Flight of the Cardinals: A 100-year history of CUA men's basketball

By Chris McManes

Tradition. Pride. Victory.

The Catholic University men's basketball program, which will celebrate its centennial season in 2010-11, embodies each of these characteristics.

Through its first 99 seasons, the Cardinals have been blessed by some of the finest players and coaches in the country. Most of the players have gone on to successful careers in their chosen professions, including one who was on the staff of a Division I national champion and now leads his own team. Three former coaches have guided teams to the NCAA Division I Tournament.

CUA has enjoyed 55 winning seasons and won 20 or more games 12 times, all since 1992. (CUA only played 20 games three times in its first 34 seasons). The Cardinals have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 13 times, advanced to five Sweet Sixteens and captured eight conference championships. They have produced a national Coach of the Year, numerous All-Americans and one Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. 

All told, CUA has won 1,167 games vs. 1,037 losses. No victory was bigger than the one it enjoyed on March 17, 2001. That night – in Salem, Va. – the Cardinals secured the only team national championship in school history. 

It was CUA's "One Shining Moment."

Cardinals Take the Crown
Nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of west central Virginia, the Salem Civic Center was preparing to host the NCAA Division III national championship game between William Paterson University and CUA. After winning five straight NCAA Tournament games, the Cards stood on the brink of the Promised Land.

The Cardinals (27-5) entered the contest on a 15-game winning streak and had to rally from 11 points down with less than nine minutes left the night before for the right to play on the final day of the season. It featured a man – Mike Lonergan – who was coaching at his alma mater, and three players (Pat Maloney, Will Morley and Matt Hilleary) who would eventually be named All-American. 

William Paterson (25-5) was making its second appearance in the Final Four in three years and first in the championship game. Its coach – Jose Rebimbas – had played for Seton Hall when it advanced to the 1989 Division I national title game. More importantly, it featured the Division III Player of the Year, Horace Jenkins, a 26-year-old lightning-quick shooting guard whose crossover move left most defenders defenseless. 

The explosive Jenkins averaged 27.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists that season and could score from anywhere on the court. He has played professionally overseas for many years and was a member of the Detroit Pistons in 2004-05. If Jenkins were to dominate the game against CUA, his team would likely take the gold trophy back to Wayne, N.J.

The Cardinals had the advantage of playing against Jenkins two previous times, a 79-71 setback on the Pioneers' home court in 1999 and a 57-52 victory the following year, both in the NCAA playoffs. In their preparations for the 2001 game, CUA's coaches had noticed that Jenkins liked to attack the basket from the right side. Even when he went left, he almost always came back to the right. That insight helped the Cardinals assigned to defend him know what to expect.

An intriguing, possibly fortuitous convergence of events served as a subplot to the game. If CUA were to win the contest, its five seniors – Maloney, Tim Judge, Andy Rice, Kurt Zeisler and Mike Hartman – would win their 100th career game. Plus, Lonergan would become the winningest coach in school history. Were the Cards destined to win? Were there just too many cool things that could happen with a "W?" 

It would take 40 minutes to find out.

The Cardinals jumped to a 13-4 lead and led by as many as 10 in the first half. Jenkins had just six points at halftime and CUA led, 31-24. The Cards held the lead until 10:12 remained in the game when a Jenkins free throw gave William Paterson a 46-45 advantage. He hit another basket at the 8:59 mark to give the Pioneers their biggest lead, 48-45. If CUA was going to win on the biggest stage it had ever performed, it would have to rally in the final 10 minutes for the fifth straight game.

An 8-3 spurt capped by a Rice 3-pointer put the Cards on top to stay, 53-51. But with 5:44 remaining, the outcome was very much in doubt.

When Maloney sank a long-range trey with 1:54 to go, the Cardinals' lead had grown to eight, 63-55, and the doubt that existed four minutes prior was gone. As the remaining time ticked off the clock, the team in black jerseys with red and white trim was going to win the first – and only – team national championship in school history. 

Jenkins never did get untracked, finishing 7-for-25 from the field and just 1 of 12 from beyond the arc. His only 3-pointer came with 23 seconds left. CUA's three starting guards – Judge, Maloney and Rice – executed well the zone defense Lonergan and his coaches had devised to stop the best player in the country.

"I didn't think we had anyone who could guard Horace Jenkins one-on-one so I decided to use our 1-3-1 defense and add a little wrinkle." Lonergan said in August 2010. "We played a 1-3-1 that was more packed in than usual, with Tim Judge up top. He tried to stay in front of Jenkins. The few times he was beat we had the wings there to contain him. The strategy worked perfectly. Tim did a great job staying between Horace and the basket, and he received help from his teammates when needed.

"Pat and Andy also played well defensively and deserve credit."

Rice's 17 points led four players in double-figure scoring: Maloney (16), Hilleary (12) and Judge (12). Maloney was named Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the All-Tournament team by the sophomore Hilleary.

The seniors won their 100th game and Lonergan ascended to the top of the CUA basketball victories list. Perhaps the outcome was never in doubt. After all, Hilleary, Maloney and Lonergan are Irish, and March 17 is St. Patrick's Day.

"Winning the national championship was the culmination of years of hard work by many people," said Lonergan, who led Vermont to the 2010 Division I NCAA Tournament. "I will never forget cutting down the nets in Salem on St. Patrick's Day as head coach at my alma mater. What a great moment."

Cardinal basketball is replete with great moments. As CUA basketball celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2010-11, let's take a trip back in time and explore how it arrived at this point.

The Seed is Planted
Cardinal basketball began as a club sport in the 1909-10 season. Its first opponent was Georgetown. CUA, or the "Red and Black," fielded a varsity team the following year without an official head coach. Joseph Bollin was listed as the team's "manager." 

On Jan. 7, 1911 – nearly 20 years after Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in Springfield, Mass. – the Cardinals played their first official game, a 42-33 home victory over Gallaudet. Later in the season, the Bison wiped out visiting CUA, 45-17. The Cards' second home game also resulted in triumph, 37-34 over St. John's (Md.). CUA first season closed with a 2-6 record. Georgetown won the Inter-Collegiate Championship of the District of Columbia.

The Cardinals had their first official coach the following season. Fred Rice, after earning his law degree from Georgetown in 1910, became player-coach in time for the 1911-12 season while attending graduate school at CUA.

According to the Georgetown Libraries' special collection, "Georgetown Men's Basketball, 1906-1907 to 2006-2007: A Spotlight on Ten Coaches, Ten Players and Ten Decades of Hoops," Rice had played forward for the Hoyas for three seasons (1907-10) and "was the university's first basketball star."  

A native Washingtonian who transferred to Georgetown after George Washington discontinued basketball in 1907, Rice excelled as a scorer for the Hoyas in an era of low scoring. (In the early days of the sport, a jump ball was held after each basket.) Rice scored at least 20 points in four of his first seven games in a Georgetown uniform and his 14.9 scoring average in 1907-08 tied for the highest season average in the first 35 years of Hoya basketball. Hampered by injuries his final season, he played in just seven games. His 8.8 career scoring average ranks fifth all-time among Hoyas who competed prior to World War II.

Rice played for the Cardinals until midseason and guided the 1911-12 squad to a 10-7 record. CUA was 13-3 the next season and was described in a photo collage as "Southern Atlantic Champion." A 15-4 season followed and included victories over Virginia, St. John's (N.Y.), Virginia Tech and Maryland. Rice was praised in The Catholic University Bulletin, December 1916 edition:

"He it is, who in the practical upbuilding and strengthening of basketball at Catholic University, has brought our school up to every other college interested in the sport.

"Mr. Rice's coming, and the extraordinary increase of the student registration, were natural factors combining to achieve for the University ever fresh laurels in basketball. Our three latest seasons have been records of accomplishment and victory. Schools of much greater prominence have been conquered, and even the acknowledged college champions of the North have bowed in defeat to us. The fastest Southern teams have been unable to best us, and, as a result, the South Atlantic Championship has been awarded to us two times."

CUA's first on-campus arena, Brookland Gymnasium, opened in 1924, and the Cards won their first two home games. From 1925-28, a group of Rice's players known as the "Reindeer" went 38-15. 

In his 19 years at the helm (1911-1930), Rice guided the Cardinals to 15 winning seasons. He had an overall record of 176-137 (.562) and was the winningest coach in CUA basketball history until Lonergan eclipsed him in 2001. 

Forrest Cotton coached the Cards from 1931-41 and posted four straight winning seasons (1932-36). His 1940-41 club was 0-12, the only winless team in CUA history. Three coaches and three years later, the Cardinals would enjoy unprecedented success.

CUA's First NCAA Tournament Team
The Mason-Dixon Conference formed in 1936 when Waldo Hamilton of Johns Hopkins and Dorsey Griffith of CUA conceived the idea of a track and field-only association. The league included teams from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia and expanded to sponsor basketball in 1940. 

The NCAA men's basketball tournament began in 1939. The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) had started the year before, and for years was more prestigious than the NCAA's national tourney. 

By the time the 1943-44 campaign rolled around, the Cardinals had not posted a winning season in eight years. John Long, a star forward for the Cards in the late 1920s, had been hired to coach the team, and he made the most of his only season at the helm.
Games ran for about an hour and 15 minutes and CUA won seven of its first eight. The starters for the Cardinals' 62-39 victory at Johns Hopkins were Dick Scanlon (right guard), Ed Carlin (left guard), John Mercak (right forward), Gene Szklarz (left forward) and Rice's son, Fred Rice, Jr. (center).

CUA continued to roll and hung a 24-point defeat on Delaware, a 20-point loss on Maryland and a 30-point shellacking on Johns Hopkins. The Cards entered the Mason-Dixon Conference Tournament with a 16-4 record and defeated host Delaware, 64-37, in the opening round. CUA's hopes of winning the event were dashed with a 48-45 loss at Loyola (Md.). The Greyhounds lost the championship game to Mount St. Mary's. 

Despite the conference setback, the Cardinals were invited to the eight-team NCAA Tournament for the first time. They traveled to Madison Square Garden in New York and got pounded by Dartmouth, 63-38, on March 25, 1944. The regional third-place game the following night didn't end any better as the Cards fell to Temple, 55-35. 

With World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific and male enrollment down, the basketball program was suspended in 1944–45. The school's longtime equipment manager Franny Murray fought in the war and used the G.I. Bill to enroll at CUA in 1946. He began working for the athletic department in 1947 and has attended every men's basketball and football home game since.

Murray also traveled with the basketball team until the 1970s. Nowadays, if you ask him about going to a road game, he says, "I wouldn't go across the street to see Notre Dame play the Twelve Apostles."

CUA within the NCAA
From the founding of the NCAA in 1906 through 1955, basketball-playing institutions were not separated into competitive divisions. From 1956 through 1972, teams were classified into University Division (major college) and College Division (small college). The Cardinals competed in the latter until the NCAA re-organized into three divisions in 1973: Divisions I and II, which offer scholarships based on athletic ability; and Division III, which does not. 

CUA opted for the Division II level during the 1973-76 seasons and then played as a Division I independent for five years (1976-81). The Cards have played in Division III since.

Young Leads the Cardinals to Prominence
CUA restarted its basketball program after the war in 1945 and posted just one winning season over the next nine. Joe Della Ratta starred for the Cards from 1949-53 and scored 1,093 points. In 1955-56, James "Miggs" Reilly's third year as head coach, the Cardinals enjoyed their first of four straight winning campaigns. Reilly set the table for his successor, former Maryland captain Tom Young, who was named head coach in 1958 after helping the Terrapins win their first ACC championship.

"It was my first job, so I was happy to be coaching, especially at the college level," Young said in an August 2010 interview. "With Franny Murray and company, it turned out to be a good situation and probably the best that I could ever hope for just coming out of college."

Reilly and Young brought stability to CUA. Murray recalled that in the late 1940s, "we were getting a new coach all the time, like every two years," he said. "Then finally Miggs came here [in 1953] and he stayed five years. Then Tom came in and stayed nine years. So the program was more stable."

Young, who was also the Cardinals' head baseball coach for a few years and eventually became golf coach, started with an annual salary of $5,200.

"In those days, five-thousand, two-hundred dollars was probably like $50,000 today," he said. "To me, it was a great starting point."

Young upgraded the schedule and was able to offer full scholarships. "The biggest problem we had, even though we had the scholarships, we had like zero recruiting money," he said. "So it was a case of me spending my money or relying on friends. I did get to see some players, so it certainly helped that's for sure, because we got some decent players."

Young's first team (1958-59) finished 15-6 and featured a holdover left-handed forward, Bob Talbot. The senior Washingtonian completed his career as the school's No. 1 scorer with 1,187 points. He would later lead the baseball team to the 1977 NCAA Division I Tournament. After working in admissions, Talbot served as athletic director from 1992 to 2004.

"Bob was already there and was really a good shooter," Young said. "Honestly, the guys who were there, no question they helped, and he was one of the better shooters we had, that's for sure. He did a good job coaching for me and made a career of Catholic University."

Murray fondly recalls driving to road games.

"Tom would drive one car and I'd drive the other one," Murray said. "I had a nice station wagon, so [the players] wanted to travel with me so they could lay the back seat down and lie down. He always took the first team and I took the second team. He wanted to make sure the players who were going to play got there with him."

Despite the absence of a recruiting budget, Young found guys who could play at a high level. One of his first major recruits in 1959 was Gene "Lefty" Horan, a high-scoring guard from Pottsville, Pa. The 6-2 Horan was being recruited by schools such as Maryland, Penn State, Penn, Villanova, Navy, St. Joseph's and N.C. State. He liked CUA because it was a smaller school and because Young would also let him play baseball. Horan was a top pitcher, outfielder and first baseman.

In Young's third season (1960-61), CUA won the Mason-Dixon Conference Southern Division with a 10-3 record. Horan averaged 17.7 points and scored a career-high 37 points vs. conference foe Loyola (Md.). 

In a September 2010 interview, Horan pointed out how much basketball changed in the 1950s, evolving from a game where most players used a stationary push shot to a jump shot.

"Basketball started to move away from the halfcourt game," he said. "Coaches like [North Carolina's] Dean Smith brought fast-break basketball."

Horan cited former Cardinal teammate Gene Jasper as someone "who had a deadly push shot." Jasper tallied 1,327 career points and ranks 12th in school history. Horan broke his scoring mark and received a game ball from team chaplain Father McCarrick, better known today as Cardinal McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington.

Horan finished with 1,788 points, which topped the CUA scoring charts. He was named honorable mention Little All-American three times (1961-63).

"Gene was really a very, very good athlete," Young said. "He was really quick, left-handed, just a good solid athlete. He was a good defensive player and he could score, so he was a very good player for Catholic U."

During the 1962-63 season, Horan averaged 22.1 points a game en route to 596 points, both school records at the time. Bill Leahy grabbed a school-best 449 rebounds (16.6 average). 

Despite being only 6-3, Leahy was one of the top rebounders in the nation. The senior averaged 14.5 rebounds per game in 1963-64 and had 21 boards in the home opener against Providence and 6-10 center John Thompson, who later played two years in the NBA.

"He tore Thompson up," Murray said. "I remember that."

Horan recalled how Leahy used a rebounding machine to improve his proficiency at tracking down missed shots.

"I remember him using that machine many times after practice," Horan said. "Rebounding is hard work, and Bill had the determination and desire to be the best he could be. He made himself into the rebounder he was. And he was a good shot-blocker, too, which wasn't recognized as an official statistic. I remember one game he blocked seven or eight shots."

Leahy led the team in scoring his final season, averaging 18.5 points, and was named second-team All-American. He was also selected for the Eastern College All-Star team that played the Philadelphia College All-Stars in the second-annual Basket Bowl. One of his teammates was NYU's Happy Hairston, who enjoyed an 11-year career in the NBA.

Murray recalled a sophomore on the 1963-64 team, Mike Fessler, a 5-10 guard from Louisville, Ky., who averaged 14.1 points.

"Mike was a heck of a player," Murray said. "I remember one time we were playing NYU at our place and we had to go to the library to get Mike to come and play. He forgot there was a game. That's the kind of guy he was – really a smart guy. He was a good student and a nice player."

With that kind of offensive firepower and rebounding prowess, the Cardinals won the first league basketball championship in school history.

Cardinals Capture Mason-Dixon and Head to NCAAs
CUA, on consecutive nights, downed Old Dominion, 98-83; Randolph-Macon, 95-85; and Mount St. Mary's, 56-52, to claim the 1964 Mason-Dixon Conference championship. The triumph over the Mount was particularly pleasing because it was the Cards' fiercest rival. The Mountaineers had won the NCAA College Division National Championship under Jim Phelan in 1962.

"We had some great, great games with them," Young said. "They had a lot of athletes. Every game we played with them, it just seemed that it was knock-down, drag-out, whether it was at our place or their place. It probably was as good a rivalry that you could expect to have anywhere – ACC, Big 10. Our students got into it, their students got into it. It was really good for Catholic U. basketball, that's for sure."

After scoring 28 points in the tournament opener, Fessler tallied 38 points in the semifinals by making 13 of 18 field goals and all 12 of his free throws. Charles Boylan and Leahy had 15 points apiece in the title game.

"It was great for me, great for the kids and for anybody who was a Catholic U. fan," Young said. "We came close to winning it other times but we finally got it done. It was very enjoyable, to say the least."

The victories earned the Cardinals an automatic bid to the Eastern Sectional of the NCAA College Division Tournament. Playing on Hofstra's home floor in Hempstead, N.Y., the Cards lost 92-91 in double overtime. Six Cardinals fouled out and the Flying Dutchmen won it on a free throw with 12 seconds left. 

"We got screwed," Murray said. "They called that final foul on a guy who was 10 feet away from anyone — unbelievable."

Fessler, the only starter not to foul out, scored 27 points, including a late basket that sent the game to a second overtime. Leahy had 18 points and John Sevick 16. 

"It was a very difficult loss to take because we deserved to win. Our guys played really well," Young said. "As Franny said, it was an incredible call at the end of the game. It was just too bad because we were playing at their place and we really deserved to win the basketball game. It was a tough way to end a very, very good season for a bunch of guys who really played well and deserved to win.

"But having said that, they had a great year, but it could have been even greater if we had gotten a fair shake."

CUA also lost the tournament consolation game, 94-64, to Philadelphia Textile and finished 16-12. Young's charges never made it back to the NCAA Tournament but continued to post winning seasons. His only non-winning season as the Cards' floor boss was a 12-12 performance in 1959-60. 

Leahy produced 20 points and 10 rebounds in his final game and was named to the All-Tournament team. He finished his career as the all-time leading rebounder in school history with 1,130 rebounds. His 12.7 career average also tops the charts.

"He was so good because he was so tough," Young said. "I mean, he came to play every night, every practice, and he just thought every rebound belonged to him, even though he was 6-3. He really had a good career. He was like the last guy we took on scholarship; we took him very late and it was really a good choice for us."

The 1964-65 Cardinals lost to Randolph-Macon, 70-64, in the Mason-Dixon Conference title game. In a 109-76 victory at Washington (Md.) College on Jan. 7, Boylan scored a school-record 60 points.

"He was the most talented guy we had," Young said. "He could bring it up the floor, and he had to play inside for us; he had to play everywhere for us. By scoring 60 points in one night, he could really put it in the hole. He was a very solid, fundamental player."

Two years later the Cards defeated Evansville, 73-71, the nation's third-ranked team.

After nine seasons (1958-67) and 134 victories – which ranks third on CUA's career wins list – Young returned to Maryland for two years as an assistant before becoming American's head coach from 1969-73. He enjoyed his greatest success at Rutgers (1973-85), where he was named 1976 Coach of the Year by The Sporting News and UPI after leading the 31-2 Scarlet Knights to the Final Four. 

The star of that team, Eddie Jordan, later hired Young to be an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards, who during Young's four-year tenure (2003-07), qualified for the NBA playoffs three times. Young completed his 31-year college coaching career with 524 victories.

CUA Struggles in Divisions I and II
The Cardinals closed out their time in the NCAA's College Division with just one winning season – 16-11 under Bob Reese in 1970-71 – between 1967 and 1973. CUA did not have a winning record in its three years in Division II and moved into the NCAA's highest classification – Division I – in 1976. Playing a schedule that included teams like Clemson, George Washington, Navy, Drexel and Seton Hall, the Cardinals posted a 13-13 mark in 1976-77, Jack Kvancz's second year as head coach. But that was the high-water mark of CUA's foray into major college basketball.

The Cards concluded their Division I days with a five-year, 43-86 record. The school realized that it would have to devote a lot more monetary resources to remain in Division I, not only in basketball but also in other sports, if it wanted to succeed. And then there was the arena situation. Brookland Gymnasium, 50 years old in 1974, and with a capacity of about 3,000, did little to impress recruits. 

Individual Stars Shine Brightly
Despite the relative lack of team success, the Cardinals had some individual stars that were among the nation's finest: Jack Bruen, Bob Adrion and Glenn Kolonics.

Bruen came to CUA as a 6-foot, 170-pound guard after playing at Power Memorial Academy in New York with Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). As a three-year starting point guard (1969-72) and two-time captain, Bruen set Cardinal school records for most assists in a season (216) and best season assist average (8.0). He ranks fourth all-time in career assists (503), second in career assist average (7.1), and had the second-most assists in a game (17). Here's how he was described as a freshman in a Feb. 5, 1970 game program:

"Hits on uncanny jump shots from well over 20 feet away with amazing accuracy. … Has good speed and can handle the ball well. May need some seasoning with the varsity offense before he can settle down to the job, but has the can't-miss label on himself."

Adrion was a two-sport star at Don Bosco High School in Ramsey, N.J., and had numerous college offers from the nation's top football programs. He accepted a full scholarship to play basketball for the Cards.

During his sophomore season (1971-72), the 6-3, 215-pound forward averaged 25.3 points and 8.5 rebounds and was selected to the National Association of Basketball Coaches' (NABC) District III All-Star First Team. He was on the Dean's List both semesters and was the leading scorer among Washington-area colleges. That year and the next he was chosen as an honorable mention Little All-American.

Adrion's play drew raves from opposing coaches. Canisius Coach Bob MacKinnon described him as, "One of the strongest front court men we've played against all year, including big-name players from Maryland, Providence, Syracuse …" George Washington Coach Carl Sloan said "… he has to be the best 6-3 forward in the country."

Red Auerbach, the late Boston Celtics coach and general manager, saw Adrion play at Brookland Gymnasium once but came away unimpressed. Auerbach, quoted in a newspaper the following day, said he thought Adrion should play football. Two NFL teams agreed. Following his senior year, the then 230-pounder was pursued by the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. He was offered a contract by the Falcons but turned it down.

Adrion is the leading scorer in Cardinal history with 2,289 points. His 958 rebounds rank second. He tallied a career-high 41 points three times. Only Georgetown's Eric "Sleepy" Floyd scored more career points among Washington, D.C., collegians. Adrion was selected to the Washington-area All-Metropolitan team all four years with such players as American's Kermit Washington and Maryland's John Lucas and Tom McMillen. All three played in the NBA.

In The Great Book of Washington, D.C. – Sports Lists (2008) by Andy Pollin and Leonard Shapiro, former Washington Post sports columnist Ken Denlinger ranked Adrion No. 9 on his "Top 10 Local Small-College Hoops Legends." He noted that Adrion "became CU's all-time leading scorer in 1973 as a junior."

Adrion said he has "great memories" of playing for the Cards.

"The gym was literally packed for every home game," he said from his home in Florida in September 2010. "It was a great atmosphere. We had incredible student and community support. We had a wonderful time."

Kolonics was a 6-3, 190-pound shooting guard, also from Power Memorial, who played for the Cards from 1973-77. He was the nation's fourth-leading scorer (27.7 points per game) as a junior in 1975–76 and earned NABC Division II third-team All-American honors. He scored a career-high 44 points in an 83-70 victory at Drexel on Jan. 29, 1977 in CUA's first Division I season, and had 42 points in a 109-77 home romp over Buffalo a month later. Those point totals are the fourth- and fifth-most prolific scoring games in Cardinal history. He pumped in an average of 23.5 points his senior year.

Kolonics is the Cards' second-leading scorer of all time with 2,190 points. He holds four school records: highest career scoring average (22.4 points per game), most points (720) and field goals (275) in a season, and highest season scoring average (27.7). He played professionally in Argentina.

Adrion and Kolonics played together one season (1973-74).

"If they had had the 3-point shot when we were playing, Glenn would have blown my scoring record away," Adrion said. "He was a tremendous outside talent. He just let it loose from everywhere. We were a disciplined team and had never seen anyone like that."

Bruen Leaves A Lasting Mark on the Program
Coach Kvancz's final year with the Cardinals was its first in Division III (1981-82). Once he departed, CUA turned to one of its own to lead the basketball team. After graduating with a degree in history, Bruen served as an assistant from 1972-79 in nearby Hyattsville, Md., under DeMatha Catholic High School Coach and Hall of Famer Morgan Wootten. After that he was Archbishop Carroll's head coach for three seasons. He was hired by his alma mater in 1982.

As much of an impact Bruen had on the school as a player, it would pale by comparison to his coaching exploits.

Bruen, then 33, took over a program that had been wandering in the NCAA wilderness and had not posted a winning season in 12 years. The team also began playing in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC).

In his first campaign Bruen led the Cardinals to a 13-12 record that included a victory at the nation's No. 1-ranked team, Roanoke, 79-76. His coaching ability so impressed his league peers that he was named 1982-83 ODAC Coach of the Year.

CUA stayed in the conference for just one more year before rejoining for football only in 1999.

Bruen's program was bolstered his first four years by John Winkler, who became the Cardinals' third all-time leading scorer (1,793 points). Following a 14-14 performance in 1983-84, CUA recorded five consecutive winning seasons. Lonergan joined the team as a point guard from Archbishop Carroll in 1984 and Jimmy Patsos came on board two years later. Patsos became an assistant coach at Maryland and helped Gary Williams' squad win the 2002 National Championship. He is now head coach at Loyola (Md.), and he and Lonergan's Vermont teams have played each other.

The 1985-86 season was a memorable one on a number of fronts. First, Bruen led the Cards to a 19-8 record – then a program best for victories – and their first national ranking (No. 16). Second, they left Brookland Gymnasium and moved into the Raymond A. DuFour Center. Third, the club won its first postseason title in 22 years – the ECAC South Region Tournament. CUA defeated Mary Washington, 63-60, and two days later won the championship, 90-86, at Frostburg State. The Cardinals won 14 straight games, including a rare 73-66 victory over Scranton.

Former Scranton Coach Bob Bessoir had built a powerful program that won the Division III National Championship in 1976 and 1983. His teams reflected his superb coaching ability and didn't look like other teams that came to play at CUA. From their warm-up uniforms, to the way they ran on to the court for pre-game activities, to the way they executed Bessoir's offense and defense, the Royals played the game the way it was meant to be played.

Bruen admired Bessoir's program and thought that if Scranton – a smaller Catholic school in the East – could excel, the Cardinals could, too. So Bruen, beginning in his third season, made sure the Royals were on the schedule at least once each year.

Bessoir, in a February 2010 interview, recalled what Bruen told him when he moved to CUA.

"He always used to say, 'Bess, we want a program like yours. We're trying to build a program like Scranton's,'" Bessoir said. "Well, I said, 'You have the wherewithal, you have the position geographically, you have the coaching and you have the backing. So go.' And it wasn't until Mike Lonergan took over that, really, that happened."

During another loss to the Royals, an unusual sequence of events unfolded. The Cardinals' Kevin Boddie, a strong and athletic 6-6 forward who had attended DeMatha High but did not play basketball there, scored on a breakaway slam dunk on three straight possessions and was fouled each time. He made the first two free throws for eight consecutive points.

"I don't remember the kid going in driving," said Bessoir, who won 67.8 percent of his games during his 29-year (1972-2001) career at Scranton. "You've got to forgive me, I've coached over a thousand games."

Men's college basketball began to undergo some major changes in the mid 1980s. A 45-second shot clock was introduced in 1985-86. (It was lowered to 35 seconds in 1993-94.) The change that has probably had the most profound effect on the game was the 1986-87 introduction of the 3-point shot. This made outside marksmen even more valuable than they had been and made it easier for trailing teams to cut into big leads.

One of the first Cardinals to take advantage of the 3-pointer was Rob McCarry (1983-87), who tallied 1,542 career points. He helped CUA enjoyed a memorable win on Feb. 2, 1987 when it defeated NYU, 84-74, at Madison Square Garden.

Bruen's mark continues to permeate the Cardinal program. During an 18-8 campaign in 1987-88, he started the season-ending Eastern Invitational Tournament. The eight-team gathering at DuFour Center featured East Coast independents that, like the Cards, didn't have their own postseason tournament. Lonergan scored a career-high 19 points in the inaugural title game but the Cardinals lost to Emory, 98-91. The event has evolved into the four-team CUA/Residence Inn Greenbelt Classic and is now played around New Year's.

Bruen, tiring of the difficulty putting together a schedule each year and longing for the recognition and stability that a conference could bring, began having informal discussions with some of his peers about forming a new league. He, Webb Hatch of Marymount, Tom Davies of Mary Washington and Jay Gardiner of St. Mary's (Md.) were the principals behind the formation of the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC).

Bruen, who had to tend bar to supplement his income, closed his Cardinal coaching career with another 18-8 season in 1988-89. He departed alongside two prolific scorers: Kenny Wills, who tallied 1,146 career points, and Kevin Morrison, who scored 1,139. 

Bruen finished as CUA's fourth-winningest coach with 110 victories and deserves much of the credit for the stature of the program today. In the 28 seasons since his arrival, the Cardinals have recorded 22 winning campaigns and earned an NCAA Tournament berth 11 times. The Cards had only been in the NCAA postseason twice previously.

Bruen left CUA to coach at Division I Colgate, which he led to two NCAA Tournament appearances, two Patriot League championships (1995, '96) and two NCAA Tournaments. He was named Patriot League Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1996 and coached Adonal Foyle, who was selected eighth overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 1997 NBA Draft.

"He's probably the best coach most people have never heard of," Lonergan said. "A lot of people don't realize he got Colgate to the [Patriot] championship game before Adonal Foyle came. He did a remarkable job."

Lonergan was an assistant under Bruen at Colgate for three seasons (1989-92). Like his mentor, he made ends meet by working as a bartender in Hamilton, N.Y., and would often eat dinner at Bruen and his wife Joan's house.

"Jack Bruen was like a second father to me," Lonergan said. "My first son is named Jack after my dad and Jack Bruen. He was a great coach and a great man. I still think about him every day."

Bruen died of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 19, 1997 at age 48. Just six days prior, he coached the Raiders to an 80-69 victory over Marist College.

"He was a very good coach and the kids loved him," Murray said. "He was the kind of guy who would do anything in the world for you. He died too young."

Valvano Bridges the Gap
Bob Valvano, younger brother of former N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano, succeeded Bruen, who took 83 percent of his offense with him. Mike O'Leary, who had played forward under Bruen, switched to point guard for his senior season. Valvano said at the time that "only at Division III" could a player make such a significant position change.

The Cardinals began the season 1-8 en route to an 8-18 campaign. They did, however, win the unofficial first CAC championship when Valvano and the coaches from Gallaudet, Mary Washington, St. Mary's and Marymount agreed that whoever won the round-robin among their teams would be the league champ.

CUA was 4-1 in "conference" play heading into its final game at Mary Washington. Gardiner, from St. Mary's, attended the game because his team was 4-2, and if the Cardinals lost, the two squads would be tied. He said that if that happened, he was going to hang a championship banner in their gym. The point was moot when the Cards defeated the Eagles, 79-68. CUA's players and coaches, 5-1 in the CAC, received watches for their achievement.

The Cardinals played their first official CAC season the next year (1990-91) in the seven-team league, which also included Goucher and York (Pa.). The Cards' first CAC victory came at home in a 71-69 win over York. It was the first of five straight league victories for CUA. The Cardinals lost at home, 70-61, to York in the first round of the first CAC Tournament and finished 9-17 overall.

The 1991-92 Cardinals fared much better. Featuring four players who scored more than a thousand career points – Mike Connelly (1,543), Tim Shockley (1,092), Jay Franklin (1,067) and Chris Conefry (1,035) – CUA won the school's first Eastern Invitational Tournament in December and its first CAC Tournament game.

The Cards made the 3-pointer the gem of their offensive arsenal and hit a school-best and then-NCAA record 27 of them in a 117-71 victory over St. Joseph's (N.Y.) at a high school gym in Brooklyn, N.Y. Their 357 3-pointers for the season also top the Cardinal record book, while their 12.9 average was No. 1 in Division III.

Connelly was white hot on Feb. 17, 1992, when, in a 106-93 victory on York's tile floor, he made 11 of 12 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 35 points. His 292 career treys and 52.3 percent marksmanship from beyond the arc in 1990-91 are school records. The 6-foot shooting guard led the led the nation in 3-pointers made per game (4.1) in 1992-93 and won the Division III AT&T Long Distance Award.

After receiving a bye in the opening round of the 1992 CAC Tournament, the Cards defeated Mary Washington, 101-94. But their attempt to win CUA's first conference championship since 1964 faded in a 101-94 loss to Marymount at DuFour Center. Despite the setback, the Cardinals (20-6) were the first CUA basketball team to win 20 games.

Valvano was dismissed following the season and was hired by Gardiner, who by that time was St. Mary's athletic director. 

Lonergan Builds One of the Nation's Finest Programs
In 1992, Bob Talbot left his job as CUA's dean of admissions to become the school's athletic director. One of his first major tasks was to assemble a selection committee and hire a basketball coach. He estimated that he interviewed 10 applicants and the committee interviewed four. Their choice was an assistant coach from Colgate: Mike Lonergan.

"I remember Mike playing at Catholic U., and I think his relationship with Jack Bruen and coaching with him for three years had a lot to do with him being my choice," Talbot said in 2008. "And then fortunately he was the committee's choice."

Lonergan, at 26, became the youngest Division III coach in the country. He faced tough competition for the Cardinals' head job.

"I thought Mike just had a burning desire to be successful, and I think the first step he wanted to take was to be successful at his own university," Talbot said. "I think that's where he and I really had the same outlook about the university, and what it meant to us as undergraduates and as players. I honestly felt that none of the over 200 applicants came across as Mike did, of actually wanting to get it done. 

"I think that was the thing that alerted me and made the biggest impression on me, and I was happy to find someone who felt the same way I did about our school."

Pete Herrmann, who had coached NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson at Navy in the 1980s, also interviewed for the position. 

"Pete was very impressive," Talbot said. "There were a lot of Division I head coaches and assistants who were interested, but I always had the fear that the first opportunity they got to go back to Division I, they were going to go. I really wanted someone who could establish and build a program, and that's what I thought Mike could do. I felt that because of his age and his lack of head coaching experience that we would be able to hang on to him for a while and let him build a winner."

Talbot was right.

Lonergan's first team (1992-93) finished 21-6 and won the CAC regular season and tournament championships. It advanced to the school's first NCAA Tournament in 29 years and hosted its first NCAA playoff game. A 106-91 loss to Richard Stockton ended the season.

Lonergan wasn't able to overcome the graduation of Shockley, Conefry and Connelly, and his second team slumped to 9-16. His 1994-95 squad won seven of its final eight games and finished 16-10. 

CUA returned to the NCAA Tournament the following year in a season that was highlighted by a 92-88 home win over top-ranked and eventual national champion Rowan. Two of Lonergan's star players in the victory finished their careers as 1,000-point scorers: No. 5 John Douglas (1,774 points) and Sammy Briggs (1,182). Douglas later played baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system.

The 1996-97 Cardinals went 12-13 and lost in the first round of the CAC Tournament. Jason Alexander blocked a school-record 103 shots and is the program's all-time leader with 283. The high point of the season was winning the Whittier (Calif.) Poet Classic and meeting legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden. 

Lonergan had made arrangements for Wooden to speak to his team, but when his squad began practicing in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion that January morning, Wooden wasn't there so Lonergan figured he wouldn't be coming. But at about the mid-point of practice, Lonergan spotted a gentleman walking in from a corner of the arena. He stopped practice to meet Wooden and introduced him to his ballclub.

Wooden, who died in June 2010, was 86 at the time. He had retired 22 years earlier after leading the Bruins to their 10th National Championship.

"He spoke to our players for 10 to 15 minutes and it was awesome," Lonergan said. "The thing I remember most is how he said the trip would be more memorable for us since we had to raise the money to go to California. He said we would appreciate it more because of that. He sure was right."

Lonergan recruited a star point guard, Pat Maloney, and added him to a talented 1997-98 team that is still the only undefeated men's basketball team in CAC history (14-0). The club won 20 consecutive games, including the CAC Tournament, and finished 25-4. It also became the first CUA team to win an NCAA Tournament game when, after a first-round bye, it downed Johns Hopkins, 67-62. A double-overtime loss at Hunter, 84-82, in the Sweet Sixteen did little to douse the Cardinals' elation over what was at the time the greatest season in school history. 

Jim McNiff (15.9 points per game), Sean Tuohey (15.3), Maloney (12.4) and Shawn Kane (12.3) were the Cards' leading scorers. Maloney was honored by the NCAA for leading the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (51.8). 

In 1998-99, the Cardinals (23-7) advanced to the CAC Tournament championship game before falling on the road to its biggest rival at the time, Goucher, 77-73. CUA received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament but faced a tall task when it was sent to play at Lebanon Valley, whose fans would line up well before the gym opened to get good seats. The Flying Dutchmen featured national Player of the Year Andy Panko, a 6-9 guard who signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers a year later.

Despite the presence of Panko, the Cards prevailed behind Tuohey's 18 points, Dan Harrington's 16 and Kane's 13, including the 1,000th of his career. CUA's reward for winning in Annville, Pa., was a return trip to Towson, Md., to play Goucher. The Cardinals again scored 73 points but held the Gophers to 69. CUA was headed to the Sweet Sixteen for the second consecutive season. Playing at William Paterson for the first of three straight years in the national playoffs, the Cardinals bowed out, 79-71.

Lonergan's 1999-2000 edition enjoyed two victories in Las Vegas and romped through the regular season with a 21-3 mark. Following an easy 23-point win over Gallaudet, No. 10 CUA lost to Goucher, 68-59, in the CAC semifinals, but earned another invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Following a bye, sixth-ranked Christopher Newport was chosen to be the Cards' opponent and, holding a 59-54 lead with 3:05 to go, looked like it would leave sold-out DuFour Center with a victory.

Harrington, shooting poorly all night, scored nine of his 12 points in the final 2:45. His driving jumper in the lane with 11 seconds left gave the Cardinals a one-point advantage. Maloney's steal at the two-second mark capped CUA's rally in a 65-64 victory. He led the Cards with 20 points, five assists and four steals. Harrington, the Cardinals' leading scorer (16.3 ppg), made just 4 of 21 shots but came up big at crunch time. It was on to the Sweet Sixteen.

CUA was sent to Wayne, N.J., to play against William Paterson but this time things turned out differently.  Tim Judge scored 18 points, Mike Lepeonka 15 and Maloney 14 in a 57-52 triumph. Judge connected on 6 of 7 3-pointers. The win sent the Cards to their first Elite Eight. No. 19 Franklin & Marshall prevented CUA from advancing to the Final Four with an 85-74 victory. The Diplomats scored on 16 of their final 17 possessions. Lonergan and a few of his players were crying in the locker room.

"To be one game away from the Final Four, it's disappointing," Lonergan said afterwards. "This opportunity might never come again."

A Fantastic Season
Perhaps Cardinals' observers should have known the 2000-01 team was going to be special when, in the second game of the season, it downed a Division I team, Albany (N.Y.), 59-56. CUA trailed by five with 4:44 to go but an Andy Rice 3-pointer sparked a 10-0 run that gave the Cards a 56-51 lead with 32 seconds left. Maloney scored a game-high 20 points and Rice added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cardinals won two in-season tournaments, the D3hoops.com Classic and the CUA Pepsi Classic, and headed into the CAC Tournament with an 11-3 league record and the top seed. Following victories over Gallaudet and York, the Cards welcomed Marymount to the DuFour Center with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line.

The Saints did not play like a 12-14 team and found itself knotted with the Cardinals at 59 with 22 seconds remaining. CUA worked the ball to Maloney on the right baseline, but he was forced to pick up his dribble. With about two seconds left, he threw a bounce pass to Will Morley, who nailed a soft jumper in front of the free throw line. The crowd rushed the court to celebrate the Cards' first CAC Tournament title in three years.

Maloney tallied 27 points, including six 3-pointers, five assists and three steals. Morley, who was subsequently named conference Rookie of the Year, had 10 points and eight boards. Judge chipped in 10 points.

CUA began its run to the crown with an 82-65 home victory over CCNY and then headed to Chester, Pa., for a date with Widener, which was undefeated at home. The Cardinals trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but were able to cut that lead in half by intermission. Maloney hit one of two charity stripers with 1:11 left in the Cards' 69-67 triumph. He finished with 13 points and eight assists. Matt Hilleary scored 15 points and Morley 14.

The Cardinals headed to the Northeast Sectionals in Worcester, Mass., and dropped Brockport (N.Y.) State, 69-64, behind Maloney's 16 points and Hilleary's 13 rebounds. To advance further than any CUA team had ever gone, the Cards would have to beat Clark on its home floor. Maloney (25 points) and Hilleary (12 points, 12 rebounds) were the stars once again in the CUA's 82-78 victory. The Cardinals' road win sent them to their first Final Four. The players had to be coaxed out of the locker room to cut down the nets.

"We were one win away from the Final Four last year and you never know if you'll get that chance again," Lonergan said after the game. "Fortunately we got another chance and took advantage of it."

Ohio Northern, top-ranked in the nation in one major poll, stood in the way of the Cards and a chance to play for all the marbles. The Polar Bears, riding an 18-game winning streak, were in firm control leading 66-55 with 8:14 left. But just as they had done in their previous three playoff games, the Cards rallied from a deficit in the final 10 minutes en route to an 82-77 victory. Maloney made all 14 of his free throws en route to 29 points.

"I think this win, the way we hung in all game and then made a run at the end, pretty much typified our whole season," Maloney said in the post-game press conference in Salem, Va.

Hilleary, who blocked two shots and posted his third consecutive double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, agreed with Maloney. "This is just the way our season has gone, pretty much, the whole way," Hilleary said. "We don't win on talent, we win on heart. We win with five guys on the court, not with any one or two." 

When asked his fondest memory from the season in September 2010, Maloney went straight to the Ohio Northern game.

"They were number one in the country and I believe we came back from three different 10-point deficits," Maloney said. "That kind of refuse-to-lose mentality pretty much summed up our team."

CUA punctuated the finest season in program history the following night with its 76-62 win over William Paterson. The 2001 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball National Championship trophy would be heading to the DuFour Center. Lonergan was honored as National Coach of the Year.

"I definitely enjoyed the season as a whole, but I wish I would've kind of savored the ride throughout the tournament," Maloney said. "As a player, you are always focused on the next game and don't really like to look back on what you accomplished to get to the point we were."

Cardinals Continue Winning
Despite losing Maloney and his four senior teammates to graduation, the Cardinals winning ways continued in 2001-02. After repeating as CAC champions, they went into the NCAA Tournament with a 25-2 record. Following a first-round bye, the Cards defeated visiting Hampden-Sydney, 74-68, and were selected to host the Atlantic Sectionals. They met a familiar foe in the sectional semifinals – Clark – but were unable to duplicate their accomplishment from the previous year. Tied at 72 with 1:27 remaining, CUA turned the ball over twice in the final minute and the Cougars hit 3 of 4 free throws to prevail. 

The Cardinals' 26-3 record translated to its finest winning percentage (.897) ever. Its two-year record: an astounding 54-8 (.871). 

Lonergan posted two more excellent seasons, going 24-5 in 2002-03 and 24-6 in 2003-04, and both teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament. His team's 81-72 CAC championship victory at Mary Washington in 2004 was CUA's first league title on the road. Pat Satalin scored 10 straight points late in the second half and Blair Mills succeeded on 11 of 12 free throws in the final 2:14 to secure the win. 

Prior to graduating in 2004, Morley was honored as the first first-team All-American in school history. He is the Cards' sixth-leading scorer with 1,727 points. 

Lonergan finished his CUA career with a record of 251-88 for a school-best .740 winning percentage. He guided the Cards to the NCAA Tournament nine times in his 12 years (1992–2004) and was 13-8 in those contests. CUA won five straight road games in the tournament. 

Perhaps the most salient sign of his consistent success was steering the Cardinals to seven straight NCAA regular-season conference championships (1997-2004). No other college coach in the nation during that time – at any NCAA division – accomplished that feat. Lonergan was recognized for the achievement during the 2004 NCAA Division I Final Four.

Talbot, who coached freshman basketball at CUA in the 1960s through 1970, said he is not surprised by Lonergan's prodigious success.

"I watched him almost every game and you get a feel for a coach," he said. "I thought there were probably half a dozen games that he actually willed the win from the sidelines – just because of his personality, because of how he pushed the kids to perform better than they actually were. I was close enough behind the bench to watch all that."

Lonergan left his alma mater to become an assistant coach at Maryland. He replaced his good friend and former teammate, Jimmy Patsos, who departed to become head coach at Loyola (Md.).

After one year, Lonergan became head coach at Vermont in 2005, realizing his dream to be at the helm of a Division I program. He has won more games than any America East Conference coach the past five years and, in 2010, led the Catamounts to the league championship.

Passing the Torch
One of Talbot's final acts as the Cardinals' athletic director was to hire a coach to replace Lonergan. He didn't have to look far, choosing Lonergan's former player and longtime assistant, Steve Howes, who became the 20th head coach in CUA basketball history on July 19, 2004.

Howes kept the Cards' string of eight consecutive 20-win seasons intact when he guided his first team to a 20-10 record. The Cardinals reached the championship games of the CAC Tournament and the ECAC Southern Region Tournament.

CUA resumed its place atop the CAC in 2006 when it defeated visiting Salisbury, 79-70, for the league crown. Satalin paced the Cardinals with a career-high 25 points, and Patrick Dwyer posted a double-double with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Scott Fumai added 10 points. The season ended in the NCAA Tournament with a 61-59 loss to Widener in York, Pa. Shane Sowden paced the Cards with 19 points and Satalin had 13. They concluded their careers as members of CUA's 1,000-point club.

Howes assembled his most talented team in 2006-07, and the squad broke fast by winning the Wyndham Tip-Off Tournament over host Albright, 67-62. The Cardinals started 12-2 and collected the CUA Classic championship along the way. After an 11-5 showing in the CAC and two victories in the league tournament, the Cards headed to play top-seeded Hood at Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Md. 

CUA had already announced that it was leaving the CAC at year's end and this would be its final conference game. How ironic that it would be in a high school gym. Hood was playing its first season in the CAC.

The Blazers led by as many as nine in the first half and took a seven-point cushion into halftime. Tied at 61, the Cardinals sealed the victory with an 18-8 run that Dwyer sparked with consecutive treys, one from each wing. A Mike Wasilenko pull-up jumper concluded the outburst and gave the Cards a 79-69 lead with 1:55 to play. The margin remained at 10 in CUA's eventual 85-75 triumph. 

Dwyer paced the win with 25 points and a personal-high six 3-pointers. Fumai added 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Stephen Wheeler had 14 points, nine boards and three blocks. Wasilenko tallied 14 points and Nick Olivero 13. The victory put the Cardinals into the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in the past 10 years and ensured that it would conclude CAC play from its usual spot atop the perch.

CUA hosted Messiah in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and held the Falcons to the third-lowest point total in Division III playoff history. Fumai paced the 58-37 win with 19 points and nine rebounds, and Dwyer posted a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards. The Cardinal defense held Messiah to 14 points in the first half.

The Cards hosted Lincoln the following night and trailed almost the entire night against a team that was moving up to Division II the next season. Ultimately, the scholarship-level players it had overwhelmed the Cardinals, 81-70. Wheeler and Olivero scored 18 points each, and Dwyer had 12. Dwyer etched his name in the CUA record book with 1,180 career points. Despite the setback, the Cards finished their most successful season in the Howes era with a record of 23-7.

A Landmark Decision
CUA moved its entire athletic department, except for football, into the Landmark Conference to compete with schools holding similar views on the role of athletics within its academic mission. The Cardinals athletic director, Mike Allen, played a key role in the formation of the new eight-team league, which began play in 2007-08. One of the biggest adjustments for the basketball team was that it would now play the majority of its conference games on consecutive days, either Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, to minimize missed class time. Goucher also joined the Landmark and was the only other CAC school to go with the Cards. Scranton, which CUA had played once a season for many years, would now be on the regular-season schedule twice a year.

The Cardinals did not fare very well in their first Landmark season, posting a 10-15 record and 4-10 mark in the conference. The Cards finished tied for sixth in the league and failed to qualify for the four-team Landmark Tournament. CUA turned it around the following season by qualifying for the tournament with an 8-6 mark and 18-10 final tally. The Cards fell at top-seeded Scranton, 71-64 and then advanced to the ECAC Southern Region Tournament semifinals. Sophomore Jason Banzhaf averaged a league-high 20.3 points and 7.9 rebounds and was named honorable mention All-American. 

The Cardinals continued their Landmark ascent in the 2009-10 season by posting a 10-4 record (18-9 overall) and qualifying third for the conference tournament. But playing at Scranton once again ended in a 75-70 setback. Point guard R.J. Dixon paced the Cards with 18 points, five assists and four steals, while Banzhaf contributed 17 points and 13 boards. CUA earned a first-round bye and the right to host the same ECAC tournament it had participated in the previous year. Despite five players scoring in double figures, the Cardinals lost to Alvernia, 81-75.

The Cards' 218 victories in the 2000s tied for ninth in Division III. Their .752 winning percentage ranked 13th.

Howes Ties Bruen
Howes earned a personal milestone last season when he tied Jack Bruen for fourth place on CUA's career victories list. He enters the Cards' centenary season with 110 victories and the second-highest winning percentage in school history (.657). He has in his six seasons led the Cardinals to five postseason appearances, including two NCAA Tournaments.

The rebirth that Bruen brought to CUA continued under Lonergan and now flourishes under Howes.

"You win with great players and a dedicated staff, and I've been fortunate to have both here at Catholic University," Howes said. "Much of what we run now is what Jack Bruen started years ago. He taught Mike, and Mike taught me. I'm proud and extremely humbled to tie Jack's record."

The Cardinals will tip off their 100th season with an exhibition game at Notre Dame. The contest will pit the nation's two most prestigious Catholic universities. Howes is pleased that he was able to secure such a game for the program he loves and proudly leads. 

"When I think of all the great coaches in CUA history, from Tom Young to Jack Bruen to Mike Lonergan, I am truly humbled that I will be the first to take on Notre Dame," he said. "I believe it is a fitting way to say thanks to all those coaches and players who made the program what it is today."

Chris McManes was CUA's sports information director when it won the 2001 National Championship. His father, Ronnie, was the Cardinals' head football coach in 1965, and Chris has worked in various capacities for the athletics department since 1986.