Lou Carnesecca, one of the all-time coaching greats

Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca (Credit: Zeuscgp / via CC BY 3.0)

Lou Carnesecca guided the St. John’s University men’s basketball team with distinction and confidence for 24 memorable seasons, interrupted by a three-year absence as the head coach of the ABA’s New York Nets (1970-73).

By the time Looie retired in 1992, he had amassed a 526–200 record at the New York City school. Before that, he enjoyable remarkable success in the Big Apple’s high school coaching ranks, compiling a 205-34 record from 1950-58.

Oh, and by the way, between his high school and college head-coaching gigs, Carnesecca also served as an SJU assistant from 1958-65 before taking over at the Catholic school that same year.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coaching inductee (Class of 1992) turned 96 on Jan. 5, so it’s a good a time as any to remember his extraordinary career.

Lou Carnesecca, a prolific winner

Sifting through the data of his decades in the coaching business, Carnesecca was all about winning.

In fact, that’s all he ever really did.

And even though his final numbers with the Nets were below .500, (114-138), he took the club to the 1972 ABA Finals, where it finished runner-up

But in the years since his retirement, it’s the notion here that Carnesecca’s name has faded from the collective memory of die-hard hoop fans and casual observers of the sport. Sure, folks remember Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, and a handful of other coaching legends whose careers ended or continued past the early 1990s, but the New York icon is sometimes left out of the conversation.

That said, Carnesecca’s legacy ain’t too shabby.

Consider: He led the Redmen to postseason play in each of his 24 seasons at the helm. There were 18 NCAA Tournament appearances and six NIT trips. St. John’s reached the NCAA Final Four in 1985, and won the NIT crown in ’89.

Motivation was key tactic

Throughout his coaching career, Lou Carnesecca believed he could maximize his players’ talent. He challenged them to believe in themselves and their abilities.

“My way of trying to motivate my players is to tell them how good they can be; to build them up,” Carnesecca once said.

Looie’s career in a nutshell

To succinctly summarize all that Lou Carnesecca accomplished in his coaching career except for NCAA titles, this intro from his Hall of Fame bio is a good place to start:

Animated and energetic, Lou Carnesecca patrolled the basketball sidelines in a constant whirlwind of excitement – and success. Following in the footsteps of Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick, Carnesecca kept St. John’s University in the national spotlight even though he primarily recruited New York City players. He compiled eighteen 20-win seasons, posted back-to-back 30-win campaigns in 1985 and 1986, and averaged more than 20 wins a year for his career.