A bronze statue honoring legendary basketball coach Lou Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON was unveiled before a festive crowd during St. John’s University’s Homecoming Weekend— that launched a spirited, four-day welcome for hundreds of alumni, family, and friends as they returned to the Queens, NY, campus to renew bonds with the University.
“A very proud group of Johnnies made fall Homecoming fun, safe, and memorable,” Mark Andrews, Director, Office of Alumni Relations, said regarding the event, which took place October 21–24. “The dedication of the Lou Carnesecca statue was an iconic moment for the ages.”
Coach Carnesecca, 96, attended the ceremony, along with John “Jack” Kaiser ’49C, 95, his former Athletic Director and Assistant Coach, and dozens of former players from his nearly four decades with the St. John’s Men’s Basketball program. Jayson Williams, National Basketball Association star and former St. John’s team member, was among the luminaries on hand to congratulate the coach. The dedication was held in the lobby of Carnesecca Arena, where the statue, the creation of New Jersey Master Sculptor Brian Hanlon, is installed.
Noting he was “delighted and touched” by the honor, Coach Carnesecca told his audience, “Victories and defeats, they will soon be forgotten, but the relationships you have built with the people you come in contact with will last a lifetime. The game is important, but it’s only a small part of your life.”
Coach Carnesecca, known for his warmth, charm, and humor, is the winningest coach in the history of the St. John’s Men’s Basketball program, boasting a 526–200 record at his alma mater.
“We’re here tonight because of the way that Coach Carnesecca conducted himself when he was the coach of St. John’s. He didn’t just win basketball games, he represented the core values of our Catholic and Vincentian University,” said St. John’s President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., as he addressed the audience shortly before the unveiling.
“He was someone whom we could all be proud to be associated with at St. John’s because he was our coach. And at the end of the day, the most important thing for a coach is not winning—it is really what impact you have on your players.”
The statue ceremony was the buoyant culmination of Homecoming Weekend, which offered guests a wide range of activities and celebrations to recognize their connection to the University. The Red Storm Parade formally kicked off the weekend on Friday, October 22. Led by bagpiper Robert P. Lynch, ’77C, ’80L, a merry band of alumni, students, and other members of the University community marched or slowly motored along campus roads in decorated vehicles, with horns blaring, as they wielded banners and proudly wore St. John’s red and white school colors.
Following the parade, the Red Storm Tip-Off marked the unofficial start of the St. John’s season for Men’s and Women’s Basketball, under the leadership, respectively, of Coach Mike Anderson and Coach Joe Tartamella. Students in attendance enjoyed a preview of the basketball programs and their talented rosters.
The 22nd class in the history of the St. John’s Athletics Hall of Fame was inducted on the evening of Saturday, October 23, during an on-campus ceremony. The event recognized the accomplishments of nine distinguished figures in the history of St. John’s sports—as national champions, BIG EAST champions, and Olympic medalists. Among the 2021 inductees were men’s basketball greats Mark Jackson and Joe DePre, Harin Lee, a two-time BIG EAST Women’s Golf champion, as well as legendary track & field coach Jim Hurt.
Individual reunions for alumni athletes took place throughout the weekend, and the 50th anniversaries for the Classes of 1970 and 1971 were recognized. In addition, alumni from the Staten Island, NY, campus were recognized with a celebration at the Flagship Brewery.
One popular event, the 1870 Court: the Ultimate Red Storm Fan Experience, welcomed alumni on Saturday with barbecued treats under sunny skies on the lawn of Belson Stadium.
“It’s wonderful to be here on such a beautiful afternoon,” said Kevin Regan ’80CBA at 1870 Court, named for the year the University was founded, alongside his wife, Dian Conboy Regan ’80C, ’83G, ’02GEd. The couple, of Floral Park, NY, have a special relationship with St. John’s, since it is the place where they first met each other.
“St. John’s also was very instrumental in helping me to formulate a great career path,” said Ms. Conboy Regan, a retired high school teacher. “We also love the Catholic identity of St. John’s,” she added, noting she and her husband are Eucharistic ministers in their parish.
Joneil James ’03C, of Brooklyn, NY, a sixth-grade mathematics teacher, said she initially enrolled at St. John’s because she received a scholarship that made it possible for her to pursue a college degree.
“After I arrived here, I loved the feeling of being in a small community and in small classes,” she said.
She also passed along advice for prospective students. “They really should visit St. John’s to see if it’s the right place for them—and, most likely, it will be the right place because of the closeness of the University community and how it is so easy to get to know your professors.”
Joseph DiPietro ’88CBA, of Middletown, NJ, President of the central New Jersey alumni chapter, said he wanted to attend Homecoming Weekend, in part, because of his longtime devotion to the Men’s Basketball team. “I tell my wife that it’s all about the NY Yankees from March to October. And then, it’s St. John’s basketball from October to March.”
He also deeply appreciates the University’s storied history. “St. John’s represents New York City, as well as the world, because its community is so diverse,” Mr. DiPietro said.
“The education you receive here, and the St. John’s network of more than 194,000 alumni, is absolutely amazing.”