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Ben Carnevale

Sport: Basketball

Born: October 30, 1915

Died: March 25, 2008

Town: Raritan

Bernard Louis Carnevale was born October 30, 1915 in Raritan. Bright, tall and athletic, he excelled in a number of sports and was a standout for the Somerville High basketball team. Ben stood 6’4” and was a rock-solid 195 pounds when he enrolled at NYU in 1934, A business major, he made the varsity his first year and was a member of a squad that went 18–1 under coach Howard Cann. The Violets’ captain was Sid Gross. Their biggest win was a one-point victory over Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. The 1934-–35 team was later recognized as the national champion. Over the next three years, NYU won 40 and lost only 18. Ben was team captain in 1937–38 and earned All-East honors.

After graduation, Ben took a job coaching the Cranford High basketball team. He supplemented his income playing occasionally for the Jersey Reds, a pro team in the American Basketball League. Ben had a great basketball IQ and understood the changes that the sport was undergoing. More important, he was skilled at imparting new techniques and strategies to his players. Most everyone in the game agreed that he had a bright future as a college coach.

World War II put a kink in those plans, and it was very nearly a permanent one. While serving as a gunnery officer in the Mediterranean, Ben’s ship was torpedoed and he floated on a raft for five days before being rescued. He was later awarded the Purple Heart.

Upon his return to the States, Ben was hired to coach at the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels went 22–6 in his first season at the helm. The following year they went 30–5 and reached the NCAA Final. Their star player was Jim Jordan. Ben beat his alma mater on the way to the championship game in 1946, but fell short of a national title with a 43–40 loss to Oklahoma A&M.

The following year, Ben began a 20-year stint on the sidelines for the U.S. Naval Academy. During that time, his teams went 257–160 and went to six postseason tournaments. His teams were usually at a height disadvantage, since Navy did not take men over 6’6”. The Midshipmen reached the Elite Eight during the 1953 NCAA Tournament. In 1959, they scored a first-round upset over Ben’s old UNC team. Among his many players was Ben Egan, who went on to coach at Air Force for over a decade and was an assistant for the 1999 NBA champion Spurs.

Ben served for many years on the U.S. Olympic Committee, and was president of both the NCAA Tournament and NIT at various times. He was also head of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Ben retired from coaching in 1966 but stayed in the game as athletic director at NYU from 1966 to 1972 and at William and Mary from 1972 to 1992. He also helped to organize the Colonial Athletic Association. In 1970, Ben was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Ben remained in Williamsburg after retiring from William and Mary. His son, Mark, became a professional golfer and was PGA Rookie of the Year in 1992. Ben passed away in his home in WIlliamsburg at the age of 92 in 2008.

 

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