Fairfield Stags men's basketball
|Head coach||Sydney Johnson (4th year)|
|Arena||Webster Bank Arena
Cardinal and White
|NCAA Tournament appearances|
|1960*, 1961*, 1962*, 1986, 1987, 1997
(* at DII level)
|Conference tournament champions|
|MAAC: 1986, 1987, 1997|
|Conference regular season champions|
|Tri-State: 1960, 1961, 1962
MAAC: 1986, 2011
The Fairfield Stags men's basketball team represents Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut and competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference of NCAA Division I. The Stags play their home games in the 9,500 seat, state of the art Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut and plays two games per season in Alumni Hall back on the campus of Fairfield University. The team is currently coached by Sydney Johnson, the 2011 Ivy League Coach of the Year.
The Stags have experienced the thrill of post-season tournament action fourteen times having competed in the NAIA Tournament in 1951; the NCAA DII Tournament in 1960, 1961 and 1962; the National Invitational Tournament in 1973, 1974, 1978, 1996, 2003; and 2011 NIT; and the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament in 1986, 1987 and 1997. In the 1973 National Invitation Tournament, the Stags advanced to the second round where the team lost by one point to eventual champion Virginia Tech. And in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, the Stags nearly achieved a historical upset of top-seeded North Carolina after leading the Tar Heels by seven points at halftime. The team also won the MAAC Regular Season Title in 1986 and the MAAC Championship Tournament in 1986, 1987 and 1997.
Individually, Joe DeSantis earned All-American honors in 1979; Darren Phillip was the nation's top rebounder averaging 14 rebounds per game in 2000; and Deng Gai was the nation's top shot blocker in 2005 averaging 5.5 blocks per game which ranks #5 on the NCAA's all-time blocked shot average list. Thirteen Stags have been either drafted or signed to play in the National Basketball Association.
- 1 History
- 2 All-Time Head Coaches
- 3 Postseason
- 4 Awards
- 5 All-time statistic leaders
- 6 Stags in the NBA Draft
- 7 Stags in coaching
- 8 WVOF radio broadcasts
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Through the efforts of Rev. Victor Leeber, S.J., Fairfield University introduced men's basketball in 1948 and has since played 59 continuous seasons of hoops through the 2007-08 season. Fairfield played its first-ever game against Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, NY, losing 46-78, and won its first-ever game that season against Hillyer College (now the University of Hartford), 47-37, in Bridgeport, CT at the Bridgeport Armory, Fairfield's original home court. During the 1950-1951 season, under new Head Coach James Hanrahan, the still fledgling program experienced its first winning season with a 16-11 overall record and received the school's first ever postseason berth in the 1951 NAIA National Men's Basketball Championship Tournament.
During the 1958-1959 season Head Coach George Bisacca took over the program and proceeded to elevate the Stags to a higher level experiencing only 1 losing season in 10 years. The Stags received three straight postseason berths to the NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Championship Tournament between 1960 and 1962 and advanced to the 2nd round in 1960 and 1961. On the heals of this postseason success, Fairfield upgraded the program up to Division 1 hoops during the 1964-1965 season. The following year, the 1965-66 team went 19-5 and became the first Fairfield team to be ranked in the UPI/AP Top 20 poll.
The Golden Barakat Era
The most successful stretch of Fairfield basketball occurred under Head Coach Fred Barakat when the Stags received three berths in the post-season NIT in six years which was chronicled in the book, 25 Years Plus One: Recounting the Meteoric Rise of Fairfield Basketball, by Connecticut sportswriter, Don Harrison. During the 1972-73 season the Stags finished with an 18-9 overall record and were invited to the post-season NIT for the first time in the programs history. In the 1st round, Captain George Groom led the Stags to an 80-76 victory over Marshall University playing before 13,904 fans at Madison Square Garden. In the 2nd round, the Stags fell 76-77 to the eventual National Champion Virginia Tech Gooblers before more than 17,000 fans. The Stags followed up this success with a 17-9 overall record and a second invitation to the post-season NIT during the 1973-74 season. In the 1st round, Captain Richie O'Connor led the Stags to a 37-32 halftime lead before falling 65-66 to the University of Hawaii before 17,739 fans. The Stags returned to the post-season NIT for the third time during the 1977-78 season following the program's first 20 win season (22-5 overall) and a record point setting 123-108 victory over the then 14th ranked Holy Cross Crusaders. In the 1st round of the tournament, Junior Mark Young led the Stags with a 32 performance in a 93-108 losing effort to the Dayton Flyers.
Back to Backs in the MAAC
Fairfield earned its first berth in NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship in 1986 after sweeping though the St. Peter's Peacocks, Iona Gael and Holy Cross Crusaders in route to winning the MAAC Championship. The Stags faced the Illinois Fighting Illini in the first round of Southeast Regional of the 1986 NCAA Tournament. Jeff Gromos led all Fairfield scorers with 16 points, followed by Pat Yerina with 13 points. The Stags were coached by first year head coach Mitch Buonoguoro and ended the year with a 24-7 record, the most wins in school history.
The following season, Fairfield overcame an injured-plaqued season to mount an improbable run to its second consecutive MAAC Championship and to earn its second consecutive bid to the 1987 NCAA Tournament. The Stags defeated the LaSalle Explorer, Army Black Knights and needed the heroics of a last second shot by A. J. Wynder to help propel the Stags past the Iona Gaels in overtime and to the MAAC Championship. The Stags faced the top-seeded and eventual national champion Indiana Hoosiers in the first round of the Midwest Regional before 29,610 fans in the Hoosier Dome. Jeff Gromos led all Fairfield scorers with 21 points, followed by A. J. Wynder with 15 points.
During the 1995-96 season Head Coach Paul Cormier led the Stags to a 20-10 overall record, an appearance in the MAAC championship game and the program's fourth berth in the NIT. In the opening round of the NIT, the Stags played the Providence College Friars before 6,368 fans at the New Haven Coliseum. Led by Shannon Bowman the Stags held a 46-43 half time lead before eventually falling 78-69 to the Friars.
Picked to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 1996-97, Fairfield suffered through an injury-plagued regular season and finished in last place. But the Stags made a Cinderella run in the MAAC tournament, defeating top seed Iona, St. Peter's and Canisius to capture the league's automatic berth in the 1997 NCAA Tournament despite an 11-18 record. Fairfield then gave top seeded North Carolina all it could handle in the first round of the East Region in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Stags opened a 37-28 lead early in the second half before their bid to become the first 16 seed to win a NCAA Tournament game fell 82-74. Stag legend Greg Francis '97 almost single-handedly upset the Tar Heels scoring 26 points including eight three-pointers. Following the game, legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith said "I had to find Francis after the game but I couldn't shake his hand because it was so hot."
In 2002, Stags basketball moved from the comfy confines of the on-campus Alumni Hall to the new state-of-the-art 9,500 seat Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT. During that same season, Head Coach Tim O'Toole '87 led the Stags to an 19-12 overall record, an appearance to the MAAC tournament championship game, and the program's fifth berth in the NIT. In the opening round of the NIT, Nick Delfico led the Stags with 14 points in a 90-78 losing effort to the Boston College Eagles before 6,500 fans at the arena. During 2004-2005 season, Deng Gai '05 led the nation in shots blocked with 5.5 blocks per game and graduated as number eight on the NCAA's all-time blocked shots list.
Cooley and the Gang
On April 11, 2006, Ed Cooley (former Boston College Eagles assistant coach) became the program's eleventh Head Coach ushering in a new era of Stags basketball. During the first round of the 2010 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) the Stags overcame a 27-point deficit with 16:08 left to play to defeat George Mason in overtime, 101-96. The 27-point comeback is the biggest in Division I postseason history. The Stags were led by senior Mike Evanovich who finished with a career-high 32 points and a school record nine three-pointers including one with 0.9 seconds in regulation to send the game into overtime. Fellow senior Anthony Johnson led the Stags in overtime scoring 9 points and finished with 25 points in the game. And at the conclusion of the 2010 season, Coach Cooley received the inaugural 2010 Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year Award, presented annually to the top minority men's basketball coach in the nation, in recogniton of his coaching the Stags through numerous injuries to a near school record 23-win season and Derek Needham was named a Freshman All-American. During the 2010-11 season, Fairfield won the MAAC Regular Season Title and earned a berth in the 2011 NIT where the Stags beat the Colorado State Rams, 62-60, in the first round. Additionally, Coach Ed Cooley and sophomore Derek Needham earned recognition from the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) with Cooley named the District I Coach of the Year and Needham selected to the District I-New England team.
In 2011, the Stags hired Princeton head coach Sydney Johnson as their next head coach.
All-Time Head Coaches
|1950–1958||James Hanrahan||82-79||1951 NAIB|
|1958–1968||George Bisacca||151-85||1960 NCAA, 1961 NCAA, 1962 NCAA|
|1970–1981||Fred Barakat||160-128||1973 NIT, 1974 NIT, 1978 NIT|
|1985–1991||Mitch Buonaguro||72-103||1986 NCAA, 1987 NCAA|
|1991–1998||Paul Cormier||86-111||1996 NIT, 1997 NCAA|
|1998–2006||Tim O'Toole||112-120||2003 NIT|
|2006–2011||Ed Cooley||92 - 69||2010 CIT, 2011 NIT|
|2011–||Sydney Johnson||2012 CIT, 2013 CIT|
NCAA Division I Tournament results
The Stags have appeared in the NCAA Division I Tournament three times. Their combined record is 0–3.
|1986||#13||First Round||#4 Illinois||L 51–75|
|1987||#16||First Round||#1 Indiana||L 58–92|
|1997||#16||First Round||#1 North Carolina||L 74–82|
NCAA Division II Tournament results
The Stags have appeared in the NCAA Division II Tournament three times. Their combined record is 11–5.
Regional 3rd Place Game
The Stags have appeared in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) six times. Their combined record is 2–6.
|1974||First Round||Hawaiʻi||L 65–66|
|1978||First Round||Dayton||L 93–108|
|1996||First Round||Providence||L 79–91|
|2003||Opening Round||Boston College||L 78–90|
The Stags have appeared in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) three times. Their combined record is 4–3.
|2013||First Round||Kent State||L 71–73|
National Coach of the Year
League Coach of the Year
League Player of the Year
First Team All-League
All-time statistic leaders
|Larry Rafferty||1965||16th||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Bill Jones||1968||7th||Philadelphia 76ers|
|Art Kenny||1968||18th||Baltimore Bullets|
|Rich O'Connor||1974||8th||Kansas City-Omaha|
|Phil Rogers||1974||10th||Buffalo Braves|
|Danny Odums||1976||6th||Buffalo Braves|
|Steve Balkun||1978||7th||Boston Celtics|
|Kim Fisher||1978||8th||Boston Celtics|
|Joe DeSantis||1979||2nd||Washington Bullets|
|Mark Young||1979||2nd||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Pete DeBisschop||1983||4th||Seattle Sonics|
|A. J. Wynder||1987||Free Agent||Boston Celtics|
|Deng Gai||2005||Free Agent||Philadelphia 76ers|
- Joe DeSantis, former head coach of the Quinnipiac Bobcats
- Greg Francis, current head coach of the Alberta Golden Bears and Canadian Jr. Men's National Team
- Pete Gillen, former head coach of the Xavier Musketeers, Providence Friars, Virginia Caveliers
- Nick Macarchuk, former head coach of the Fordham Rams and Stony Brook Sea Wolves
- Luke Murray, current assistant coach of the Towson Tigers
- Tim O'Toole, former head coach of the Fairfield Stags
- Keith Urgo, current assistant coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions
WVOF radio broadcasts