We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because a dynasty has to start somewhere…
It didn’t happen overnight for Steve Donahue, but a steady stream of talent was starting to come into the program, and results were slowly showing on the court. In 2005, Cornell went 8-6 in conference play, its first winning record in the Ivy League since 1993. The Red followed its second-place Ivy finish with a third-place finish in 2006, the first back-to-back top-half league finishes since the 1988 and 1989 campaigns.
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because nothing compares 2 Cornell.
Ivy League schools have been competing in basketball for a long time. Cornell, Columbia, Princeton, Yale and Harvard have met on the hardwood since 1901. Penn joined in 1903, Dartmouth in 1911, and finally, Brown in 1953. For the first 53 years, these school competed in what was known as the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League. Results were pretty even. Penn led all schools with 13 titles, followed by Columbia with 12, and Dartmouth with nine. Cornell won the league four times – in 1913, 1914, 1924, and 1954.
Official “Ivy League” competition begun in 1956, a year that also marked the start of Penn-Princeton dominance. From 1956 to 1987, the total number of Ivy League Basketball championships looked like this:
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because once upon a time, Barton Hall was a buzzer-beater biosphere.
Cornell has a few impressive wins in its history. Defeating defending national runner-up Ohio State in 1940, taking down Kentucky 92-77 in 1966 and beating a Cal team featuring two future NBA players, Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray, in 1992. (Spoiler alert: Some big wins have intentionally been left out. They will be covered later in Cornell’s top 10 all-time moments.)
Arguably, the most impressive of them all is what occurred on Jan. 16, 1965.
There’s plenty of healthy debate over who is the best team in Ivy League history. The 1979 Penn team? One of Jim McMillian’s Columbia teams? The 1998 Princeton team? 2010 Cornell?
Sam MacNeil’s 1965 Cornell team did finish 19-5, but will never be in this conversation. On the other hand, the ‘65 Princeton team, led by future Hall of Famer Bill Bradley might start and end the debate.
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because, well, it’s the last school left. (But not least!)
It won’t be a surprise to anyone that a good portion of the top 10 moments in Cornell basketball history will be dedicated to the three-year run from 2008 through 2010 that culminated in its first ever Sweet Sixteen berth. A lot had to happen and even more had to go right for a school with no discernable basketball pedigree to overtake the highest stage in the conference, and at times the nation. The stone that started the ripple effect was bringing the architect of the transformation to Ithaca, New York.
It was the fall of 2000 and the Cornell men’s basketball team was beginning the new century moving in the wrong direction. It had been 11 seasons since its last conference title in 1988, and the program had only finished with a winning record twice. The path toward relevance again took a detour when after four seasons and a 45-60 record, head coach Scott Thompson was forced to resign to focus on his battle with colon cancer. Whoever would take his place would inherit a team that after being picked to finished third in the league managed only a 3-11 conference record, good for dead last.
That man was 38-year-old Steve Donahue, who was officially hired on Sept. 6, 2000. It would have been a nice Cinderella story if Coach D, with a fresh motion offense, a few of his patented whistles, and some elbow grease took this group from worst to first immediately, but we all know it didn’t go down that way.
It’s been an awfully busy offseason for transfers throughout the Ivy League. Shonn Miller is off to Storrs. Rafael Maia is pining for Pittsburgh, Alex Mitola is set for D.C. and Denton Koon is headed to Hempstead.
But which Ivy transfer is going to have the biggest impact on their team in 2015-16?
Since the Ivy League prohibits the participation of graduate students and Miller, missed the 2013-14 season following shoulder surgery, the 2014-15 first-team All-Ivy senior forward still has a year of eligibility to spend at a non-Ivy school. Now he’ll spend it at four-time national champion UConn, where he is instantly eligible.
“It just felt like home,” Miller told ESPN.com. “I got along with all the players and everybody in general just welcomed me like I was a part of their family.”
Miller was a boss at both ends of the floor last season, notching 16.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals in 31.3 minutes per contest. He finished second in the Ivy League in scoring, rebounding and free throw percentage, as well as fourth in both blocks and three-pointers made, and eighth in steals. There’s really not a lot that Miller can’t do, and his absence in 2013-14 hit Cornell like a ton of bricks, with the Big Red going 2-26 without him.
The Big Red have extended Courtney’s contract through 2020.
Cornell athletic director Andy Noel announced the extension Wednesday, which many consider questionable following a fifth straight season under Courtney without a postseason appearance. In five seasons under Courtney, Cornell is 50-95 (.345) overall and 24-46 (.343) in Ivy play.
Noel offered reasons for the extension later Wednesday at a press conference in the concourse outside of Newman Arena, as the gym floor was being cleaned at the time.
Senior forward and All-Ivy first-team shoo-in Shonn Miller is being forced to wind down his career with Cornell.
Because the Ivy League prohibits the participation of graduate students and Miller missed last season following shoulder surgery, Miller still has a year of eligibility remaining but cannot use it at Cornell.
We are a little more than halfway through the Ivy slate and Cornell is just as up as it is down. 12-12 on the season and 4-4 in conference. Satisfied? Disappointed? I don’t think you’ll find a Big Red fan in too much anguish. To suffer over a team bouncing back from its lowest win total in school history and fewest wins in league play since the 1970-71 campaign would be unreasonable, but who said sports fans have to be reasonable? We’re a fickle group, easily frustrated and often disillusioned.
This is why when a team picked to finish dead last finds itself in the top half of the standings past the midway point of play, we can’t help but ask ourselves, why not more?
By any objective standards, this was a horrific basketball game. Columbia averaged a whopping 0.76 points per possession and Cornell kept pace at 0.71. Despite never leading in the game, Cornell had a great shot to win given a flurry of Columbia miscues down the stretch (see below). Columbia turned the ball over 23 times, Cornell shot 25.9 percent from the field as a team, and everyone on both sides likely wants to focus all of their attention towards Saturday’s rematch in Morningside Heights rather than the game tape of yesterday’s “masterpiece.”