Friar Basketball

Elite Eight Celebration Recap


The class of 2001 was a year late to the party.  The magical Elite Eight run, led by four Friars who eventually played in the NBA, took place while members of PC’s class of ’01 were seniors in high school, so we were left to hear second-hand accounts of just how crazy it was on campus when a dysfunctional team came together for a March run.

“We missed it by one year” was a popular refrain of the ’01 class who saw head coach Pete Gillen leave for Virginia during their freshman year, an undersized group find their way into the NIT behind Jamel Thomas as sophomores, and the infamous Prime Time incident of 2000 before being rewarded with an unlikely tournament appearance in their final year on campus.

While not yet Providence College students in the spring of 1997, the class of 2001 received our acceptance letters to PC the same weekend that the Friars were shocking second seeded Duke behind 33 points from Derrick Brown.  We could get used to this.

We may have missed it by a year, but the exhilarating run combined with the growing anticipation of spending the next four years at a place as special as Providence are what makes the ’97 so memorable to me.

On Saturday night, Providence celebrated the Elite Eight team of 1997, giving those in attendance the opportunity to hear what made the run special to the players and coaches who made it happen.

The highlights:

  • Hosts John Rooke and Joe Hassett were engaging throughout, sharing their favorite memories of the team, both on and off the court, while also introducing each speaker and leading a question and answer session.  It’s said so often, but Providence is fortunate to have two men with such passion for the college and program serving as the voices of the Friars for nearly 25 years, and on nights like this that passion is fully on display.
  • Now working as a radio broadcaster for the Indiana Pacers, Austin Croshere was unable to make it Saturday, as he is calling Sunday’s Miami Heat-Indiana Pacers game, but he spoke eloquently, via video, about how the 1997 run was his most cherished basketball memory.
  • The school produced a video with highlights from both the March run and the regular season.  The highlights spliced in commentary from the players throughout.
  • One of the biggest takeaways of the night was that this was not only a team that played without fear, but came into every game expecting to win, regardless of the opponent.  Providence President Father Shanley compared Providence defeating college basketball’s royalty to David slaying Goliath, noting that the Friars will always be David in the college basketball landscape.  He continued that he was confident Providence would take the giant down again under Ed Cooley.  Cooley might have had the line of the night moments later when he said he didn’t want to beat Goliath, he wanted to be Goliath.  The 1997 Friars certainly didn’t view themselves as David.
  • Pete Gillen didn’t see them as a big underdog, either.  The Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara shared that he had a conversation with Gillen’s wife after the season in which she told McNamara that Gillen said prior to the season that he thought this team was talented enough to win a national championship.
  • 1997 graduate Mark Gasbarro was entertaining in sharing his memories as a student following the team across the country that March.
  • Jason Murdock was one of the more insightful speakers of the evening, sharing how both the triumphs and low points of the season have served as lessons that he has been able to pass on to his team today. He seems like a great representative of Providence College.
  • God Shammgod didn’t hesitate to share his belief that Cooley would turn things around at Providence.  Noting that he believes it could happen faster than most think, Shammgod talked of history repeating itself with McDonald’s All American Kris Dunn on the way, along with Providence native Ricardo Ledo.
  • As noted on, the event is scheduled to be aired on Cox Cable on May 19 and 23.




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