TELEGRAM: Grand Accomplishment for men's basketball

January 8, 2008


WORCESTER TELEGRAM


By Paul Jarvey, Colleges

Worcester Telegram & Gazette Staff


It happened the Saturday after Christmas, on the road and with no time left on the clock.

No wonder the 1,000th victory in Assumption College basketball history passed without much fanfare.

When senior Corey Diethorn hit a pair of free throws after time expired, Assumption pulled out a 64-62 victory over Post in the Bryant Invitational and became the 16th New England college to win 1,000. Ain't life grand?

The Hounds, now 1,002-819, are the second Division 2 school in the region to reach the mark, St. Michael's having beaten Assumption to 1,000 earlier in the season. The two teams will square off tomorrow in a rare battle of teams with four-digit victory totals.

Hounds coach Serge DeBari said there wasn't much celebration of the milestone, explaining that reaching 1,000 kind of snuck up on everyone as Assumption reeled off five straight wins during the semester break. He's hoping the accomplishment will receive a more fitting celebration later in the season when the students are back on campus.

He's honored to be coach of the team that reached 1,000.

"To me as an alum and a coach, I'm sort of humbled by the situation," he said. "The players don't appreciate it now as much as they will as time goes on."

He believes the milestone is especially significant because Assumption has high academic standards for its basketball players and expects all of them to graduate on time.

He also believes the record is a testament to the foundation laid by Andy Laska, who took over as coach in 1951 and was on the bench for 224 of Assumption's wins.

"He is a charismatic person," DeBari said. "People love Andrew."

Laska, who attends every Assumption home game - in the gym that bears his name - said he planted the seeds of success by recruiting lots of local players. Typically, he would bring in one player from Central Mass. and one from out of the region, usually northern New Jersey, each year.

"We thought the local kids would be pretty good players," Laska said. "They were so good that Division 1 schools started to recruit them."

He also believes that Assumption's success is due to a string of top coaches. One of his prize recruits out of New Jersey, the late Joe O'Brien, not only starred for the Hounds in the 1950s, but became the school's winningest coach.

O'Brien succeeded Laska and won 321 games.

Assumption basketball goes back to 1923, but the program didn't really get going until Laska and O'Brien arrived on campus. The school has played in 30 postseason tournaments and has had 13 20-win seasons since 1955. The Hounds made the NCAA regionals a record 15 straight seasons, from 1962-63 to 1976-77. They reached the national tournament six times during that stretch.

Laska was on the bench for wins No. 200 and 300 and O'Brien for 400, 500, 600 and 700. DeBari scored 22 points in victory No. 400, a 92-84 triumph over WPI in 1968. The Hounds made it halfway to 1,000 five years later as Mike Boylan scored 30 points in the first round of the NCAA national tournament.