NEW YORK – Back in the day, the MSG Holiday Festival was a premier two day four team bracketed event that featured several of the nation’s top teams. In addition to the classic 1964 Festival featuring Princeton (Bill Bradley), Michigan (Cazzie Russell), Syracuse (Dave Bing) and St. John’s (Coach Joe Lapchick), there were years like 1995, when Penn won the title and used it as a stepping stone to the AP Top 25; 1997, when Princeton was victorious on its way to a top 10 AP ranking; and 2009, when Cornell took the title on its way to a Sweet 16 appearance. Over the last few years, the event has morphed into a one day double-header featuring the Johnnies and three other local mid-majors. This year, the “worlds most famous arena” was home to a quarter of the Ancient Eight as Columbia took the subway and Princeton came up the NJ Turnpike to take part in the annual pre-Christmas tradition.
Before the Garden was cleaned up for the Knicks nightcap versus the Hornets, the Lions held off Iona and the Tigers succumbed to the Red Storm. While neither team was perfect and the results were spit, both teams had solid efforts and hope to use the day as a motivator as the Ivy schedule quickly approaches.
The Tigers returned to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2000 to play the St. John’s Red Storm in the Holiday Festival. For decades, the Holiday Festival was the premier event of the preseason, played between Christmas and New Year’s, employing an actual tournament format.
The final in 1964 was one of the most memorable games in that entire season, matching Bill Bradley’s Tigers against Cazzie Russell’s Michigan Wolverines. Bradley canned 41 before fouling out with the Tigers holding a 12-point lead. The five-minute ovation he received was unmatched in Garden history. Alas, the Wolverines fought back, winning 80-78.
In Dec. 1997, Princeton beat Drexel and Niagara to win the Festival title on its way to a 27-2 record and an eighth-place national ranking in the final AP poll of that season. Current Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was a Tiger co-captain.
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because 1968 was a good year to wear Light Blue.
The rest of Columbia’s top moments all revolve around the incredible 1968 team in some way. Today’s entry is the 16-game win streak that propelled the Lions to national relevance and ultimately put them in position to play and win a one-game playoff to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The team did not get off to a very good start, which is odd considering the talent on the squad and where it would end up by March. The team won its first four games but then immediately dropped three in a row, including getting blown out in the Ivy opener against Cornell in Ithaca. It would not get easier for the Lions, as their next matchups would be in the prestigious Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. The Lions would face three top opponents in quick succession at a tournament in which Bill Bradley and Cazzie Russell among others had made their mark on the national stage with strong performances.
We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We’re starting with Princeton because that’s where Joseph Stalin’s daughter defected to. In Soviet Russia as in the United States, Princeton offense runs you!
Bill Carmody, an honorary member of the Class of 1975, joined Pete Carril’s staff in 1982. He spent the next 14 productive and mostly glorious seasons watching and learning. When Carril decided to retire after winning his final Ivy title on a heart-stopping three pointer by Sydney Johnson in a playoff against Penn (who else?), he made it known that no one was better qualified to succeed him than Bill Carmody.
Bill’s all too-brief four year tenure as head coach was among the most dominant periods ever in the long history of Tiger hoops. His overall record was 92-25. In the Ivy League he was 50-6, including a remarkable 28-0 in 1996-97 and 1997-98.