Jay Wright, Muffet McGraw among Lapchick Character Award honorees

June 11, 2018 / Winning Hoops
Villanova Head Basketball Coach Jay Wright, one of only three active NCAA coaches to have won multiple NCAA Championships, Notre Dame Women’s Head Basketball Coach Muffet McGraw, who capped her 31st season at the school with her second women’s NCAA Championship, and Dr. Solly Walker, PhD, the first African American to play basketball for St. John’s University, have been named the 2018 recipients of the Joe Lapchick Character Award.

The winners of the 11th annual awards were announced today. The award is named for the Naismith Hall of Fame coach and is presented by a group that includes Joe Lapchick biographer and former player Gus Alfieri. It recognizes those who have shown the character traits of Lapchick, who coached at St. John’s and with the New York Knicks. The awards will be presented at a luncheon in New York on Friday, September 21 at the Yale Club of New York City.

Jay Wright

In 17 seasons as Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright has guided the Wildcats to new plateaus, including a pair of NCAA national championships. The Bucknell University graduate is one of only three active Division I head coaches with multiple national championships to his credit.

Wright began his head coaching career at Hofstra University where he led the Pride to two NCAA Tournament appearances before moving on to Villanova in 2001.

Villanova has more victories over the past five seasons (165) than any other US college program. It is the first Division I team to post 30 or more victories in four consecutive seasons (2014-18). The Wildcats moved into the Associated Press Top 25 in the first week of December 2013 and remained there through the end of the 2017-18 campaign. After gaining its first ever No. 1 ranking in the AP Top 25 in February 2016, the Wildcats have spent a total of 19 weeks atop that poll over the past three seasons.

In addition to the on-court success, the Wildcats have produced in the class room as well. Senior Matt Kennedy was recognized with the prestigious NCAA Elite 90 Award at the 2018 Final Four while Jalen Brunson was voted second team COSIDA Academic All-American along with BIG EAST Scholar Athlete of the Year. Every Villanova player who has spent four years in the program since 1975 has earned his degree. 

Muffet McGraw

Muffet McGraw capped her 31st season at the helm of Notre Dame with her second national championship and 800th win (800-230). McGraw also wrapped her 36th year overall coaching (888-271) as a head coach. She ranks ninth all-time in career victories among Division I coaches and is currently on pace to become the second fastest coach to 900 career wins.

McGraw is also just one of five coaches (men’s or women’s basketball) in NCAA Division I history with over 875 wins, eight Final Fours and multiple national championships. The prestigious list includes Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma, Duke men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski and the late North Carolina men’s coach Dean Smith.

In September of 2017, McGraw took her place among the game’s elite when she was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, becoming the 32nd woman to do so.

McGraw now boasts eight Final Four wins, third behind Gino Auriemma and Pat Summit, and the third most NCAA Tournament wins with 61. Coach McGraw also became the sixth different coach with multiple NCAA titles, joining Auriemma, Summit, Linda Sharp, Tara VanDerveer and Kim Mulkey.

Dr. Solly Walker, PhD

Solly Walker’s remarkable journey commenced in Brooklyn New York. As a scholar athlete at Boys High School, he was selected All Brooklyn for two years, and was voted Scholastic Player of The Year by The New York City Basketball Writers Association.

Dr. Walker then achieved national recognition as the first African American basketball player in the history of St. John’s University. During his freshman year, he led the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists. In 1952, he and his teammates competed in the NCAA Championship game (the first of two final four appearances in the school’s history), and the following year, advanced to the NIT title game. The team also participated in the Olympic Trials. 

As a St. John’s senior, Dr. Walker again led the team in all categories and was elected Co-Captain and Most Valuable Player by his teammates. 

Dr. Walker had a passion for ensuring the well-being of New York City’s youth.  He became a teacher, and later a school administrator, serving as first an assistant principle and later as a principal of Manhattan’s P58 (now 35) High School, where he served for 25 years.

In this capacity, he was able to make a difference in the lives of thousands of students and hundreds of teachers through his leadership, compassion, and dedication. Dr. Walker retired from the New York City Board of Education in 1999, after 41 years of service.

Dr. Walker was one of the founding members of the Brooklyn USA Athletic Association, Inc., the umbrella organization for the Jackie Robinson Center for Physical Culture, which provided academic support and artistic training to thousands of youths

Dr. Walker has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame and has been honored by a host of public and private organizations. His most memorable are: New York City Board of Education — Principal of The Year, New York City Board of Education — Outstanding Supervisor, and a Certificate of Appreciation from former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for Outstanding Community Service.  

About the Joe Lapchick Character Awards

Founded in 2008, The Joe Lapchick Character Foundation, and its annual awards luncheon, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, were conceived by former St. John’s player and longtime high school coach Gus Alfieri. Author of the book “Lapchick: The Life of a Legendary Player and Coach in the Glory Days of Basketball,” Alfieri wanted to preserve and celebrate the legacy of Lapchick, a Hall of Fame player and coach for 30 years; 20 at St. John’s University and 10 more with the New York Knicks.

Previous winners of the Lapchick Award include Naismith Hall of Famers and Coaches Mike Krzyzewski,  Dean Smith, Pat Summitt, Lou Carnesecca, John Thompson Jr., Bob Hurley Sr., Jim Phelan, Pete Carril, John Bach, Bob McKillop, Jody Conradt, Cathy Rush, Morgan Wootten, Pete Newell, C.M. Newton, Don Haskins, Kay Yow, Jack Curran, Debbie Ryan, Theresa Grentz, Gene Keady and George Raveling.