Friar Basketball

Remembering Bruce “Soup” Campbell

Soup

Bruce Campbell passed away Friday morning at the age of 56 after a lengthy battle with cancer. One of the all-time Friar greats, “Soup” was was elected to the Providence College Hall of Fame in 2004. Below are some of my personal reflections on this all-time Friar great.

The first time I heard the name Bruce Campbell was after my junior year in high school in 1973. PC, with Ernie Digregorio and Marvin Barnes, had just went on their famous run to the Final Four before being stopped by Memphis State (and a heartbreaking knee injury to Marvin). After that Final Four PC was as big in Rhode Island as any of Boston’s four professional sports teams — and I was the ultimate PC fan.

During the offseason I went out and bought all of the college basketball preseason magazines I could find, as much for the recruiting news as for the PC articles (I am sure many of you remember Street and Smith’s back then). PC had arrived and everyone knew the only way to sustain it was through recruiting. That is when I became a recruiting junkie. I opened up this one magazine and they had a full page picture of their pick for preseason high school player of the year: Bruce Campbell, from Wilbur Cross in New Haven, CT. “The National Player of the Year is in New Haven, CT? We HAVE to get this guy,” I thought to myself.

That year Wilbur Cross went on to have an undefeated season being led by Campbell and “Jiggy” Williamson. They were named the #1 high school team in the country by many publications. In April when the basketball signing period started Bruce Campbell indeed became a Friar and was joined in his class by Bill Eason and Bob Misevicius to form what was considered the #3 recruiting class in the country. Dave Gavitt used to say all the time that “we are not North Carolina, we just play North Carolina.” Well, for that one recruiting class I thought we were North Carolina.

This recruiting class was huge. It was the difference between PC getting lucky having a couple of great teams, and being the dominant program in New England – one of the top two or three programs in the East during the decade of the 70s.

And Bruce Campbell was the key. He was the big time recruit who said ‘yes’ to PC. He had over 300 schools recruiting him and he came to Providence. For that reason alone he is one of my all-time favorites.

Fast forward to September 1974 and I had just arrived on the PC campus for my freshman orientation. I was on campus for about 30 minutes when I went to a soda machine to get a Coke. A guy in back of me asked if I had change for a dollar and I turned around and there was Bruce Campbell. That is when it actually hit me that I really am going to Providence College (unfortunately, Soup was out of luck as I used all my change on my own soda).

Soup wound up having a great career at PC, finishing with 1829 points and 949 rebounds. A couple of highlights I remember during Soup’s career are the night he led the Friars in scoring when PC beat #1 Michigan in double overtime in the inaugural Industrial National Classic, and the game after the Blizzard of ’78 when PC beat North Carolina at the Civic Center on a Saturday after the entire state was closed down all week due to the effects of the storm.

Bruce was a prototype of today’s small forwards.  He was able to dribble, pass, and shoot at 6’9, which was very rare back then. He never made it to the NBA, but had a very productive 10 year career in Europe.

Whenever I ran into Soup at a PC event after his career was over two things became apparent. Bruce really loved Providence College and he really loved people in general. Although we did not really know each other personally while I was at PC, he always had a big smile and hello for me whenever we ran into each other – and he always loved to talk about the Friars.

The last time I saw Soup was at the PC Elite Camp this past summer where he was the proud father cheering on his son who was a participant at the camp. It really brought a smile to your face.

Someone who knew Soup very well, Sean Holley,  had this to say about him:

“PC has had some major figures come through its program, but I can’t think of anyone that has touched as many across the years as Soup. He has been a big brother to many and he loved his PC basketball. I was blessed to have met Soup in 1980 when I first moved to Providence, and he was as attentive and caring to OT (Otis Thorpe) and I then as he was late last week when I last spoke with him. He’s a great man that will be missed, but one who has left many great memories.”

Below is a link to a video that Cox taped at a Providence Fullcourt Boardroom Event in November 2011 in which Soup was in attendance and featured in the video. The video shows how much he really cared about the PC family. The Fullcourt Boardroom part starts about 2 and 1/2 minutes in.

658 Comments

  1. Jack McGuinness

    March 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    The New Haven and Providence College Communities have lost their “happy warrior” from its Pre- Big East glory days. Soup was quick with a smile, a laugh or a shout out from across the street, the “Quad” or in the “Dunk”. He was a genuine human being which transcended his many skills as a basketball player. He had the ability to make people from all walks of life feel good. As people learn of his passing, thoughts of Soup will only end with a smile. Rest In Peace- Bruce- you will be missed by many.

  2. Rosie Savage

    March 13, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Just wanted to share my great sadness at the passing of a great man Soup Campbell. From one of your many friends in Ireland. We had some good times. Rosie Savage

  3. Deirdre Connolly

    March 14, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Am so sad to hear of Soups passing what a great friend he was will playing in Belfast my thoughts and prayers go ou to MJ his Son and family my memories are amazing we loved you xxx

  4. Peter LePage

    June 6, 2013 at 1:51 am

    So sad to hear this news. I have a smile on my face thinking of how much
    of a great person he was, and how he made me laugh.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.