A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Rutgers Honors Its Dream Team: 1975-76
NEW JERSEY—Rutgers just produced a dvd about the undefeated 1975-76 men’s basketball team.It seems like a long time ago.But were they ever talented.This was a team that was recruited in part by Dick Vitale who was an assistant at Rutgers.He convinced a player by the name of Phil Sellers to de-commit from Notre Dame and attend Rutgers.Sellers became a First Team
All-American.The Brooklyn native played for the Detroit Pistons. Vitale also recruited Mike Dabney,a guard from East Orange,New Jersey.In came Tom Young as the head coach and he brought with him Eddie Jordan from Washingto DC,now and NBA coach.Young also recruited Hollis Copeland and with the assistance of one of his assistants Joe Boylan recruited James Bailey from Boston at the center position.The missing piece of the puzzle.
The Knights were ranked #18 preseason but people knew this team was something special when they defeated a Boston Bollege team 105-82 on the road early on.
As Rutgers kept rolling the ranking kept falling.They beat Georgia Tech,Purdue and Pennsylvania and were in the Top Ten.They won on a combination of speed,defense and good shooting.The offense was often fueled by the defense.
They faced a critical match in midseason when they travelled to Princeton,a team that had won the NIT the year before.Pete Carril had made some disparaging remarks about the academics at Rutgers and that was all the Knights needed.Princeton fell 75-62.
There were no Eastern Conferences in those days so Rutgers had to beat LIU and ST. John’s to make it to the NCAA’s.The St. John’s game was scintillating.Half the Garden was in red.The other half was in red.They were the colors of both schools.Rutgers won 70-67 because Phil Sellers was better than Beaver Smith.
On to the NCAA’s.Rutgers almost stumbled against Princeton but won by one when Peter Molloy missed a free throw.They made it to the Final Four undefeated.In Philadelphia.Their back yard.And they were a one point favorite against Michigan.But no one realized how fast Ricky Green was.Evebn faster than Jordan and Rutgers fell 86-70.They lost in the consolation game to UCLA 106-92.The last consolation game ever.But those losses did not take away from the season.
This year the team will be honored in January on the 30th anniversary of that feat.There may never be a better Rutgers team.Certainly never a faster one.And one made up of better kids.This was a special team. Bailey almost led them to the Final Four again in 1979.That would have been a match up with Michigan State.But they fell to St. John’s.Rutgers owned eastern basketball in the late 1970′s.How things have changed since them.Coach Gary Waters had his team watch the dvd last Friday.It may inspire them.What an act to follow.