Archbishop Carroll (DC) 1958-60
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Carroll’s Dream Team
Legendary 1958-60 basketball champions complied a 55-game win streak despite racist encounters
by William Murray
The members of the Archbishop Carroll 1958-60 basketball team s have gone their separate ways, settling in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New York, and the Washington area. But regardless of where they are winning 55 games in a row is something no one will forget.
The streak began in January 1959, with a 78-56 win at Coolidge, and it continued with a 41-point victory over St. Anthony’s High School, a 22-point win at McKinley Tech, and a 74-30 defeat of St. John’s College High School in a game played at DeMatha.
The Lions didn’t show any mercy to Catholic schools, D.C. public schools, college freshmen teams or teams it devoured in out-of-town tournaments. The team won using Edward "Monk" Malloy’s precision shooting, George Leftwich’s deft passing and shooting, Tom Hoover’s rebounding, big man John Thompson’s deft touch and Walt Skinner’s solid defending.
Carroll whipped Cardozo 79-52 in the D.C. City Championship game at Cole Field House in College Park on March 7, 1959. They went on to beat three out-of-town teams at the Knights of Columbus Tournament at Georgetown University and then it claimed three more victims at the Eastern States Catholic Invitational Tournament in Newport, R.I., from April 2-4 to finish the season 33-2. The ream had won 24 in a row.
‘We took at a lot of hell from people,” said Coach Bob Dwyer, who left Carroll after the 1960 season in part because of the hassles. Frank Gilmore, Dwyer’s assistant coach, had to restrain a fan in Rhode Island who tried to attack Dwyer after a game there.
Dwyer recalled the teams’ travel to Rhode Island and not being able to find restaurants along the Delaware or New Jersey turnpikes that would serve the racially integrated team. It was also difficult to find a restaurant that would serve blacks during a trip to Baltimore to play Mt. St. Joseph’s according to the coach.
Sometimes blacks gave the players a hard time for attending a school that was predominantly white at the time. “Hey, George, playin’ basketball with all these white boys, you think you’re white too,” a childhood friend of Carroll player George Leftwich said to him when the Lions played at an all-black D.C. public school.
“We got a chance to see that real racism has no face, and no color,” Leftwich said. “People say, ‘I'm sorry it happened. ‘I'm glad it happened.”
Leftwich, which some consider the best player from the 1958-60 Carroll teams, attributed part of the teams, successes to the fact that all the players came from two-parent families. All players from the team except for one had received at least two post-secondary degrees, he said.
Coming from two-parents families gave the players the stability and confidence they needed to succeed, Father Malloy said.
The team stayed on an even keel in part because of the control Leftwich showed on the court, which inspired his teammates to have confidence in him, Father Molly said. He also credited Coach Dwyer for motivating the ’58-’59 team to succeed and not grow complacent.
Leftwich credited 6’10” Hoover, a childhood friend who enticed him to come to Carroll, with not allowing other teams or their fans to intimidate the Carroll players. “Tom had a heart of gold. He was protecting guys on the team,” Leftwich said.
“It was a matter of people spitting in your face and calling you “nigger,” Hoover said. In one newspaper column that was later retracted, according to Dwyer, a reporter called Hoover an “animal,” a pejorative description that carries racist overtones.
Molly graduated in 1959, but he the 1959-60 team picked up John Austin, a sophomore, and guard Kenny Price started getting more playing time during the 33-0 season. Leftwich became the team’s second leading rebounder. St. John’s tried to beat the Lions by stalling, but Carroll came away with a 32-20 victory on Feb. 12, 1960. The Spingarn Green Wave made the D.C. City Championship game look respectable in a 69-54 defeat at Cole Field House on March 5.
In the finals of the Knights of Columbus Tournament on March 20, Leftwich hit a last second shot from the top of the key to beat St. Catherine’s of Racine, Wis., 57-55. On March 25, the Lions beat All Hallows of Bronx, N.Y> by 84-38, in the semifinals of the Eastern States Catholic Invitational, setting a tournament record for victory margin. Price scored six points in the final 90 seconds of the final game on March 26, enabling the Lions to escape from Newport with a 60-52 victory over Trenton (N.J.) Catholic.
With Dwyer leaving Carroll in 1960 to coach at St. Anselm, Austin transferred to DeMatha. He later started at Boston College and was one of the leading NCAA Division I scorers, but he struggled in his brief National Basketball Association career.
“It was fun,” Dwyer said. “When you’re winning, it’s always fun.” In reply to a question about the team’s place in history, the coach asked rhetorically, “Who knows who’s the greatest?”