Dayton is wild about basketball.
Notably during the month of March, community excitement is amped up to the highest level with an assist from the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Our area teams have had numerous championships through the years. Here is a look back at three notable championship seasons.
1962: University of Dayton men
The University of Dayton men’s basketball team became the toast of two towns, the “Big Apple” and the “Gem City,” when it won the National Invitation Tournament in 1962.
“The reaction to UD’s victory was delirium from New York to Dayton,” according to the Dayton Daily News. “With consummate skill and sky-high confidence, the Flyers conveniently outplayed the Redmen of St. John’s of New York to win the title contest, 73-67, before 16,037 Madison Square Garden fans, and achieve the greatest triumph in UD’s athletic history.”
In the midst of celebrating the Flyers’ victory, coach Tom Blackburn, who had coached 10 Flyer teams to the NIT during the previous 12 years in pursuit of a championship, said, “It’s been a long, long time and I’m not going to let go.”
The team was led by center Bill Chmielewski, whose 24 points and 11 rebounds in the championship game helped secure his selection as the most valuable player in the NIT.
Back home in Dayton, the fans went wild.
The newspaper reported a 50-car, horn-honking caravan snaking its way from UD’s fieldhouse to downtown Dayton. Photographs captured students shimmying light poles to remove Red Cross campaign flags and parading along Main Street in celebration.
1980: University of Dayton women
As the final buzzer wailed throughout University of Dayton Arena, coach Maryalyce Jeremiah was lifted onto the shoulders of her team.
The arena, filled with 4,737 cheering fans in 1980, has just witnessed UD win its first-ever national women’s title, the AIAW Division II National Championship, defeating the College of Charleston (S.C.).
“I have 12 kids who have done a great deal for women’s basketball,” Jeremiah said. “They’ve generated excitement, and the community has responded. This is a phenomenal team and I’m just proud to say I’ve been a part of it.”
Ann Meyers, a 6-foot-1 center, scored 40 points to help clinch the win, 83-53. The crowd gave her six separate standing ovations. After the game she told a reporter, “It’s like a dream only now we can really look at it and say, ‘We’re national champions.’”
1983: Wright State Raiders men
The Wright State Raiders became the NCAA Division II champions in 1983 under coach Ralph Underhill.
Underhill, who had taken his team to the NCAA regional tournament in each of the previous four seasons, told a reporter, “There’s no difference between this club and 85 percent of Division I teams. This ball club can play with anybody.”
That year “anybody” was the University of the District of Columbia, ranked first in the national Division II poll.
Forward Gary Monroe, who only played 5 minutes of the first half because of foul trouble, scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime. Four of his teammates also scored in the double digits, according to coverage in the Dayton Daily News.
The final score was 92-73, and Monroe was named team MVP and selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.