There are so many legends in the storied history of the Big 5.
Earlier this week, the Atlantic 10 honored some of them with its inaugural Men’s Basketball Legends award. Four of the legends are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, including Tom Gola (La Salle) and John Chaney (Temple). The Saint Joseph’s representative is Mike Bantom, a star forward on Hawk Hill from 1970-73.
“The considerable contributions each of these gentlemen made to their institution and its basketball program played an important role in shaping the foundation of men’s basketball in the Atlantic 10,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said. “Whether it was building a program that eventually became a founding member or furthering the conference as it grew into a basketball power, each of the honorees is a part of the fabric of A-10 history and we’re thrilled to be able to honor them.”
Gola is the NCAA’s all-time leading rebounder, sweeping 2,201 (18.7 per game) in his four-year career. The 6-foot-6 forward is the third-leading scorer at La Salle with 2,461 points, while guiding the Explorers to the 1952 NIT Championship and 1954 NCAA Championship. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Chaney guided Temple to 516 victories, 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and five trips to the Elite Eight in 24 years on North Broad Street from 1982-2006. Chaney is the Owls’ all-time winningest basketball coach, and led them to their first and only No. 1 ranking in 1988.
Bantom is the Hawks’ second-leading rebounder with 1,151 and ranks ninth in points (1,684). He averaged a double-double in his career with 20.0 points and 13.7 rebounds. Bantom’s No. 44 was retired by the university on March 1, 2003.
The group of Legends will be honored on March 16 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn prior to the Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals.