Submitted by Marc Katz
St. Mary’s – University of Dayton
Tiny St. Mary's Institute of Dayton began playing basketball in 1903. A six-game schedule, none against other colleges, resulted in a 5-1 record, and a Miami Valley pastime was on its way.
During the 1919-20 season, St. Mary's changed its name to the University
of Dayton, and soon after World War II, Tom Blackburn was hired as coach of
Dayton basketball has been among the city and area's favorite winter
entertainment ever since, and has been joined by Wright State University
basketball and Sinclair Community College basketball, as a way to get the
area's name out on a national level.
Blackburn's first team at the University of Dayton turned in a 12-14 record in 1947-48, but he didn't record another losing season in 17 before succumbing to cancer at the young age of 58 during the 1964 season.
Some of those seasons were spectacular, with the Flyers winning 20 or
more games 10 times, reaching the NIT final seven times and winning it twice--
in 1962 and 1964-- when the NIT was considered a more prestigious event
than the NCAA.
Two home games, among many, stand out. UD beat No. 1 Seton Hall 71-65
on May 1, 1953, and beat No. 3 DePaul on an improbable buzzer shot 72-71 on Feb. 18, 1984.
When Blackburn became ill, Don Donoher took over for the final games of
1964, becoming the coach of record for the second NIT championship. Donoher added to the trophy haul with the 1968 NIT championship during a string of successful runs into the NCAA and NIT tournaments.
In 1967, the Flyers made it to the NCAA championship game after
demolishing North Carolina 76-62 in the semifinal, then lost 79-64 to UCLA
in the final at Freedom Hall in Louisville, KY. In 1974, the Flyers lost
111-100 in a triple overtime game to UCLA in the second round.
Plenty of superior players led the charge, with Don Meineke, John Horan,
Bill Uhl, Jack Sallee, Chuck Grigsby and Junior Norris the stars in the
1950s, giving way to the likes of Don May, Roosevelt Chapman, Hank Finkel,
Jim Paxson Jr., Negele Knight, Donald Smith and Johnny Davis in succeeding
seasons. Blackburn finished 352-141 with his players, attending 10 NITs and one NCAA. Donoher followed with a 437-275 record, going to eight NCAAs and seven NITs
Along the way, it was decided UD's old 6,000-plus seat Fieldhouse was
too small. UD Arena was built and opened in 1969 with more than 13,000
seats. Since that opening, the Flyers have played to an average crowd of
nearly 12,000, annually ranking among the top 30 college attendance figures. Just after the turn of the century, UD Arena was renovated, complete with
a restaurant and new training facilities for the team.
UD also left independent status after the 1987-88 season, joining first
the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, then the Great Midwest Conference and
finally, for the 1995-96 season, the Atlantic 10 Conference, where they now
play under coach Brian Gregory.
Wright State University
Wright State, the new school in Fairborn just east of Dayton, began playing basketball in Division II in 1970 under coach John Ross, who had previously led Dayton Belmont High School to the State championship in 1964. Ross coached the Raiders five seasons, posting winning records in his final three.
Eventually, Ralph Underhill took over the program. In his 18 seasons, WSU
had 10 seasons of 20 or more victories and in 1983, Underhill’s team won
the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 28-4 record.
Wright State's biggest stars during the Underhill years were Bill Edwards, who went on to a long pro career in Europe, and Vitaly Potapenko, who has played several seasons in the NBA.
With Underhill, the Raiders moved to Division I in 1987-88 and shortly afterward moved into the 10,000-seat Nutter Center on campus. The Raiders made
their first NCAA tournament in that division following the 1992-93 season.
In 2007, the Raiders reached the NCAA again under first-year coach Brad
Brownell, whose star player was DaShaun Wood, the Horizon League's Player of
Sinclair, part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, is a
Division II school playing in NJCAA Region XII and in the Ohio Community
College Athletic Association. The school has had basketball teams since 1964 and during the 1987-88 season recorded a team-record 30 victories.
Kevin O'Neill was the most successful coach, recording a 203-106 (65.7
percent) record in 12 seasons from 1968-80. Don Cundiff followed with a
305-225 record (57.5 percent) from 1980-97.
On the pro front, local businessman Milt Kantor operated a World Basketball League team for nearly two seasons before the league folded in 1992.
In 1991, the Dayton Wings won the championship with a 36-15 record under coach Pat Haley, who was coach of the year. Stars of the team were Perry McDonald, Alfredrick Hughes, Troy Lewis and Eddie Hughes. The team was 26-7 in 1992 when the league disbanded.