Monday, March 14, 2016

Looking Back to Look Ahead

The below is contributed by Scott Kier, who looks to the past in order to see the potential of Drexel's future.
Editor's note:  This post has been updated with bdragon's much appreciated history refresher.

Twenty years ago I was a high school junior with a front row seat from the end of the bench of my school's varsity basketball team watching one of the most exciting players in New Jersey ball that season.  His name was John Tice, and he was a year ahead of me and bound for Fairfield.  A year later, he would play and lose in the round of 64 to the North Carolina Tar Heels in what would be Dean Smith's last season on the UNC bench.

I was disenchanted with my high school sporting experience.  I was never good enough to get much farther than the 10th or 9th guy off the bench at the varsity level, and with a bum knee slowing me down I decided that it was time for me to move on.  My off days from practice and games were spent watching what I considered to be a much more exciting brand of basketball that was taking place about 80 miles to the southwest in West Philadelphia.  Drexel University was enjoying the best season in the history of the school.

Coached by Bill Herrion, and led on the court by junior guard Jeff Myers (who came to University City by way of St. Francis), freshman sniper Mike Derocckis, and the legendary Malik Rose, the team strung together impressive winning streaks of 8 and later 15 games, and put up a near perfect NAC conference record of 17-1.  The next closest team in the standings was Boston University with a record of 13-5.

The team was dominant in regular season play.  While their schedule could have been more challenging they put up a 23-3 record as they entered the Northeast Athletic Conference tournament with loses to Murray State, Oklahoma, and BU.  Rose averaged a double-double putting up 20.2 points and 13.2 rebounds per game for the season.  He carried the front court as a three guard contribution by Myers, Derocckis, and Cornelius Overby provided the majority of the remaining scoring.

The fifth starter on the team was 6'9" Chuck Guittar, playing in his first of two seasons at Drexel after transferring from Division II school New Haven.  Guittar was Herrion's second transfer capture after Brian Holden, who was recruited by Herrion at BU before joining him at Drexel for three successful years as a Dragon.  While he was not as much of an outside threat as Holden was, Guittar's outside shooting ability coupled with his height made him an important weapon to this team.  His capture, along with that of Holden, showed Herrion's ability to build a well balanced, competitive team.

On March 14, 1996 just one week after the team secured their third consecutive NCAA tournament bid, Drexel took to the court as the 12th seed against the 5th seeded Memphis Tigers who were led by sophomore center Lorenzen Wright.  For the next 40 minutes, the Tiger bigs would battle with Malik Rose, who put up 21 points and 15 rebounds.  The other four Drexel starters, Overby, Derocckis, Myers, and Guittar added 10, 15, 14, and 10 respectively and on that day nearly 2,000 miles away from the home court in West Philadelphia, Drexel did the unthinkable and walked away with their first tournament victory in school history.  And they did not just win, but they won big with a 12 point edge in the final 75-63 score.

Malik Rose, who fittingly scored the 2,000th point in the biggest victory of his college career, injured his ankle in that game which took a bit of his edge away when the team took on Syracuse just two days later.  Despite being injured, Rose played all 40 minutes in his final college game against the Orangemen and put up a very respectable 11 points and 15 rebounds.  His injury, and presumably playing with a short bench on short rest meant that despite their best effort, the Dragons just could not keep up with the higher ranked Syracuse.  Drexel hung with them though, as they went to the locker room with the game tied at 24 but the second half told a different story as Syracuse pulled away to a 69-58 victory.

That was the last NCAA tournament game that the Dragons' Men's Basketball team played, and the only time in the team's history that they made it out of the first round.  Malik Rose would go on to play a solid NBA career followed by what will surely be a storied career in the front office.  While he might not be the team's winningest coach, Bill Herrion still stands as their most successful coach, steering the Dragons to three tournament appearances and five regular season conference titles in 8 seasons.

Herrion's departure after the 98-99 campaign spelled the end of what many consider to be the golden years of Drexel basketball.  While Bruiser Flint had his share of success in his tenure at Drexel, he was never able to achieve what Herrion and his team did now twenty years ago.

With the 2016 NCAA Tournament about to begin, and on the anniversary of that big win against the Memphis Tigers, it is important for us as Drexel fans to remember where our team has been.  It is important for us also to take a look at what heights we want this team to once again reach.  It is obtainable, and with a the team taking a new direction starting in the 2016-2017 season, the sky is the limit for what this team will be able to accomplish.

Now it is time to sit back and watch as the women take to the court in the WNIT in their effort to try and raise another banner to the DAC rafters and set our sights forward with the prize of dancing again for the first time in two decades.  With each day that ticks by, I am more and more excited about what is to come for the 2016-2017 season.  20 years later, my front row basketball seats are now about four rows off the floor at center court of the DAC, and I could not be more excited about it.


  1. Great article but a couple corrections ... Its Jeff or "J" Myers not Greg. Holden was not JUCO, He spent a year Boston U, before transferring to Drexel, essentially coming with Herrion who recruited Holden at BU. FYI, Guittar transferred from D2 New Haven and Myers was also a transfer from St. Francis. Love that era, love that '96 team - can't believe its 20 years already.

    1. Thanks for the corrections there! I was always under the impression that Holden was a JUCO transfer and I spent some time digging a little deeper after this comment and you are 100% correct (obviously).

      And OOPS on the Myers! My bad.. Being up for 36 hours does that to me sometimes!

      I would agree with the comment about the era. It was a fun, fun time to watch basketball at Drexel.

  2. Believe that one loss was to BU at home. The one and only time I wished Bill Herrion good luck before a game.

    1. You are correct. BU won 76-74 at the DAC snapping the team's 8 game winning streak. They responded by winning their next 15.