Paul Lonardo con Homegrown: The Making of the 1972-73 Providence College Friars
The Providence College Friars thrilling 1972-73 season began, in some ways, long before the players got together for their first practice. It was the culmination of fate, a little fortune, and the drawing power of this small Catholic college with a history of great former players which ultimately led to what has been called PC’s magic carpet ride to the 1973 Final Four of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.The thirteen players who were part of the greatest team in Providence College basketball history were all talented young players. Their collective skills and the effort they gave all year contributed to the immense success the Friars had that season. Alongside future NBA player, sharpshooting Kevin Stacom, Nehru King, Fran Costello, Charlie Crawford, Al Baker, and Gary Bello were some of the names that appeared in the box scores after each game, but Providence featured two local players who formed the nucleus of the team and dominated the headlines.PC’s dominant 6’9 center Marvin Barnes was born in Providence and grew up in the shadows of Providence College. His development into the punishing rebounder he became, an unstoppable force on both ends of the court, was rooted in the physical style of basketball Barnes learned to play in the inner city of Providence. He would go to play pro ball, becoming the ABA Rookie of the Year, and later play in the NBA. Of all the stars in the constellation of the Providence College basketball universe, perhaps none shines more brightly than the 6’0 Italian kid from North Providence, Ernie DiGregorio, who became widely known simply as Ernie D after a RI sportscaster doing play-by-play had trouble pronouncing his last name quickly enough. Like Barnes, DiGregorio was a local product who played basketball on the playgrounds and in the school gyms just a couple miles away from the Providence College campus. After helping put the Friars basketball program on the map, DiGregorio was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, and immediately impacted the league by earning Rookie of the Year honors.Today the NBA employs a draft lottery system for teams to select eligible players from the college ranks, but it wasn’t always this way. Soon after its formation, the NBA was struggling to survive. In order to increase its fan base, in 1949 the league set out to take advantage of the regional popularity of college stars and instituted the territorial pick. In the territorial draft, teams had the option prior to the regular draft of using their first-round pick to select a player who played college ball within a 50-mile radius.Obviously, this system shaped the early years of the association and the territorial pick controlled the NBA through 1965, when the league voted to phase out the territorial draft. The territorial draft had been dissolved by the time the players who would made up the 1972-73 PC Friars were being recruited to play in college, and although Marvin Barnes and Ernie DiGregorio both had the ability to play for much bigger schools and basketball programs that would potentially garner them greater recognition, they chose the family-like environment of Providence College.You will certainly never see another collection of homegrown collegiate basketball talent on the same court at the same time, the likes of which was produced at PC’s Alumni Hall in the early 1970’s, becoming the heart of soul of the 1972-73 team that generated so much interest and popular appeal that their home games had to be relocated to a new 14,000-seat arena in downtown Providence to satisfy the unprecedented demand for tickets.Incredibly, it has been nearly fifty years since this magic basketball season in Providence. In this book, readers can relive the excitement of that season, while being taken on a historical journey from the earliest days of Providence College basketball history straight through to the PC’s Final Four matchup against Memphis State in the 1973 NCAA tournament.