Magic, Lebron - and John

Billy Baron ’14 is the fourth All America in Canisius men’s basketball history. Johnny McCarthy ’56 was the first. No surprise there: McCarthy has a way with firsts.

He was a star on the first Canisius teams to make the NCAA tournament (1955 and 1956). He was the first Canisius graduate to win an NBA championship ring (Boston Celtics, 1964). He was the first Canisius grad to coach an NBA team (Buffalo Braves, 1971). And he was the first to achieve a triple-double in his first NBA playoff game. Just two others have done it. You may have heard of them:

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (2006)Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (1980)And McCarthy, St. Louis Hawks (1960)

That’s it. That’s the list.

McCarthy scored 13 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 11 assists as his Hawks beat the Minneapolis Lakers 112-99. Not that anyone paid attention to oddities like double figures in three statistical categories back then. McCarthy never realized his place in history until James turned the trick (32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists) in his first NBA playoff game. That’s when statisticians scrubbed old box scores and determined such a thing had happened just twice before.

“I had no idea until my kids read about it and called,” McCarthy says. “Now they call me ‘Triple-Double.’ ”

He says this with an easy Irish charm that belies his deeply competitive nature. This “broth of a boy,” as the Canisius centennial history styles him, turned 80 in April and he still shoots around on the backyard hoop in West Seneca when his grandchildren visit.

As a sophomore, McCarthy was carried from the court after leading Canisius to an upset of ranked Niagara. As a junior, he carried Canisius to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight, dribbling away the last two minutes of a tie game against Villanova before hitting the winning free throws. As a senior, he led the Griffs to another Elite Eight, along the way beating No. 2 North Carolina State 79-78 in four overtimes.

Baron and McCarthy have more in common than All America. McCarthy coached Canisius in the mid-1970s when Billy’s father (and current Canisius coach) Jim Baron played at St. Bonaventure. And this season Billy was a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation’s top point guard. It’s named for the Celtics great who retired after the 1963 season, leading Celtics coach Red Auerbach to acquire ol’ Triple-Double, that broth of a boy from Canisius.

Story by Erik Brady '76