‘Cats win Kentucky Derby: April 12, 1985

Philly welcomes champions

By Robert Jordan ’85

The triumphant Wildcats returned home to a Center City victory parade of 75,000 cheering, confetti-throwing, beer-lubricated fans the morning after their conquest of the Georgetown Hoyas in Lexington, Ky.

Ed Pinckney, the 6-foot-9 center, held the team’s championship trophy as the parade progressed to the John F. Kennedy Plaza where politicians and Villanova administrators congratulated the team.

“I told you when we left school last Wednesday we were going to have a heck of a party,” coach Rollie Massimino yelled. “It was a great victory, not only for us, but for Villanova, for you and especially for Philadelphia.”

Villanova students, some with the paw-print trademark of the team painted on their cheeks, and some with hangovers from the night before, intermingled with office workers, construction crews and vendors already hawking Villanova 1985 NCAA Champions’ T-shirts.

Everywhere there were signs and banners reading: “What the hell’s a Hoya?,” “Welcome home Wildcats” and “Cinderella? The Shoe Fits.”

The Rev. John M. Driscoll, O.S.A., University president, praised the team’s toughness and ability throughout the long season, and Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode, via a telephone link-up from Pittsburgh, thanked the Wildcats for being such a source of pride for the Delaware Valley.

The welcoming celebration began at Philadelphia International Airport shortly after 10:30 a.m., when the team’s airplane touched down. About 100 fans turned out to greet the players and watch them board a chartered bus for Center City.

The best seats for the revelry may have been those held by office workers in the 2 Penn Center complex. They watched people climb the trees for a better view, saw a man try to steal a TV news camera, and watched some other people squash the top of a TV news car.

President Reagan honored the champion Wildcats at a Rose Garden reception April 4. “You not only represent sportsmen of great talent, you represent the sprit of overcoming great odds that Americans love so much,” the president said.

“You are being called the ‘Cinderella team,’ but I don’t see anyone around here who could fit into a glass slipper,” the President joked, while the team members and Coach Massimino laughed behind him.

In addition to Massimino and most valuable player Ed Pinckney, Reagan singled out for special praise team trainer Jake Nevin, who was seated in a wheelchair on the lawn. “Jake, I know how much you mean to this team, and to all the students of Villanova,” Reagan said.

Pinckney presented Reagan with a Villanova jacket embroidered with “Mr. President,” making him an honorary Wildcat.

No dynasty in Georgetown

By Michael Irons ’85

Cinderella did not stay out until midnight, but she did not need to; she was finished by 11:04 p.m. There was no glass slipper lift behind, but there were many shattered predictions of a dynasty and of the invincibility of the prince, the Georgetown Hoyas.

Georgetown was being compared to the great UCLA teams of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, and Pat Ewing was being heralded as the best collegiate player of all time. At game time the Wildcats were a nine and a half point underdog, which is incredibly large for a championship game in any sport. Villanova defied the odds, and the 70 to 1 long-shots at the start of the tournament, beat the basketball experts and the Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64.

“We’re going to have to play a perfect game. We know they’re the No. 1 team in the United States and probably one of the best in the history of collegiate basketball,” Coach Rollie Massimino commented the day before the game. A perfect game was needed and a perfect game was exactly what Coach Massimino got. The Cats shot nine for 10 in the second half on their way to setting an NCAA tournament championship game record of 78.6 percent shooting from the floor.

“This is the greatest moment in Villanova basketball history. These kids are just great. People wrote us off but they perservered. The elation and jubilation that I feel right now is really unbelievable. This is truly a tremendous, tremendous feat,” Coach Massimino proclaimed moments after the net cutting had finished on the court.

“We did not run a delay game but we just tried to control the tempo. You have to credit Gary McLain. It just is mind-boggling the way he handled the pressure. He is the most unsung player in the whole tournament. Without him there is no way we win this game,” Massimino said in praise of McLain. The senior guard was named to the all-tournament team along with Ed Pinckney, Harold Jensen, Dwayne McClain and Ewing. It was only the second time in tournament history that four players from one team have been named to the all-tournament team, the other team being UCLA.

Georgetown had leads of six twice in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Good defensive pressure, rebounding and six points from McClain enabled the Cats to get within one point with 2:33 remaining. Villanova held the ball until 14 seconds, when Harold Pressley took a shot, got his rebound back and laid it in with four seconds remaining to give the Cats a 29-28 halftime lead.

In the second half, Villanova unleashed an incredible shooting attack upon the Hoyas, making nine of 10 shots. The only miss was a McCLain jumper, which was blocked by Ewing. The Cats continually waited patiently for the right opportunity, often running a couple of minutes off the clock before going for a shot. The fact that all but one of these shots went in made this offensive game plan extremely effective. “We executed really well in the second. Hitting for 78 percent made me look very good out there, ” explained Massimino.

“The game was very close, with neither team leading by more than three points for most for the second half. At the 6:45 mark of the half, Pinckney scored on a drive trough the lane and put the Cats up by five, which prompted Georgetown coach John Thompson to call a timeout. The Hoyas then went on a six-point run of their own to recapture the lead with less than five minutes remaining in the contest. Pinckney lost the ball on Villanova’s next possession and when the Hoyas came back down the court, they went into a four corner delay in an attempt to ice the game. But Bill Martin bounced a pass off Horace Broadnax’s foot and McClain retrieved the ball to give the Cats a chance to take the lead.

Jensen, Villanova’s spark in the tournament, hit a 16-foot jumper which put the Wildcats ahead for good.

Villanova made 11 of 14 free throws in the final two minutes to prevent any attempt by Georgetown to somehow pull off a miracle last second win. Jensen inbounded the ball to McClain, who sprawled on the court as the final two seconds elapsed from the clock, destroying any dreams of repeating by Hoya fans ad giving Villanova faithful a long waited-for national championship.

“No one in America knows how hard Villanova worked. This is what happens when you work hard. You win a national championship,” shouted an emotional McLain.

“It was very physical inside, you’re always aware of Pat Ewing. My teammates were behind me 100 percent. Their pressure [Georgetown’s] was relentless, it was so quick and its wear and tear just takes a toll on you,” commented Pinckney, the tournaments Most Outstanding Player.

“You get emotionally drained as well as physically from such a game,” added McLain.

“No one believed we could win, but I did,” Massimino shouted on the court. And in the end that’s all that mattered, believing in yourself.