CHESTNUT HILL - A rewarding journey features pitfalls and platitudes, failures and successes critical to the maturation process. From 1990-1994, four players carried the Boston College basketball program from the depths of The Big East Conference to a berth in the Elite Eight.
Their story is one of dedication, a tale remembered in their own words and those of some key teammates, 25 years after the Eagles upset top-ranked North Carolina and perennial power Indiana over the course of five days in the NCAA Tournament.
BILL CURLEY led Duxbury High School to the Massachusetts state championship in 1989. A McDonald’s All-American, he was BC’s top recruit following the 1989-90 season. He was named Big East Rookie of the Year in 1991, earned team MVP honors four times and was named First-Team All-Big East twice. He finished his career at BC with 2,102 points, playing in 126 games. His jersey was retired at BC on February 17, 2019. He is currently the head coach at Emerson College.
HOWARD EISLEY played at the storied Southwestern High School in Detroit, a teammate of Jalen Rose and Vashon Leonard. As point guard, he played 126 games over four seasons at Boston College, scoring 1,628 points. He played 12 seasons in the NBA, making two appearances in the NBA Finals with the Utah Jazz. He currently is an assistant coach with the New York Knicks
MALCOLM HUCKABY was a two-sport star at Bristol Central High School, drafted by the Houston Astros in 1990 as a third baseman. He chose to attend Boston College and join the basketball program. He too, played 126 games with the Eagles, finishing his career with 1,316 points. He played five seasons of professional basketball in Europe and is currently vice president of investments at Capital Securities Management and a college basketball analyst on ESPN.
GERROD ABRAM played at River Rouge High School in Michigan before joining the BC basketball program in 1990. He scored 1,111 points in 115 games with the Eagles, including 21 in BC’s upset of top-ranked North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. He is currently the head basketball coach at Romulus Central High School in Michigan.
DANYA ABRAMS joined the BC basketball program as a freshman in 1993. He earned his way into the starting lineup with his size, physicality and strength. He played 122 games from 1993-97 and scored 2,053 points, leading the Eagles to The Big East Tournament championship in 1997. He is currently the radio analyst for BC Basketball.
MARC MOLINSKY played high school basketball in Indiana and came off the bench for four years at Boston College, averaging five points per game while shooting 40% from three-point range. He is the founder and CEO of Designer Advantage.
Jim O’Brien took over as head coach of the Boston College program in 1986. In the six years before O’Brien’s hiring, BC played in the NCAA Tournament four times, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen four times and the Elite Eight in 1982. In O’Brien’s first four seasons, BC went 13-51 in Big East play and failed to qualify for the postseason.
Before the 1990-91 season, O’Brien signed Curley, Eisley, Huckaby and Abram to letters-of-intent to join the BC basketball program.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - Michael Adams’ brother, Joe Adams, was one of my high school coaches. Michael used to come down during the All-Star break, when he wasn’t in the All-Star Game and he would play some one-on-one with me, he would come to some of our practices. I knew I really wanted to go to a Big East school, so that was my path back in the day when I was growing up.
GERROD ABRAM - I didn’t know anything about Bill, I didn’t know anything about Malcolm, but I knew a lot about Howard because he played on the #1 high school team in the country.
BILL CURLEY - Everybody wants to play. You’re not looking for someplace where the coach is gonna say you’re guaranteed minutes and all that. Coach O’Brien never said anything like that. It was an opportunity to come to a Big East school and compete in The Big East and get a chance to compete for minutes. And then we got here and it’s like, ok – we’ve got guys that are pretty hungry and we like this.
The four freshmen were immediately thrown on the court together and signs of immaturity showed up every game. Facing some of the best talent in the country (Dikembe Mutombo, Billy Owens, Malik Sealy and Alonzo Mourning were the conference’s top players), the Eagles were beaten up physically and emotionally, finishing the season 1-15 in The Big East, 11-19 overall.
HOWARD EISLEY - That was a tough year. Talk about being dropped into the fire. We took a lot of lumps a lot of bruises. It helped us in the long run because we played so much basketball that year and we had to learn how to win. I think the only way you learn how to do that is by actually getting out there and being involved in the action instead of watching on the side. We learned every way how to lose that year.
BILL CURLEY - We took our lumps. We got beat up pretty good, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s your failing, so you have some control and say in it and we stuck it out. We didn’t give up. We didn’t point fingers.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - It was really a rough freshman year for us, not just because of the wins and losses, but Mrs. O’Brien passed away right before we were ready to go to our first Big East Tournament. I still get upset and emotional about it. We went through a lot.
As sophomores, Curley, Eisley, Huckaby and Abram began to gel. The highlights of a 15-12 regular season were a series of buzzer-beating shots from Abram and a thrilling 88-86, double-overtime win over Georgetown at Conte Forum on February 1. The Hoyas were led by All-American center Alonzo Mourning, who scored 38 points with 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots in defeat. Huckaby posted a career-high 34 points while playing all 50 minutes, forced to take over at point guard when Eisley fouled out.
BILL CURLEY - It was definitely a wild atmosphere. I wanted to come to BC to play against Georgetown. To come in here and to take down the mighty Georgetown was tremendous. That made people open their eyes about what we were capable of doing.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - Georgetown was an interesting matchup for us for a couple of reasons. They pressed a lot and we had three really good guards. Any time you break their pressure, we were able to get some open looks. We had a lot of confident guys on our team. Howard played on the #1 team in the country coming out of high school. My team was in the Top 25. Billy Curley was recruited by everybody. Gerrod definitely didn’t lack any confidence.
GERROD ABRAM - Once we beat those guys, we kind of felt like we were here, we were ready and that we could win some games in The Big East.
MARC MOLINSKY - The Georgetown game was significant because that was the first game when we started believing that we belonged in this league and that we could compete at the highest level. That game was a turning point for us and definitely made it easier for us to compete moving forward. It was exciting for the students and the fans. I think it not only made us believe it, it made the whole community here believe that we had a chance and we had a team that could accomplish something special.
The 1991-92 season ended with BC in the NIT, beating Southern Illinois 78-69 in the opening round before losing 81-80 to Rhode Island in double overtime in round two.
The next season, primed to make a run at the NCAA Tournament, the Eagles were dealt a blow when Gerrod Abram was indefinitely suspended in December for obtaining goods with a false credit card. The case against Abram was dismissed and he was reinstated in January after missing 11 games.
O’Brien told The Boston Globe at the time, “The kid made a mistake, What, is his career over? He’s done? I think we would be making a mistake if we didn’t give him another chance.”
GERROD ABRAM - It was a very disappointing time for me. It was a hard time. I just figured I let everybody down. I let myself down. But I just grinded through it, just being mentally strong. I always believed I’d get a second chance. Coach O’Brien had me with him the whole time. He helped me a lot during those times and that’s why we still keep in touch to this day.
MARC MOLINSKY - Obviously, when Gerrod went out it was a major loss for the program. When he came back it was such a relief because we knew we had our whole team back. We knew we needed him to compete at the highest level. We’re a family here. When something like that happens, you find out who your true family and your friends are. We all welcomed him back with open arms. I think that experience helped us all grow and helped us ultimately achieve some great things later on.
The 1992-1993 season fell short of expectations, but the Eagles managed to beat five ranked teams, including two wins over Georgetown and a 94-93 victory over 12th-ranked Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. Another trip to the NIT ended with a third-round 75-58 loss to Providence. It was the third time Providence beat BC that season.
With the foundation built and the Core Four set to return for their senior seasons in 1993-94, BC added Danya Abrams to the program. Abrams, from Greenburgh, NY, ultimately became one of the best players in BC history. As a freshman, Abrams brought size and attitude to a group that desperately needed it.
HOWARD EISLEY - We don’t have any type of success without Danya Abrams. He was the glue to our team. He made all the hard, tough plays. He did all the dirty work. I tell people all the time if it wasn’t for him - Boston College that year, we don’t have any success.
MARC MOLINSKY – Danya made an impact immediately, particularly in The Big East where it’s a banging type conference. We didn’t have a big banger. Billy was big but he was not really a muscle guy, so Danya really completed that inside presence for us and it wasn’t just his scoring. It was his attitude of, “You’re not coming into our house and not leaving with a couple of bruises.”
BILL CURLEY - I had to play with those little shorties – Howard and Gerrod and Malcolm. They weren’t the strongest or biggest people so I took a beating down there. When we got Danya, he gave us that extra big guy that we could start pushing and shoving a little bit harder and not have to worry about fouling out or anything else because we had some beef in there.
GERROD ABRAM – He was that missing piece that we needed.
DANYA ABRAMS - They had all the talent but they just didn’t have a tough guy down low. A lot of people were like, “Why’d you chose BC?” Number one, it was a great education. Two, it was a perfect fit for me - how they played, they just needed an enforcer down low, so if it’s a 6-6 game we’re gonna be playing all day because you’re not getting in here. You better shoot from the outside. But, it wasn’t easy. The four seniors knew everything. They would switch (defensively) and not even talk. They would point a finger and they knew what they were doing. Trust me, I got a lot of yellings in the locker room and on the court and on the sideline – “What are you doing?” I just didn’t understand what they were doing at the time, but once I really clicked I understood it. Simply, go out there and play defense. It was a great compliment just to be an enforcer out there for them.
By the fall of 1993, BC was considered among the top teams in The Big East, but the Eagles experienced some road bumps throughout the season. A trip to the Maui Invitational included tight losses to 10th-ranked Arizona and Ohio State. A win over Providence in January avenged three bitter defeats from the previous season, but UCONN proved to be a consistent thorn in the Eagles side.
BC viewed the Huskies as a barometer of sorts. UCONN’s rise to prominence started in 1990 with a run to the Elite Eight. After a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1991, the Huskies didn’t get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1992 and failed to qualify in 1993, losing an NIT opening round game to Jackson State.
Many felt 1993-94 was the year BC would surpass UCONN. In fact, the teams were evenly matched. Donyell Marshall was a junior averaging 25 points per game. Ray Allen scored 12 points per game as a freshman. Donny Marshall and Doron Sheffer were key contributors.
The head-to-head matchups that season were nail-biters. On January 8, 16th-ranked UCONN beat 20th-ranked BC 77-71 behind 24 points from Donyell Marshall. It was the 11th consecutive win for UCONN over Boston College.
GERROD ABRAM – UCONN really became a very special rivalry for us. It was definitely the biggest game of the year.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - We knew them. They knew us. They were a tough matchup. Donyell Marshall was tough. He was one guy that we really had matchup problems with and on the reverse side, they had problems matching up with us.
HOWARD EISLEY – Listen, any way you can imagine losing to one particular team, we did. We lost by 20, blew a 20-point lead, we lost at the buzzer.
The blown lead and loss at the buzzer happened on the same night, Febuary 9, when sixth-ranked UCONN came to Conte Forum and stormed back from an 18-point deficit to tie BC in regulation. After two overtime sessions, the Huskies won 94-91, with Marc Molinsky missing a potential game-tying three at the final buzzer. UCONN head coach Jim Calhoun called it one of the top two or three wins in program history at the time. Curley finished with a career-high 32 points and left the court convinced the Eagles and Huskies would meet at least one more time – in the postseason.
BILL CURLEY - There were four of us that absolutely wanted them one more time.
BC put together an impressive stretch to end the regular season, winning nine of its final 13 games to finish 19-9. The Eagles entered The Big East Tournament seeded third behind UCONN and Syracuse, a team they had beaten twice. Their first game at Madison Square Garden was against Georgetown. In decisive fashion, the Hoyas dominated BC en route to an 81-58 win that stunned everyone in the Eagles locker room, ending their pursuit of a Big East Tournament championship.
GERROD ABRAM - We were shocked. We were thinking we were gonna win it. It was our year to win it. We were shocked that we lost that.
BILL CURLEY - We got beat up real good in that first round.
DANYA ABRAMS – When we lost in The Big East Tournament and we came back, Coach O’Brien put us through the ringer. That was the hardest week of practice we had all year.
HOWARD EISLEY - Well it was tough. I think our confidence was a little shattered because we had high expectations and The Big East Tournament didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. So, Coach really got after us, you know. He really put it to us and really got us focused and locked in on what we needed to do.
On Selection Sunday, the Eagles, at 19-10, were named the nine-seed in the Eastern Region of the NCAA Tournament. It was BC’s first NCAA appearance since 1985. They were set to play eight-seed Washington State in Landover, MD, with the winner likely to face top-ranked North Carolina in round two. UCONN received the #2 seed in the East, with Indiana, Temple and Florida also looming in the bracket.
The Big East Tournament loss to Georgetown, on the surface, appeared a death knell to BC’s postseason chances.
GERROD ABRAM - Nobody’s talking about us. Nobody’s giving us a chance. Let’s just go in here and play our brand of basketball and we’re gonna shock the world.
Friday’s tournament opener against Washington State had all the makings of a funeral procession, despite BC’s confidence entering the tournament. They trailed by ten at halftime, and faced the prospect of an ugly, early exit. Eisley told The Boston Globe, “We knew if we didn’t win, it would be our last game.”
Behind 25 points from Curley’s and 17 from Eisley, the Eagles rallied to make it a game. Down one with under twenty seconds to play, Eisley and Curley teamed up to give BC a 64-63 lead. Washington State tied things at 64 with a free throw, but Abram drove the length of the court in the final seconds, drawing a foul that put him on the line to win the game with five seconds on the clock. Despite shooting less than 50% from the line over the course of the season, Abram nailed both shots. BC added another free throw to win 67-64 and earn a date with North Carolina.
MARC MOLINSKY - The football team that year, in beating Notre Dame, had set the standard that, “Hey, we’re here to compete at the highest level on a national level.” There’s no doubt beating Notre Dame and having that great season definitely inspired us to take our game to the next level. We wanted to be at that level and achieve that kind of success and we wanted to keep that going at Boston College.
GERROD ABRAM - Just leave it all on the court. We’ve got nothing to lose. Nobody’s giving us a chance.
HOWARD EISLEY – There was big media coverage for the game and I remember sitting on a panel and someone asked us a question, “How does it feel going into a game knowing you can’t win?” They started laughing. The reporters in the room started laughing. For whatever reason that really stuck with me and stuck with all of us. Not that we needed any extra motivation because we were a pretty confident group. We weren’t intimated because we played in The Big East, so it wasn’t an intimidation thing for us. It was just a matter of going out and really executing the game plan.
DANYA ABRAMS - Twelve months before, I’m home back in New York watching North Carolina win the national championship, saying, “Man, that’s a good team.” Now here we are 12 months later, I’m playing against them and we’re playing against them. We kept saying, “Just believe. Just believe.”
North Carolina entered the second-round matchup with a 28-6 record, ACC Tournament champions and the top-ranked team in the country. The Tar Heels were led by seniors Eric Montross and Derrick Phelps and junior Donald Williams, each of whom had played key roles as UNC won the NCAA Championship in 1993. With freshmen Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse added to the mix, Carolina was the favorite to win it all again.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - Yes, they had Wallace and Stackhouse and Brian Reese and Montross. We weren’t bothered by their size and length and athleticism. In a lot of ways we used it against them in our game plan because we were so used to seeing that.
BILL CURLEY - I think if you had taken a picture of the chalkboard before the game – the pregame chalkboard – you would have been able to see exactly what we were doing. I think that was the first time we really followed the game plan to the T and the coaches had everything scripted out. They knew what Carolina was going to do, how they were going to play. I can’t say enough for how Howard, Malcolm and Gerrod were sucking those big guys in and kicking it out for those threes. Just a tremendous execution of a game plan.
GERROD ABRAM - We knew everything about each other. We knew where we were going to be on the court. Howard did great, he knew where I liked the ball. We knew how to get Bill the ball. We knew how to play defense. We just put it all together at the right time.
On this day, O’Brien was going to live or die with his starting five. These were his guys, plus Abrams, who had earned an invaluable trust over the course of the season. Huckaby played 40 minutes. Abram played 38. Eisley and Curley each played 37. Every shot but one was taken by the starting five.
MALCOLM HUCKABY – He trusted us. We had been through the battles from freshman year throughout the course of our careers at BC. I laugh now when people talk about minutes. I wish I could go back to my college days. I could run forever. I never got tired. I think he trusted that core group, Danya in there as a freshman, but the Core Four – he really trusted us out there and that’s kind of what he went with. These are the guys that got us to this point and these are the guys that are going to get us over the hump.
Abram made six of the 11 three-pointers he attempted, finishing the game with 21 points. Eisley made three from long range and Huckaby sank three triples as well. The Eagles had a 10-point lead with 16 minutes to play when Abrams’ pass attempt to Eisley was intercepted by Derrick Phelps, who took off for a breakaway layup. As Phelps went up, Abrams leveled him, sending the 6-4 guard sprawling to the floor. Tempers were hot as an intentional foul was called. Phelps never returned to the game after suffering a concussion.
DANYA ABRAMS - It was a bonehead play by me. I threw the ball away and I just wanted to get back and foul him. Not as hard as I did, but hard. And you know, nowadays if I fouled someone like that they might kick me out the arena. But, you know, it was just a hard foul and if I had to do it over again I would - just not try to hit him in the head.
BILL CURLEY - I’m no scientist, but that’s physics. That’s 280 hitting 140. It wasn’t anything violent. That’s gonna happen. If you watch it in slow motion, I don’t know why they’re crying so much. I thought Danya had the ball and I thought there was some pretty good acting over there on that side.
After Dante Calabria hit one of two free throws in place of the injured Phelps, BC’s lead shrunk to 50-41 with 15:53 to play. By the 11:00 mark, the game was tied at 53. From there, it was nip and tuck to the finish, with Abram scoring nine quick points from long range while the physicality intensified. The Eagles lead ballooned to 68-61 with 4:32 to play and at that point it became a matter of holding on.
HOWARD EISLEY - When they made their run, it goes back to our freshman year - all the things we learned. We weren’t going to crumble because we had so much knowledge and so much preparation for those type of moments because we had experienced them all together.
UNC tied the game 70-70 with two minutes remaining on a layup from Rasheed Wallace. Curley answered thirty seconds later with a layup, but two free throws from Montross made it 72-72. Curley was fouled in the paint with :38 to play and hit both free throws to make it 74-72. After Carolina missed two shots, Gerrod Abram shot out of the pack with a loose ball, was fouled, and hit one of two free throws.
Wallace‘s game-tying attempt from the left corner with five seconds remaining was off the mark. Eisley corralled the rebound and sprinted the other way as time expired. The upset was complete.
Boston College beat top-ranked North Carolina 75-72.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - We did it. We executed a perfect game plan.
GERROD ABRAM - I remember it like it was yesterday. We had all our fans over here to the left. I think I jumped on the table. Howard ran out of the gym. We just knew. Earlier that year, BC had beaten Notre Dame. They were ranked #1, so it was like it was our turn to do it.
Curley was featured, embracing Abrams, on the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated, with the headline “Take That, Tar Heels!”
BILL CURLEY - I was just so pumped because right before we left the hotel that morning, my parents and a bunch of aunts and uncles, they knocked on the door and I was like, “Whoa.” They were at my brother’s state championship game the day before, so I didn’t think they were coming. All of a sudden, they knocked on the door and they were all down there and I was like, “Wow.” I think I was looking at them when they took that picture. It was awesome.
MARC MOLINSKY - We were excited on the plane ride home but it wasn’t until we got out to our bus and we saw a complete police motorcade surrounding our bus – that’s when it really hit us like, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” They escorted us all the way through the city, through red lights, all the way back to campus and I have goosebumps now even thinking about it.
GERROD ABRAM - We were just hyped and having some fun on the bus, but when we turned in to campus, it was lined up, rows of people lined up. We were just so excited. I had the nets we had cut down around my neck and we came out of the bus and it was just unbelievable. A lot of support. A lot of cheers. We just had a great time.
DANYA ABRAMS - Yeah that was an insane and surreal moment. When we pulled up here at Conte Forum - the crowd! I’m not thinking anyone’s gonna be here. The crowd was tremendous and that’s when I knew. It clicked, like, man we really just beat the #1 team and everyone watched it. So, it was a great feeling, I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
HOWARD EISLEY – It was unbelievable. To be a part of that is something you’ll never forget, I know I’ll never forget. Probably one of the better moments of my basketball-playing career.
MALCOLM HUCKABY – It was chaos. It was just absolute chaos. It was a great feeling. It was just a great scene and one of the most memorable moments of my life and we have a lot of fun with it to this day, which I’m happy about.
Riding high, the Eagles NCAA Tournament journey continued. A matchup five days later with Indiana was looming. The Hoosiers had advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in Miami with a nine-point win over Temple. The winner of the BC/Indiana game would advance to the regional final for a date with either Florida or UCONN.
The Hoosiers leaned on junior center Alan Henderson and senior guard Damon Bailey, who averaged almost 20 points per game. Indiana finished the regular season ranked 18th in the country with a 19-8 record. Calling the shots on the sideline was Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight.
GERROD ABRAM - We had just beaten North Carolina. We were feeling good. Just to play a legendary coach like that, a great program like that. We were just so excited, so happy. I remember his scouting report, Coach Knight said, “We have to contain Abram. We can’t let him run wild. If we keep him in check we should win this game.”
DANYA ABRAMS - When you beat the defending champs like we did, I mean a great team, your confidence is through the roof and we went out there saying, “Yes, we’re a better team than Indiana.” That’s what we thought on paper. We just wanted to go out there and prove it and, I tell you what, the biggest thing we wanted? A rematch with UCONN. We definitely wanted that rematch against UCONN and we were thinking, “OK, UCONN is playing Florida. They’re gonna beat them. We got Indiana. This is payback.” And that’s all we were thinking. So, you know clichés - don’t look forward to the next game. We were definitely looking ahead, saying let’s get this done so we can get to UCONN.
GERROD ABRAM – Because of what Coach Knight said about me, I came out more excited, more amped and we might have gotten some offensive charges and some turnovers early because I was pressuring the ball so hard. They didn’t know we were that tough.
If the North Carolina game was a lesson in executing a game plan, the Indiana game was a clinic in jump shooting. In the first eight minutes, BC splashed home six three-pointers to build a 22-8 lead. Among the sharp-shooters was Molinsky, a junior marksman who came off the bench with extra incentive to play well.
MARC MOLINSKY - The Indiana game was particularly special for me because I grew up in a small town in Indiana. My idol growing up was Steve Alford. I watched Bobby Knight, obviously, on tape, so to have the opportunity to play against IU in the Sweet Sixteen, knowing that I grew up in Indiana, it was a very surreal experience. They had a great team that year – Damon Bailey, Alan Henderson, they had a couple of great players – but there was something about that game, the rim looked a little bit bigger to me that game and it was a special night for me and for all of us and it was an honor to be able to play that way against Bobby Knight and his great team.
DANYA ABRAMS - We always knew Marc’s a shooter. “Shooters shoot,” is what we always say. Marc came in and he knew his job. Ok, you want to play matchup zone, or whatever it was, I’m gonna get it up, and we ran great plays and that’s a good thing. Everyone was playing so comfortable and trusting everyone it didn’t matter who scored. As long as we ran the system right, it was an equal-opportunity offense and Marc shined.
HOWARD EISLEY - Everybody was making threes. Good stuff, right? We go through that, but remember Indiana was a very good team, very well coached. You know they made a run at us.
The Hoosiers stormed back, cutting the lead to two at halftime and taking a lead in the second half. Tied at 68, BC scored the last nine points of the game, holding Indiana without a point in the final 2:35. With a 77-68 win, the Eagles became the first nine-seed to advance to the Regional Final in NCAA Tournament history. After the win, they were eager to watch UCONN’s matchup with Florida.
BILL CURLEY – I had a UCONN shirt on. That was my undershirt after that game. I wanted UCONN. You can ask all these guys. There were four of us that absolutely wanted them one more time. Just to go get ‘em. There was no way they were going to beat us in Florida. I’m sorry. It’s easy to say now, but there’s no way.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - We felt like it was lining up for us where we had to beat THEM! It would be perfect for us to beat them to go the Final Four.
HOWARD EISLEY - I think we all wanted that game, we really wanted that game.
Donyell Marshall told me in a previous conversation the worst thing that happened to Connecticut that Friday night was watching BC win right before the Huskies took the court. In his mind, and the minds of many of his teammates, their ticket to the Final Four was punched. UCONN owned BC. Of course they wouldn’t lose to BC! UCONN would get past Florida, beat BC and make the Final Four for the first time in school history.
The Gators had other ideas.
Florida shut down Marshall, who scored just 16 points and missed a pair of potential game-winning free throws in the final seconds of regulation. The Huskies were eliminated when Florida ran away with the game in overtime, winning 69-60 to end Connecticut’s season.
MARC MOLINSKY - Knowing that we could have played them in the Elite Eight instead of Florida, I think that would have been an amazing experience. I wish they could have pulled it off and beaten Florida.
HOWARD EISLEY - I don’t know if it was a letdown? Of course, it couldn’t have been, but I think we were a little disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to play them. Florida was a great team, they were better than us.
The stage was set for the unlikeliest of Regional Finals. The 9-seed Boston College against the 3-seed Florida. The Gators rode the momentum of a partisan crowd, but more than that, benefitted from standout performances from Andrew DeClerq and Craig Brown. Over the course of a few minutes in the second half, Brown nailed three consecutive three pointers to flip a 56-53 deficit into a 62-56 lead for Florida. The Eagles never recovered, playing from behind the rest of the game, making costly mistakes and ultimately losing 74-66.
The magical run was over.
DANYA ABRAMS – It was an unreal run we had. We were about a minute and a half away from the Final Four. I think, arguably, that was one of, if not THE best BC team that was ever assembled. No disrespect to the guys before and the guys after because they had great teams before and great teams after. But that was the team that really put BC on the map at that time - made it a national brand. I’m forever indebted to those four guys for taking me under their wing and teaching me everything.
BILL CURLEY - I think we were all guys that were good people. Winners. We kept believing. We kept battling and we just had to change that culture and get that snowball rolling the right way. I think that’s what we really did. We kind of changed the culture and set the table for Danya to get his Big East title and get in the tournament for multiple years when he was here. Yeah, you want to win. We came here to win. That was our goal. I truly believed we would get to the Final Four before I signed with BC. I had the opportunity to go to other schools that were definitely going to be in contention and I remember people asking, “Why are you going to there?” And I told them it’s because you’re in a great city, it’s a great school and you play in a great conference. You can get it done here. We might have been thinking a little bit over our heads, but you’re an athlete, you want to compete and this gave us a chance to compete and prove what we could do.
After the loss to Florida, with BC’s season over and the Core Four shedding their maroon tank tops for the final time in a teary locker room, Jim O’Brien told Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe, “I can’t really find the words to describe these kids. I told them when they came here that they could be the ones to turn us around, that they could leave that kind of legacy at our school, and that has come true.”
Twenty-five years later, on February 17, 2019, O’Brien returned to Chestnut Hill for Curley’s jersey retirement ceremony and a celebration of the 1994 team. He took a moment to reflect on the group’s achievements and the friendships born from a special journey together.
JIM O’BRIEN - Billy will be the first one to tell you that his success doesn’t come without the help of this group. When I say the group, I mean everybody, not just the best players. Some of my favorite guys on the face of the earth, right here. My relationship with these guys continues to grow. I was just as lucky as a coach could be to have had the opportunity to coach this group.
MALCOLM HUCKABY - I feel extremely blessed to go to a great school like Boston College and play at a high level. When you think it’s been 25 years, it’s like, “Man, I’m getting old.” Just great memories.
GERROD ABRAM - Some of the best four years of my life. Building those friendships. We still laugh and talk to each other, have a good time, watch each other’s families. A great four years for me and I wish I could get ‘em back.
Tom Leyden is the Sports Director at WFXT-Boston 25 News, a 1994 graduate of Boston College and classmates with Malcolm Huckaby, Bill Curley, Howard Eisley and Gerrod Abram. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomLeyden and send Tom an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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