Legendary St. John’s University, Jamaica, men’s basketball head coach Lou Carnesecca just received another well-deserved honor to add to his growing list of accolades.
At St. John’s Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 22, the school unveiled a statue of Carnesecca in the lobby of the campus basketball arena that already bears his name. A dedication ceremony followed on Oct. 23. The 96-year-old Carnesecca and his family were on hand for the events.
“It’s a wonderful occasion,” Carnesecca said. “Having the statue here at St. John’s makes it extra special.”
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer remains the winningest coach in St. John’s men’s basketball program history, boasting a 526-200 record at his alma mater. In his 24 years guiding the Johnnies, his teams played in 18 NCAA Tournaments, the 1985 Final Four, and six National Invitation Tournaments.
“It’s a tribute to all the people at St. John’s who helped my career,” Carnesecca said of the statue, designed by sculptor Brian Hanlon, who also created the statue of another St. John’s legend, Joe Lapchick, which stands outside Taffner Field House.
Carnesecca credited his mentors, and especially his good friend Jack Kaiser, who twice hired him to lead the men’s basketball program.
“I was very fortunate to have such wonderful players,” he added. “I soon found out … get good players and good people. That’s important. Good players make you smart.”
Carnesecca’s coaching journey began at St. Ann’s Academy, now Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood. He was the school’s baseball coach, yet when the basketball coach got sick, he was asked to step in to coach hoops. As he said, “I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I inherited a wonderful bunch of players,” Carnesecca said. “They coached me. I learned from them. And I’m still in touch with the three guys who are still living. That goes back to 1952.”
The connections Carnesecca made with his players, coaches, staff members, and fans add to his legacy; he was and is a true man of the people.
“Coach is the reason that so many of our supporters first fell in love with St. John’s Basketball, so it will be fitting that he greets fans as they walk in the door for a game,” St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg said, with reference to the new statue.
In summing up his storied career in just one thought, Carnesecca kept it simple: “It was better than cutting salami at my father’s butcher shop!”
In addition to unveiling the statue, St. John’s also used Homecoming Weekend to induct the nine newest members of its Athletic Hall of Fame:
Mark Jackson: A former standout at Bishop Loughlin H.S., Fort Greene, Jackson was a star point guard on the men’s basketball team in the mid-1980s. He was a two-time All-Big East First Team selection. He went on to have a 17-year NBA career and ranks fourth on the career assist list.
Ralph Addonizio: A baseball and basketball standout at St. Francis Prep, Williamsburg, Addonizio was a power-hitting catcher who helped lead the baseball team to a pair of College World Series appearances during his three seasons.
Kevin Daly: One of the top defenders among men’s soccer players in the nation, as a senior in 1997, he was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-American after leading the Red Storm to a regular-season conference championship and an 18-4-2 overall record.
Joe DePre: DePre was a three-year varsity letter winner for the men’s basketball program from 1967-1970. The Westbury, Long Island, native helped lead the Johnnies to a 63-22 overall record over his three seasons, including back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament in 1968 and 1969.
Jim Hurt: The track and field coach led his squads to 29 consecutive NCAA Championships and won 17 Metropolitan Championships.
Todd Jamison: As a quarterback, the three-time All-American helped guide the Johnnies to a 26-5 record and three first-place finishes in the Met-Intercollegiate Conference.
Harin Lee: Lee is the all-time winningest women’s golfer in St. John’s history. She graduated in 2014 with a program-record 10 individual titles, four All-Big East honors, and two conference championships.
Shenneika Smith: Smith, a 2013 graduate, was St. John’s second-ever WNBA draft pick after being selected 25th overall by the New York Liberty. The former Red Storm women’s basketball standout scored 1,727 points during her collegiate career, the fifth-highest total in program history.
Dagmara Wozniak: Wozniak was a four-time All-American with the St. John’s fencing program from 2006-2011. She won two bronze medals and finished in the top six in all four of her appearances at the NCAA Championships.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.