Earlier this month the MAAC revealed its latest class to be inducted to the league's "Honor Roll," in which honorees are enshrined in "The MAAC Experience" exhibit at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Each member institution has one male and one female basketball-related individual inducted annually. Those honored need not have played in the MAAC, only to have played at schools that are currently affiliated with the conference.
Those selected will attend a dinner event on Saturday, March 8, 1014, at the Hall of Fame Court of Drames, and each honoree will be profiled in the game program for the 2014 MAAC Basketball Championshipo tournament. Honorees will also be recognized at halftime of the men's tournament's quarterfinal round game, session 5 of the event's schedule.
Here's a brief thumbnail description of honorees. Your hoopscribe can't begin to say he the play of all those selected. But, I will include some personal thoughts about some.
- Frank Swiatek: He played from 1962-65 and led Canisius in scoring and rebounding (22.3 pints, 7.9 rebounds) as a senior. His 1962-63 team ad advanced to the championship game of the NIT.
- Dr. Ellen Conley: She has been primarily an administrator at Canisius since 1970. Under her direction the women's athletic program there was formed and grew from one club-level team to seven varsity teams.
- George Bisacca: He was the head coach of the men's basketball team from 1958-68 and led the program's transition to Division I. In 10 seasons he led the Stags to a 151-87 record and three of his players were drafted by the NBA. Another, Nick Macarchuk, became a successful long-time coach.
- Dianne Nolan: Head coach of the women's team for 28 years, recording 456 career victories, four trips to the NCAA Tournament and one WNIT berth. She was named the conference's Coach of the Year five times. She is currently head coach of the Lafayette women's program.
- Kevin Hamilton: He scored 1,412 career points, which was fourth on the Gaels' all-time list when he finished his career in the late 1970's. His .883 free-throw percentage for the 1976-77 season still is among the best in school history. His teams recorded an 84-31 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in four seasons. He was picked in the fourth round of the NBA draft.
- Celeste Grier-Jonathan: She led her Iona teams from the late 1970's to two Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Regional Appearances. She averaged 13.0 points and 6.6 rebounds over her career, while scoring 1,441 career points.
- Luis Flores: He began his college career at Rutgers before transferring to Manhattan where he played his final three seasons and scored 2,046 points there, the eighth-best total all time in conference history. His teams of the early 2000's went to two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT. The 6-2 guard was an unyielding competitor who played with an economy of motion. He was a two-time MAAC Player of the Year and two-time MAAC Championship tournament MVP. For sure, one of the top five or six men's players in conference history.
- Marianne Reilly: She played at Manhattan from 1978-82 and became the program's first women's player to surpass 1,000 career points (1,305), along with 860 rebounds. She led the Jaspers to their first-ever winning season as a junior. She is currently the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Fordham, overseeing compliance and eligibility and she also directs the department's lifeskills program and is an administrator for a number of intercollegiate sports.
- Mike Hart: A local guy, a product of Poughkeepsie, who stayed home to become a standout at Marist. At 6-5 he was a bit of an undersized forward who was still a force both inside and outside. Despite playi8ng just nine games a junior, due to a leg injury, he still scored 1,343 career points, which was the best on the Marist career list when he graduated. He is still No. 8 on the school's scoring list.
- Julianne Viani: A 5-8 guard, she scored 1,447 career points at Marist, still No. 5 on the career list. She was among the early standouts in current coach Brian Giorgis' tenure at the school and teams she played on recorded a 113-20 overall record. She also had 411 assists, third all-time in Marist history. She is currently a TV sports announcer and has been the analyst for the MAAC women's basketball championships, shown on ESPNU, for the past two seasons.
- Ron Kornegay: One of his program's all-time best, a first team all-NAIA selection in 1968 and '69. He was an extremely quick guard who is still Monmouth's all-time leading scorer with 2,526 career points. His teams posted a 112-17 record. He was also the team's coach for 10 years (1977-87) and is currently the director of athletics at Manasuan High School.
- Joan Martin: She has been a fixture at her school in a number of capacities, first as a coach for 13 seasons, beginning in 1969. She also served as softball coach for 11 years and field hockey coach for eight years. She moved into administration on a full-time basis in 1982 and has spearheaded the establishment and growth of women's athletics at the school where it now an 11-sport program.
- Juan Mendez: We recall him as an irrepressible inside force as a rugged 6-8, 245-pound forward forward, certainly among the top five or six to ever play the position in the MAAC. At Niagara he scored 2,210 career points, fourth best all-time in the conference. He also had 1,053 rebounds, No. 6 on the conference list. In 2005 he became one of just two Purple Eagles to be named to the Associated Press All-America Team, earning honorable mention designation for averaging 23.5 points and 10.6 rebounds. He joined Niagara great Calvin Murphy on that list.
- Joan Thornton: The first scholarship player in Niagara women's basketball history, and the first to surpass the 1,000-point career mark (1,106 points). She is still first in all-time field-goal percentage (62.1) at the school. Her Niagara teams compiled an 84-19 record and she earned first-team Academic All-America honors in 1980.
- Keith Gaither: A familiar presence at the school's basketball facility for every Bobcats' home game for many years, recognized universally at the school as the No. 1 fan for both the men's and women's programs. Being relegated to a wheelchair and slowed by cerebral palsy has not dimmed his passion for basketball at the school. Quinnipiac honored him two years ago, declaring him as the Bobcats' No. 1 fan, and he was greeted with a standing ovation.
- Pat Hayes: A behind-the-scenes contributor, she is accounting secretary in the Bursar's Office at the school. She regularly interacts with students and student-athletes, always with a smile and a kind word, as well as being one of the most-dedicated fans of school athletics. She was recognized in 1999 with the school's "Behind the Scenes Award," and, again, in 2004 with the university's Excellence in Service to Students Award.
- Jack Madden: A two-sport standout (1956-59), he scored 1,341 points with 800 rebounds in basketball and was also an outstanding pitcher on the school's baseball team. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds following his junior season, but went on to a prolific career as a professional basketball official both in the NBA and ABA. He is one of only seven officials to have worked 25 NBA Championships.
- Kelly Eckardt-Zawodny: She was a star during the school's early years of Division I basketball, finishing with 1,652 career points and 848 rebounds. She averaged 21.9 points as a senior and was a three-time team MVP while at Rider.
- Don Kennedy: He is the school's all-time winningest men's basketball coach with a record of 323-1985 from 1950 to 1972. His teams went to five NIT events and he coached eight 1,000-point scorers. His teams posted winning records in 19 of his 22 seasons, including a program record 24 victories in 1967-68, when it finished fourth in the NIT.
- Tonya Grant: A dominant force in the paint from 1986-90 who finished her career at the school as its all-time leading scorer (2,020 points) and fourth-leading rebounder (964). She is currently the conference's fifth all-time leading scorer and was a two-time first-team all-MAAC choice as well as the conference's Player of the Year for the 1989-90 season. Her teams compiled a 79-33 record.
- Billy Harrell: While we weren't around when Harrell played (1949-52), his teams compiled a 70-19 record. The 1949-50 team, of which he swas the leading scorer and rebounder, finished 27-5 and won the National Catholic Invitational Tournament. He was a UPI Honorable Mention All-American in 1952 and, later, went on to play four seasons of major league baseball , three with the Cleveland Indians and one with the Boston Red Sox. He is universally recognized as the best all-around athlete ever produced by New York's Capital Region.
- Lisa (Serafino) Ruggiero: A 5-4 guard who used quickness, a superlative outside shot and court sense to succeed. She averaged 5.1 assists per game in 1992-93 and finished with 364 career assists, No. 7 all-time at Siena. She was also a GTE/CoSIDA Academic First Team selection.