Wednesday, August 05, 2009

All in the Family

Brandon Triche comes to the Syracuse basketball team this fall, and it will be interesting on how he does. He has big shoes to fill with Jonny Flynn leaving early for the NBA, but Triche has been under the spotlight for several years now. As it is well known, his uncle Howard Triche, was a starting forward on the 1987 team that lost the NCAA Title to Indiana by a shot.

The pairing of Brandon and Howard Triche would be the 19th pairing of relatives in Syracuse basketball history. I must admit there may be some relatives I’ve missed… the nineteen are the only ones I could verify so far.

Ironically, this will not even be the first time that Howard Triche makes the list. His cousin was Jason Hart, and Hart played quite successfully for the Orangemen, and has had a lengthy NBA career.

I won’t go through the entire list; you can check it out yourself. However, there have been some notable family combinations for the Orangemen.

First, let me start with the combination that is not on the list, but I think deserves some mention: the Thompson brothers. Billy Thompson was a solid player for Syracuse in the late 1930s, a three year starter and high scorer for his era. His brother Bobby, was an outstanding high school player in the early 1920s, and the star of the Syracuse Freshman team. Bobby Thompson was considered one of the top upcoming basketball players in the country, but was sidelined by poor health, and would never play for the Orange varsity. I thought they deserved a mention.

I think there were six prolific family combination in Syracuse history. The first was the Riehl Brothers, Max and Albert. Max was a three year starter for the Orangemen, playing from 1905-08. He was part of the famed Buffalo German AAU team, and helped bring the Orange basketball program to promise. Albert played for Syracuse for three years, 1911-1913, and while not nearly as good as his older brother, he was a starter his senior year.

Next came the Lee brothers of Newark, NY (don’t get them confused with their 1970s counterparts). David Lee played for Syracuse from 1906-1907 and his younger brother Matt would play from 1908-1910. David was a solid forward, and a good score. Matt would essentially replace David when he graduated, and Matt would be a three year starter, a prolific scorer; he would lead his team in scoring in every game but one his senior year.

Syracuse would have to wait almost forty years for the next prominent family connection. There were some potential strong unions in between: the aforementioned Thompson brothers, the Katz brothers of the 30s, Maister brothers of the 30s, Glacken brothers of the 40s. But either injury, or academic ineligibility, or World War II, would disrupt things.

After World War II, the Stark brothers would make their appearance. Mike, Pat and Lou were all outstanding athletes, and would all have some time on the hardwood. Mike was a four year player; a small player, but very fast, and a sparkplug on the court from 1946-1950. Pat was the star quarterback of the football team; during the off season he would put some time into the basketball team in 1952 and 1953, and would be a starter for the portion of the 1953 team, averaging 9.7 points a game. Lou would be a reserve on the 1955 and 1956 teams.

The 1970s saw the emergence of the Lee brothers from Kirkwood, NY, and Syracuse would resurge under their leadership. Mike was a short forward at 6’3”, but a good rebounder and a terrific shooter both from the perimeter and the free throw line. The Orangemen would go to the postseason all three years of Mike’s career (a first for the school), and when younger brother Jimmy joined the team in 1973, the team would get to the NCAA tournament.

Jimmy played shooting guard, and was one of the best clutch shooters in Syracuse history. Mike was an outstanding free throw shooter, and Jimmy was even better. Jimmy would team up with Rudy Hackett, and give the Orangemen a Cinderella story run to the Final Four in 1975.

The Lee brothers would score a combined 2,516 points at Syracuse, and shot 606 of 744 (81%) from the free throw line. They were easily the best brother combination in Syracuse history.

In the early 1980s, the Rautins family legacy began at Syracuse when Leo transferred from Minnesota. Leo Rautins was an outstanding passing power forward, who often played at the top of the key. He would score 12.1 points a game in his three year career (1981-1983), along with 5.0 assists and 6.1 rebounds. Leo is best known for his game winning tip in to win the 1981 Big East tournament in triple overtime. He would be a first round draft pick, and would play for the Philadelphia 76’ers a few years before injuries kept him out of the league.

Leo’s son Andy is quite familiar to Syracuse fans these days as the teams three point shooting threat. Andy did not play much his freshman year, but has been a solid starter/sixth man ever since, and is entering his senior season. Rautins has been a regular on the Canadian National Team the past three seasons (which Leo has coached). The Rautins have scored a combined 1,728 points for Syracuse, and counting.

Finally, we get to the Triche/Hart family. Howard Triche barely played his first two seasons, before becoming a solid starter his junior and senior years. He would score 748 points in his career. Jason Hart was the starting point guard for Syracuse for four seasons (1997-2000), and has been in the NBA for the past 8 years. Hart was a tremendous defensive guard, with good scoring ability, and average point guard ability. Triche/Hart would score a combined 2,251 points for the Orangemen.

If I had to pick family as the top, I’d go with the Rautins duo, giving a nod to the Kirkwood Lees.