NEW YORK – Three coaches whose careers were marked by longevity, loyalty and success have been chosen as this year's recipients for the Lapchick Character Award,
Hall of Famer Pete Carril of Princeton, Jim Phelan of Mount St. Mary's and Debbie Ryan of Virginia will receive the award Nov. 17 at Madison Square Garden, it was announced Thursday.
Each spent at least 29 years at one school and they combined to win more than 2,000 games while overseeing programs considered as strong academically as they were successful on the court.
The award is presented by a group that includes Joe Lapchick biographer and former player Gus Alfieri. It recognizes those who have shown the character traits of the late Hall of Famer who coached at St. John's and with the New York Knicks.
Carril, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1998, was the coach whose teams ran the backdoor cut to such efficiency that the Ivy Leaguers were able to scare some of the nations top programs in the NCAA tournament time and again. The Tigers finally pulled off the big upset by beating defending champion UCLA in the opening round in 1996.
That was the last of Carril's 514 wins at Princeton, a 29-year run that included 13 Ivy League titles and 11 NCAA tournament appearances. He coached for one season at Lehigh.
Phelan won 830 games in 49 seasons at Mount St. Mary's, the longest tenure at one school and the second-most all-time to Phog Allen's 50 seasons. He led the Mountaineers to the Division II national championship in 1962 and four other Final Four appearances. After Mount St. Mary's moved to Division I, Phelan led them to two NCAA tournament appearances.
The Northeast Conference named their coach of the year award after him and he was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Coaches around the country honored him when he announced his retirement by wearing a bow tie, Phelan's sideline trademark.
Ryan's only head coaching job was at Virginia and it lasted for 34 years. She won 739 games, leading the Cavaliers to three Final Four appearances and 11 Atlantic Coast Conference titles while establishing a reputation as one of the staunchest supporters of NCAA rules. She coached the U.S. team in the 2001 World University Games and the 2003 Pan Am Games and was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
Ryan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2000 and she became a major fundraiser in an effort to beat the disease.
Previous winners of the Lapchick Award include Naismith Hall of Famers Lou Carnesecca, Dean Smith, Pat Summitt, John Thompson, Bob Hurley Sr., Jody Conradt and the late Kay Yow, as well as Jack Curran and Gene Keady.
The award is sponsored by D'Agostino supermarkets.