Monday, February 17, 2014

The Loyola Legend—A Man Among Greyhounds

Before there was Cousy, before Pistol, Magic and Michael Jordan, there was Jim Lacy.
I have little doubt that most people have never heard his name and most underclassmen at Loyola University Maryland have no idea who he was or of his importance to their basketball program.
My first brush with the name came my freshman year at Loyola. My best friend, John Davis, pointed out Lacy’s son, then a sophomore.  John, or “the Dude” as we all called him, told me that when Lacy’s son played on the freshman team the prior year, the gym would pack out to see him just because his name was “Lacy.” That made an impression on me. Without knowing any details, by osmosis I understood the importance and impact of his father. I could try to understand how hard it was for that sophomore to live up to a famous father, but I had no true idea then that the senior Lacy was a once-in-a-lifetime talent. I know his history now.
Scoring 1,000 points is an arbitrary benchmark schools give their best basketball players. But if you've scored 950 points and don’t make a list of 1,000-point scorers, you've still had a great basketball career. While I was in college, in the 1972-73 season, the NCAA changed the rules to allow freshmen to compete on the varsity. Until then, a player had to reach that 1,000-point threshold in three years, so that achievement has been watered down since that rule was enacted. Further eroding the benchmark has been the addition in 1986-87 of the of the 3-point shot from 19’9” and extended by a foot in 2008-09.
If scoring is a major part of the makeup of a great player, largely because it can be measured, then the other facets, durability, playing time, scoring in the clutch, drawing the foul, have to be also considered in determining greatness. Jim Lacy would be a legend for scoring alone. Consider that he scored 2,199 points in his career, that his career was only three years, and that he played before the 3-point shot rule. Lacy was not a scoring hog; he didn't call for the ball. His teammates knew, when the game was on the line, whose hands they wanted the ball to be in and Lacy didn't disappoint. In 1949, Lacy was the highest scorer in the country and is said, in one game, to have scored the highest amount of points ever scored by one player in a game. His 44 points is still a school record. He was the first player in NCAA history to score 2,000 points.

                                   The Loyola Legend

         For people who like nice round numbers, and 2,199 is bothersome because he didn't reach 2,200 points, there is this notion: In several games, Lacy had points taken off the scoreboard. One of the memorable ones was a buzzer shot that the refs claim was taken too late. Back then, there were no replays to get the call right, so normally you gave the refs the benefit of the doubt. I would, too,  except that it occurred at the Mt. St. Mary’s in “The Hangar,” a facility with known electric lighting and scoreboard issues. I remember one game while I was at Loyola when the Mount hit a buzzer shot to beat us and the clock at one end of the court read 00:00 and the other 00:01. The refs pointed to the 00:01 and said “that’s the official clock.” Really? Why was  I not surprised?
Before he passed away in 2007, Father “Wish” Galvin, who played with and against Lacy, would always speak with such reverence when he discussed Lacy, his life and his legacy. And when he referred to Lacy’s scoring record, he would pronounce it “2…1…9…9,” emphasizing each numeral. Father Galvin also attested to Lacy’s character, saying that the pre-game warm-up for the Loyola Legend started in the chapel. Lacy was a Christian gentleman.
I was privileged to meet Mr. Lacy at the pre-game Basketball Alumni luncheon in 2012 before he was presented at the halftime with induction into the MAAC Honor Roll. The night before I traveled to Baltimore, I called the Dude and told him that Lacy was being honored at the half and that I'd finally get to see him. John reminded me that his father, Bill, had played with Lacy at Loyola High School and then with him on Loyola’s 1943-44 wartime team. I had forgotten that John had mentioned that on several occasions.
                  The crowd on it's feet honoring Lacy in 2012

           At the luncheon, I was surprised that I was actually going to be introduced. The school’s media staff was walking Lacy from table to table introducing him. When my turn came, I told him how honored I was to be able to finally meet “The Loyola Legend.” He grinned when I called him that. And then I told him about the Dude’s father playing with him and a warm smile spread across his face. ‘I remember Bill well,” he said and the look was of the fondness only a teammate has for one another.
Middle row (l to r) Jim Lacy third, and Bill Davis, fifth

The passing of Jim Lacy this week at age 87, does not end an era in Loyola basketball because Jim Lacy was a once-in-a-school’s-history type of player and transcends eras. Someday, Loyola could have a player who’ll score many points and win some championships, but Loyola will never again see someone as gifted and well-rounded as Jim Lacy, a man among boys, a Greyhound among pups.

NOTE: During my senior year at Loyola I enjoyed being the sports editor of the Greyhound (February through May, 1973). Freshman and sophomore years, I was a manager for the JV basketball team and worked the scoreboard for varsity basketball games. Links to my book website:       and my writing website: has links to my other sports and science-related articles.


  1. Greg,
    Thanks for sharing such wonderful memories of Jim Lacy.

    Peggy Cummings

    1. Jim Lacy is an integral part of Loyola's tradition and everyone in the Loyola community needs to be aware of his history. Thanks for taking the time to comment and thanks for the compliment. It is appreciated.