University of Dayton
Just as the University of Dayton’s football story can not be told without a crisp tip of the hat to Harry Baujan, UD’s basketball history can not be told without first mentioning Tom Blackburn, and he arrived at the school nearly a half century after the Flyers produced their first basketball team.
Tiny St. Mary's Institute of Dayton began playing basketball in 1903 with a six-game schedule, none against other colleges, resulting in a 5-1 record.
During the 1919-20 season, St. Mary's changed its name to the University
of Dayton, and in 1947, Blackburn was hired as basketball coach.
He was 41 years old and previously had coached at West Carrollton and Xenia high schools, winning the state championship at Xenia in 1942. He was in the Navy during WWII and a golf pro in North Carolina when UD called.
Dayton basketball has been among the city and area's favorite winter
entertainments ever since, and has been joined by Wright State University
and Sinclair Community College basketball teams, as a way to get the
area's name out on a national level.
Blackburn recorded only one losing season, his first (12-14), and was runner up in
the then-most prestigious NIT five times from 1951-58 before winning it in 1962.
Tragically, Blackburn succumbed to cancer at the young age of 58 during the
When Blackburn became ill, Don Donoher took over for the final games of
1964, becoming the coach of record for the second NIT championship in 1968 and an NCAA runner-up in 1967. Dayton won a third NIT championship in 2010.
Plenty of superior players led the charge, with Don Meineke (the NBA’s first rookie of the year in 1953), John Horan, Bill Uhl, Jack Sallee, Chuck Grigsby and Junior Norris the stars in the 1950s, giving way to the likes of Don May, Roosevelt Chapman, Hank Finkel, Jim Paxson Jr., Negele Knight, Donald Smith and Johnny Davis in succeeding
Dayton built a 5,800-seat Fieldhouse in 1950 and a 13,000-plus seat Arena in 1969 to accommodate its burgeoning fan base.
Since that Arena opening, the Flyers have played to an average crowd of
nearly 12,000, annually ranking among the top 30 college attendance figures. The Arena has been renovated twice since then, and has been the site of more NCAA tournament games than any other in the country.
UD also left independent status after the 1987-88 season, joining first
the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, then the Great Midwest Conference and
finally, for the 1995-96 season, the Atlantic 10 Conference, where they now
play under former UD star Anthony Grant.
Wright State University
Wright State, the new school in Fairborn just east of Dayton, began playing basketball in Division II in 1970 under coach John Ross, who had previously led Dayton Belmont High School to the State championship in 1964. Ross coached the Raiders five seasons, posting winning records in his final three.
Eventually, Ralph Underhill took over the program. In his 18 seasons, WSU
had 10 seasons of 20 or more victories and in 1983, Underhill’s team won
the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 28-4 record.
Wright State's biggest stars during the Underhill years were Bill Edwards, who went on to a long pro career in Europe, and Vitaly Potapenko, who has played several seasons in the NBA.
With Underhill, the Raiders moved to Division I in 1987-88 and shortly afterward moved into the 10,000-seat Nutter Center on campus. The Raiders made
their first NCAA tournament in that division following the 1992-93 season.
In 2007, the Raiders reached the NCAA again under first-year coach Brad
Brownell, whose star player was DaShaun Wood, the Horizon League's Player of
the Year. The team made the NCAA for a third time in 2018.
Sinclair, part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, is a
Division II school playing in NJCAA Region XII and in the Ohio Community
College Athletic Association. The school has had basketball teams since 1964 and during the 1987-88 season recorded a team-record 30 victories.
Kevin O'Neill was the most successful coach, recording a 203-106 (65.7
percent) record in 12 seasons from 1968-80. Don Cundiff followed with a
305-225 record (57.5 percent) from 1980-97.
Jeff Price has been coaching the team since 2003.