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, where 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 runners-up 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. The 1950 NCAA Tournament deserves a couple of footnotes. CCNY's amazing victory was voted the most exciting event in the history of college basketball at Madison Square Garden. None of the players on the City College team would go on to fame after the year 1950. There was one player in the tournament, however, who would go down in history as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The one and only Bob Cousy of Holy Cross played in an opening round game. Cousy would be remembered long after most of the CCNY players had been forgotten.

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 the 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 championship game of each tournament was 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 (or its successor building of the same name), but the NCAA tournament left MSG after the 1961 season until hosting the East Regional Finals in 2014 in its current location. After the 1950 Tournament the Garden has never again hosted the National Finals.

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 did not have another game at any MSG facility from the 1961 tournament until 2014, when its successor, MSG IV, hosted the East Regional Finals. 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. After a hiatus of more than half a century, the Big Dance finally returned to the most famous indoor arena in the United States outside of Boston.

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

Awards and honors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Burns, Marty (3 April 2000). "First The Double, Then The Trouble". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  2. ^ http://www.jewsinsports.org/profile.asp?sport=basketball&ID=24
  3. ^ http://www.jewsinsports.org/profile.asp?sport=basketball&ID=24
  4. ^ http://www.jewsinsports.org/profile.asp?sport=basketball&ID=166
  5. ^ Goldstein, Joe (23 February 2001). "Explosion: 1951 scandals threaten college hoops". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on 13 April 2003. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "1949–50 CCNY Beavers men's basketball team schedule" (PDF). CCNY. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "1949–50 CCNY Beavers men's basketball team statistics and results" (PDF). NCAA. 1950. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  9. ^ http://www.databasesports.com/ncaab/tourney.htm?yr=1950

External links[edit]