Oct. 9, 2007
DAYTON, Ohio - In an energetic, cheerful ceremony, more than 2,000 Dayton basketball fans gathered for the Celebration of Flyer Basketball on Tuesday.
Much like the previous 60 years of Dayton Basketball, the Celebration of Flyer Basketball turned out to be a rousing success.
From a member of the 1939-40 team, Edgar Reagan, to Don Donoher and Roosevelt Chapman, up to members of the 2007-08 Dayton basketball team, the history of the Dayton Flyers was alive and well at UD Arena.
More than 85 former players attended the event, including the seven living All-Americans: Don Meineke, Bill Uhl Sr., Bill Chmielewski, Garry Roggenburk, Henry Finkel, Don May and Jim Paxson Jr..
With Bob Knight serving as the keynote speaker, and ESPN's Jay Bilas as the emcee, the Flyer Faithful received a unique treat into the history and tradition of UD basketball.
The event honored the 1951 (NIT Runner-Up), 1952 (NIT Runner-Up & NCAA Sweet 16), 1955 (NIT Runner-Up), 1956 (NIT Runner-Up), 1958 (NIT Runner-Up), 1962 (NIT Champion), 1967 (NCAA Runner Up), 1968 (NIT Champion), 1974 (NCAA Sweet 16), 1984 (NCAA "Final 5"), 1990 (MCC Champion, NCAA) and 2003 (Atlantic 10 Champion, NCAA) teams.
The program began with an invocation by Father Paul Marshall, a greeting by the Voice of the Flyers, Larry Hansgen and remarks by University of Dayton President Dr. Daniel J. Curran.
Cheering would begin then and continue the rest of the hour. As would a non-stop flood of memories that rocked the Arena and the Flyer Faithful.
Video presentations followed honoring the three great Flyer basketball eras since 1950: the 1950's & early 60's during the Tom Blackburn Era and Fieldhouse Days, the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's known as the Donoher Era and the 1990's & 2000's.
Then came the speeches.
Dayton head coaches Brian Gregory and Don Donoher talked about the history and tradition of Flyer basketball and what it has meant to the UD fans, students and alumni.
Gregory spoke of the beginning of practice being just days away. "This weekend, all over the country, teams are beginning their season, when practice starts. But our season begins tonight. What our players will witness here (is) a history lesson far better than anything I can convey. They will learn about teams that succeeded at the highest level, that it can be done at Dayton, and I believe they will take those lessons with them into this season."
Donoher spoke of his coach and mentor, Tom Blackburn, and called the evening a Blackburn family reunion. "I look out in the audience and see Tom's sons, and grandsons and now his great-grandsons carrying on what he built."
Libby Blackburn-Morrison, coach Blackburn's widow, attended the event and Donoher credited her with starting the phenomenon now known as the "Flyer Faithful."
"After that first year in the Fieldhouse," Donoher said, "Libby was a one-woman marketing machine. She went out and made UD basketball the thing to see. From then on, it was five-thousand, eight-oh-eight -- a sellout every night. If what you see on the court at UD Arena is Tom Blackburn's legacy, what you see in the stands is Libby's."
Soon after Knight discussed his connection with UD Basketball and coach Donoher. Knight, who is the Division I All-Time Winningest Coach in men's basketball, reminisced about Donoher as an assistant on the gold medal winning U.S. men's basketball team at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.
Knight talked about the quality of the players and coaches that made the Flyers special in college basketball. Utilizing his own charisma, Knight entertained the crowd with humorous stories about the Flyers and Ohio basketball.
The event was designed to help the University of Dayton raise funds to provide additional student-athlete opportunities and renovate UD's Athletic Practice Facility.