John McCarthy

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Canisius College Basketball Player

Canisius College has produced dozens of memorable athletes in its long history, but few to compare to basketball star John McCarthy. A scribe of Canisius history once duly noted that “what the Irish called ‘a quiet man’ off court, on court, McCarthy was what was termed, in his native land, ‘a broth of a boy’.”

McCarthy’s reputation as a fierce competitor developed at Bishop Timon High School in South Buffalo and followed him into the college ranks. John starred along with teammate Hank Nowak as one of the all-time greats during the Golden Griffins’ glory years of the 1950s, averaging 20 points a game for three seasons at Canisius and leading the team in scoring his junior and senior years. During his career, the Griffs posted a 46-28 record. As team captain his senior year, he led the Griffs to a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance which featured a triple overtime win over a North Carolina team ranked second in the nation.

John is remembered as the cool, collected director of the Canisius offense during those years, a player who delivered when it mattered most. McCarthy’s intensity and leadership highlights specific Golden memories, such as the 1954 night when an ordinary Griffs team bested a stellar Niagara team by 20 points at the Aud.

McCarthy enjoyed a seven-year career in the NBA. As a professional, McCarthy played for the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals, the St. Louis Hawks and the 1963-64 World Championship Boston Celtics in the NBA. He also starred for Pittsburgh in the ABL.

McCarthy later parlayed that professional experience into a notable coaching career, which began when he assumed command of a moribund Neumann High School team in 1965. The Dragons, winless in the season prior to McCarthy’s arrival, made the Manhattan Cup Playoffs three times in the following four years.

After a brief hiatus, McCarthy coached the Buffalo Braves in 1971-72. Although the expansion Braves were beyond the reach of McCarthy magic as far as impact on the won-lost record was concerned, he imparted considerable contributions to the weak, second-year franchise which were no doubt considered when his alma mater, Canisius College, tapped him as head coach in 1974. He served with distinction in that role for three seasons, bringing the same intensity to coaching that he had formerly demonstrated as captain of the Griffs.

The rich roundball history of Canisius College has been acknowledged by the previous election of its alumni to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. In 1996, the spotlight fell upon the fiery Johnny McCarthy, perhaps the most tenacious Golden Griffin of all.