poll. All times are in Eastern Time..

Awards and honors[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]