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Don Kennedy, SPC Basketball Legend, Passes Away

Wednesday, October 27, 2004  
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Reprinted from Jersey Journal – October 27, 2004

 

Don Kennedy, St. Peter's College basketball legend

Won 323 games in 22 years; guided SPC to 5 NIT appearances

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

By Christian Niedan

Journal staff writer

Don Kennedy didn't just put St. Peter's College men's basketball on the national sports map in 1968. The legendary head coach made Jersey City the metropolitan area capital.

Kennedy, who led the men's program from a small-time program to major college status over 22 seasons as coach, died yesterday at 97.

Kennedy was the winningest men's coach in school history and coached the Peacocks to their greatest heights. The Hudson County Hall of Famer compiled a 323-195 win-loss record from 1950 to 1972. He was honored for his achievements last season during ceremonies at a St. Peter's-Manhattan College game.

His teams were known for their fast-break style and high scoring and went to three National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournaments and five National Invitation Tournaments - 1957, '58, '67, '68 and '69.

Of those teams, the 1968 "Run, Baby, Run" team was the best. That team finished 24-4, advanced to the semifinals of the NIT and featured players Elnardo Webster Sr., Kenny Grant and current Peacocks coach Bob Leckie.

Leckie remembers Kennedy as a strict disciplinarian who pushed his players to perform at their best.

"Playing for him and knowing him were two different worlds," Leckie said yesterday. "When I was a player, I kind of lived in fear of him, but after I became the coach he would call me up to commiserate about basketball at age 95," he said. "He was really a confidant for me."

Leckie added that Kennedy was ahead of his time in combining fast-break basketball with core fundamentals like defense.

Making sure players stuck to those fundamentals of the game was a key to the great 1968 season, whose highlight was a 102-93 double-overtime victory in the NIT tournament over heavily favored Marshall behind Elnardo Webster's 51 points.

Kennedy recalled his lessons to that team during his last interview with The Jersey Journal.

"I would tell them, 'Don't hog the ball, pass the ball,'" Kennedy said. "We had fast-break patterns where good passing is absolutely necessary. We'd get five men out on three lanes and if we got a 3-on-2, we'd score."

But the 1967-68 season was not Kennedy's only standout season. After suffering through a 9-16 season in Kennedy's first year, the Peacocks went 13-11 in 1952-53 and 19-8 the following year. In one stretch, Kennedy's teams had 13 straight winning seasons, including a 20-4 mark in 1957-58. Kennedy and the Peacocks followed up the amazing 1967-68 season with a 21-7 record in 1968-69.

Kennedy also coached Regis High School basketball teams from 1929 to 1950.

For 40 years, until 1985, he ran a tremendously successful basketball camp known as Camp St. Regis on a 40-acre estate in East Hampton, Long Island.

Although he had experienced health problems in recent years, Kennedy often attended home and away games.

He summed up his dedication to the team after a recent fall by stating, "I'll try to get there if I have to go on crutches."

Funeral arrangements are pending. Yardley and Pino Funeral Home, East Hampton, N.Y., is in charge.


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