Assistant Sports Editor
It has been 125 years since Dr. James Naismith climbed a ladder and nailed the first peach basket on a wall inside the Armory Street court in Springfield, Mass., and that is cause for celebration.
On Dec. 10, Alumni Relations will be sponsoring an event that includes a three point contest during the women’s basketball game, where the winners from the male and female brackets will receive a $125 gift card to the school store, a men’s basketball alumni game at 12:30, the women’s basketball game against Worcester St. at 1:00, the men’s basketball game against Williams at 3:00, a women’s basketball alumni game at 3:30, and team dinners at 7:00 to wrap up the jam-packed day of festivities. Legendary Springfield men’s basketball coach Ed Bilik will be honored at the dinner as well.
Players and coaches went the extra mile to spread the word about the event to all basketball alumni.
“The team had a phone-a-thon about a month ago where we cold-called every single alumni of the basketball program,” said junior captain Ben Diamond. “It was such a great experience to talk on the phone with former players, learning about their experiences, and getting them excited for the anniversary event. Also, it was cool to hear former ballers wish us luck on our season, and to hear the passion they still have for the Pride.”
Diamond believes that the event is important for more reasons than just celebrating the 125th anniversary of basketball.
“I think it’s important to have an event that not only honors the anniversary of the game, but one that also honors all the former members of the basketball program,” he said. “When you have a chance to bring everyone back, it’s a truly special opportunity for all of us.”
The day will be filled with exciting events, but for most attendees, they are just happy to see some old friends.
“I can’t wait to get together with everybody again,” said Ryan Coburn, class of 2012. “I am able to stay in touch and see a lot of former teammates throughout the years, but having so many of them together in one place will be something that may never happen again.”
Most alumni can agree, that once you leave Springfield College, you want to come back, and an event like this is fulfilling that feeling.
“If you ask anybody that has ever played a sport at Springfield College, they will say that they miss the community,” said 2016 Springfield College Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Derek Yvon. “Any time we can all get back together and reminisce about the good old days and tell our funny stories is always a fun time.”
Legendary Springfield men’s basketball coach Ed Bilik will be honored at the event. Bilik was the men’s basketball coach from 1966 to 1986. He boasts a winning percentage of 0.608 and had 18 winning seasons out of his 20 here at Springfield College.
Current men’s basketball head coach Charlie Brock played under Bilik, and was an assistant on his coaching staff as well.
Brock feels as though he has learned a lot from his time with his coach.
“One of the big things I got from coach was to take preparation seriously,” he said. “It is the most important thing for a coach. The second thing would be to remember that being a coach is to be a teacher, first and foremost.”
Bilik’s impact on his players goes beyond Brock. Tom Colette, class of 1980, has infused some of Bilik’s coaching strategies with his own throughout his career.
“His practices were impeccable,” said Colette. “The amount of time and preparation that went into practice was amazing. I adopted some of his coaching strategies from my time here at Springfield College and used them with my own brand of coaching to this day.”
The rich history and connection that Springfield College has with the game of basketball played a big part in most alumnus decision to attend the institution.
“The history that Springfield College has with basketball was definitely a factor when I decided to enroll,” said Yvon. “I also grew up in Springfield, I was a local kid and my grandfather lived right around the corner from the school. The rich history that basketball has at Springfield College was always very exciting to me.”
“Making my decision to come to Springfield was a mix of the history of the school being ‘The Birthplace of Basketball,’ the Humanics philosophy, and the many great interactions I had with the team at the time and others I met while on campus,” said Heather Lewis, class of 2016. “I knew Springfield College was where I wanted to be.”
The men’s and women’s teams will also be wearing throwback uniforms during their games to commemorate basketball’s quasquicentennial anniversary.
The game has evolved in numerous ways from one peach basket nailed to a wall in the Springfield armory 125 years ago, and Springfield College has evolved with it. The opportunity for basketball alumni from years past to once again walk through the doors of Blake Arena, watch Pride basketball, and rekindle relationships with old friends, will be a reminder for all basketball players, past or present, why they chose The Birthplace as their home in the first place.
Gage can be reached on Twitter at @GageNutter