Bronx College Hoops Star Floyd Lane Discusses College Hoops History at MSG

Howard Goldin
New York, NY---The history of great NCAA basketball moments at the “Mecca” of college basketball, Madison Square Garden were recalled by several of its participants on Wednesday afternoon at the Garden.
MSG is celebrating its 80th anniversary of hosting college basketball this year. Since 1934, more than 3,200 games have been played in that hallowed venue.

The NCAA National Tournament began in 1939, one year after the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) originated. MSG was often the site for the two tourneys in their early years. The Garden hosted first round games of the NCAA eight times, 1952, 1955-1961. It was the site of East Regionals in 1949 and 1951. Championship contests were held there in 1943-1948 and 1950.

The final and unique championship was discussed on Wednesday by two of the players of the winning City College of New York (CCNY) team, Floyd Lane and Ron Nadell. They were part of little known team that was victorious in both the NCAA and NIT in the same season. As Nadell accurately and proudly stated, “This never happened before and will never happen again.”

The NIT was played earlier than the NCAA in 1950. Nadell explained, “Nobody heard of CCNY. We were the last team to be invited to the NIT. Nobody expected us to win except us.” The Beavers confronted Adolph Rupp’s #2 nationally ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats in the quarter-finals. To Rupp’s surprise and anger, the Jewish and Black players, he refused to shake hands with before the contest, crushed the Wildcats, 89-50. Nadell said the snub “gave us added incentive and motivation” and the one-sided win “proved a point.” In the championship game, CCNY defeated Bradley, 69-61.

The less important of the two events in that era, the NCAA, was played in late March. By virtue of its victory in the NIT, CCNY was one of the eight invitees. History repeated itself in the final as CCNY and Bradley met again and CCNY was again the victor, 71-68.  
Unlike many narcissistic college and pro players today, Lane spoke with gratitude of his coaches, "I am thinking about our great coach, Nat Holman, assistant Bobby Sands, high school coaches and the different people we met. We were very fortunate for the coaches we played for."
Interestingly, the two octogenarians remember their coach of 64 years ago differently. Floyd spoke very positively of an older man who had been coaching the team for 30 years when they made their unique accomplishment, "We called Holman the professor. he was into everything we were doing." Nadell describes a much more remote individual, "Holman was a taskmaster, a perfectionist, he wasn't a father figure."

Lane, who was barred from entering the NBA because of his college days participation in the point-shaving scandal, has come far from his days as a naïve and very young man. He played in the Eastern League and coached the sport he loves on the high school and junior college level in the New York area where he still resides. He is currently the coach at George Washington High School in Washington Heights. Although he does believe he would have been "pretty good" as a player and coach in the NBA, he carries no chip on his shoulder.

His positive influence on younger people can be summed up in the words of former Knicks player Cal Ramsey, who was also on the panel,

"They [Lane and CCNY teammate Ed warner] helped teach me the fundamentals 0f rebounding. They also talked to me about the importance of getting my degree. They were very encouraging. I'm always indebted to these guys."

On Wednesday Lane spoke with vehemence against youngsters leaving college prior to graduation to play ball, "It's so unfortunate. It's such a  shame leaving college after one year. your education is vital. You'll never be sorry if you stay. You're there to develop yourself as a person." He remembers with gratitude and agreement his mother's admonition to remain in school until graduation.

As the Garden was the scene of the press conference, all present spoke of its great influence upon those fortunate to play there. Lane, a Bronx native who was a star of the team, admitted that so many local young men chose to remain in college in New York City because “the attraction was playing in the Garden.”  On the eve of the East Regionals at MSG, Nadell, a native of Brooklyn,  claimed, "This (MSG) is where all college tournaments should be played."

Others on the panel concurred. Dwayne “Pearl” Washington remarked, “If you didn’t play in Madison Square Garden, you didn’t play anyplace.” Even though, Felipe Lopez was brought up in the Dominican Republic and did not come to New York until he was 14 years of age, MSG was important to him. Lopez, a heavily recruited high school star, said the reason he chose to attend St. John’s University was because, “I wanted to be sure I was in that [MSG] history.”

The history of college basketball at MSG will continue on Friday with the East Regional in which Connecticut will face Iowa State in game one and Virginia will play against Michigan State in the second game. The final will be held at the Garden on Sunday when one of the four teams will enter the Final Four. New special memories should be provided to players and fans during the two days.