Honoring Friar Athletic Legends
by Sam Hardwick ’17
Providence College is a school of greats. During each Friar Legends Forever Jersey Retirement Event numbers get retired, legacies are revisited and the student body is reminded that there are all-time Friar legacies whose names are not Kris Dunn ’16. With the the Class of 2017 inductions over the weekend of Feb. 10, Friar Athletics honored yet again some of the biggest names in its history. These are men and women who excelled not only in their time at PC but far beyond it as well. Among those recognized this weekend were Otis Thorpe ’84 and the late Bruce “Soup” Campbell ’78, men’s basketball players while at PC. Thorpe was a massive 6’10” power forward who averaged 14.4 PPG and eight rebounds per game while at PC. His best season as a Friar was during his 1983-1984 senior year, when he averaged a double double (17.1 PPG and 10.3 rebounds) and almost single-handedly brought the team its first winning season of the 1980s. With an even more illustrious NBA career, culminating in an all-star appearance in 1992 and a NBA championship in 1994 with the Houston Rockets, Campbell was another Friar legend who played for the men’s basketball team from 1974 to 1978. When Men’s Basketball Head Coach Ed Cooley was asked about what this tradition of greatness means to him and this program, he said, “It’s all about the Friar Family, that’s what this is celebrating. It creates a tradition that is long lasting and truly special for everyone here.” It was clear by the tremendous attendance of not only the games where the jersey retirements occurred, but also at the event itself held at the Omni Hotel, that alumni and Friars alike agreed.
Another basketball legend who was honored was Doris Burke ’87. She was a standout player while at Providence, playing point guard and ranking second in all-time assists. But this was just the beginning for Burke in sports. Burke has gone on to be a trailblazer for women in the sports analyst business. She was the first woman to be a color analyst for a New York Knicks game, the first woman to be an analyst for a Big East men’s game, and the first woman to be the primary analyst on a men’s college basketball conference package. Her sideline reporting on professional men’s and women’s basketball has earned her innumerable praises (including becoming Drake’s woman crush every day). Burke’s number 11 was retired for women’s basketball.
When asked what being honored by Providence College and having her number retired meant to her, Burke explained, “I had such an amazing time at Providence, it truly has part of my heart. I carry PC with me everywhere. I was provided with an education I could not have otherwise afforded. I could cry just thinking about how much it means to me.” Burke certainly grasped that opportunity and took it to its full advantage.
Basketball was not the only sport that had legends visiting. Both men’s and women’s hockey retired numbers—including Lou Lamoriello ’63 and Ron Wilson ’77 for the men’s team and Cammi Granato ’93 for women’s.
Lamoriello was honored as both a player and a coach for PC. During his time as coach of the hockey team, he led the 1982-1983 team to a national best record of 33-10-0, bringing the Friars to the Frozen Four that year—their first since 1964. After his tenure as coach, he served as PC’s athletic director and was integral in getting together the Hockey East Association, which the hockey team is still part of today. Lamoriello’s effort to bring PC to the forefront of college hockey did not stop there. As Athletic Director, he negotiated the first TV package in college hockey history. This helped put PC hockey on the map and solidify its spot as a top hockey program.
Beyond Providence College, Lamoriello also became the first commissioner of the Hockey East, and as a result, had the Hockey East championship trophy named after him. After his stint in collegiate hockey, Lamoriello made the jump to the NHL, serving 28 years as the New Jersey Devils GM and President of Hockey Operations. During this time, the Devils won nine division championships, five conference championships, and three Stanley cups, a truly impressive run. Lamoriello is definitely one of the all-time greats to ever come through the halls of PC.
Number four, Wilson’s number, was retired in Schneider Arena along with Lamoriello’s on Feb. 10. Wilson is another Friar great who not only excelled during his time at PC, but long afterwards as well. Even though he was a defenseman, Wilson excelled offensively during his four years, scoring over 16 goals and 38 points in each of his years here. His peak year was his sophomore year, where he made an astounding 87 points for the Friars in only 27 games. His hockey career did not end there, as he played for a few different teams professionally both in the United States and in Switzerland. His most notable achievement, however, came long after his playing career ended in 1988. Leading the United States national team in both the 1998 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Wilson brought the team to the finals before losing to Canada in a devastating overtime loss, which resulted in a silver medal. There is no doubt that Wilson was deserving of being memorialized with the retirement of his number.
Lastly, and certainly not least, Cammi Granato ’93’s number 21 was retired. Granato could be considered one of the best women’s hockey players of all time. Her stats during her tenure at PC are absolutely astounding. She had 24 goals and 22 assists her freshman year, and 26 goals and 20 assists her sophomore year.
But it was her junior and senior year that she truly shined. In her junior year, she had 48 goals and 32 assists for a total of 80 points. She followed this with her best season ever as a hockey player. In the 1992-1993 season, Granato had 41 goals and 43 assists for 84 points in 28 games—an average of about 3.07 points per game.
To compare, Haley Wickenheiser, considered one of the greatest women’s hockey players, had a storied career that included time in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) league, comparable to U.S. college hockey. In her 68 games there, she averaged 1.97 points per game. Clearly, Granato’s season was truly something special. Like the rest of these Friar legends, her story did not end when she walked across the stage. With the U.S. National Team, she was named the Women’s Player of the Year in 1996. Only two years later, she helped the team win gold. Granato was the first U.S. woman’s player to score an Olympic goal and remains the United States’ all-time leading scorer. But perhaps what best encapsulates Granato’s career, is what happened in 2008. It was announced that year that Granato, along with 2 other women, would become the first women to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Granato was undoubtedly more than deserving to be honored this weekend with her jersey retirement.
With all these legends present, the Friar athletics did not disappoint. They won the weekend at home, with men’s hockey beating UConn in a thrilling 4-3 win and men’s basketball pulling off the upset of the season, beating No. 22 Butler 71-65. It seemed that having all that star power inspired our athletes to strive to become legends themselves. But as all the athletes honored showed, to become part of the Friar tradition, excellence continues beyond just Providence College.