Last night, Rutgers honored the 1966-1967 men's basketball team, the first to ever make the postseason. They finished 22-7 and third place in the NIT that season. Back then, the NIT was more prestigious than it is today. The team was led by Bob Lloyd and Jim Valvano on the court and coached by Bill Foster. Lloyd was Rutgers first all-american and the first to have his jersey retired, #14. He scored over 2,000 points in just three seasons (freshman couldn't play varsity), averaging 27 points a game for his career. His brother Dick, went on to be coach of Rutgers in the seventies and hired Dick Vitale as an assistant. They are credited with recruiting the nucleus of the greatest Rutgers team of all-time, the 1976 Final Four team. However, that team would have not been possible if not for the emergence of Rutgers basketball, started by the 66-67 team.
As for Jim Valvano, he had the nickname "Mr. Defense", even though he still scored 1,122 points in his career. Valvano won the Senior Athlete of the Year at Rutgers in 1967. Of course, Valvano is famous for leading North Carolina State to the national championship in 1983, but he got his coaching start at Rutgers. He was an assistant on the varsity and coached the freshman for two seasons, before becoming the head coach at Johns Hopkins, Bucknell, Iona and ultimately N.C. State. Valvano's greatest contribution in life was his establishment of the V Foundation for cancer research, which has raised over 150 million dollars. Valvano's close friend and former roommate, Bob Lloyd, chaired the foundation for many years.
It was announced last night at the banquet that Rutgers will be renaming "the Barn", the College Avenue Gym where the great Rutgers teams of the sixties and seventies played, after Jim Valvano. It is long overdue and Rutgers has made an effort to celebrate Valvano more in recent years. A big reason for that has been the return of Eddie Jordan, who makes a point to educate his current players on past teams and Valvano himself. There is now a mural displaying Valvano's image at the RAC.
At today's game between Rutgers and Seton Hall, the 1966-1967 team will be honored at halftime. It's a fitting tribute for the team that started a great run of success for the Rutgers men's basketball program that extended into the early eighties. It all started with the team led by Foster, Lloyd and Valvano!
Our own Bob Cancro attended Rutgers right after the success of this team, and he shares his thoughts here:
When I arrived on the Banks in 1969, I really didn't know much about Rutgers athletics. It was college football's centennial, and so much of the focus was on the Princeton game in late September. But then basketball season came around, and I found out that Rutgers was a basketball school. Eat your heart out, Dave.
We were just two years removed from the NIT run where we placed third. That was the Bobby Lloyd-Jim Valvano team. It was the beginning of a golden age for Rutgers basketball. And back then, with the NCAA only taking 22 teams into the tournament, the NIT - which where every game was played at MSG - was a very big deal. With the Barn seating only 3000 or so (virtually all students) it was a hot ticket. Or rather non-ticket, since all we had to do was show our ID. People lined up with food trays from the Commons, eating dinner on line while waiting to get in. And as Bill Foster, and then Dick Lloyd and Tom Young, built the team as an eastern power, it was preparing for that glorious run in 1975-76. During my four years at Rutgers (in an era when freshmen only got their final three years to play varsity) the men went 58-40, making one NIT. But two years later, there was the first NCAA bid ever. Eat your heart out, Dave.