BUFFALO — Canisius Sports Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Braves coach John McCarthy, only the second Golden Griffin in program history to be drafted by an NBA franchise, died of natural causes last week at the age of 86.
Canisius President John Hurley said, "It's always dangerous territory in athletics to talk about the best, but John McCarthy was clearly one of the best, if not the best, basketball players to come through Canisius College."
A Buffalo native and a graduate of Bishop Timon High School, McCarthy played 61 games for Canisius from 1953 to 1956.
McCarthy scored 1,160 career points, which ranks 24th all-time in school history, and served as the team's leading scorer in both the 1954-55 and 1955-56 seasons. In those two seasons, he helped lead the Griffs to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances, where the team earned four wins, including the program's famed four-overtime victory over nationally-ranked NC State, a game where McCarthy scored 16 points.
In six career NCAA Tournament games, McCarthy averaged 15.0 points per game, highlighted by a 28-point effort in the Griffs' 73-71 win over Villanova in the 1955 East Regional Second Round game at The Palestra in Philadelphia.
"I was proud to welcome John to center court this past November as we recognized our Sesquicentennial all-time Canisius team and renew our relationship that began 45 years ago when I was a student sportswriter for The Griffin and he was the Canisius coach,” Hurley said.
“He was a key part of a golden era of Canisius basketball and he will be missed."
McCarthy was picked in the fourth round of the 1956 NBA Draft by the Rochester Royals, a team he played with for one season. He also played one season in Cincinnati (1958-59) and three years with St. Louis, (1959-62).
With the St. Louis Hawks, McCarthy made NBA history on March 16, 1960 when he became the first player to record a triple-double in his first career playoff game. In that game, against the Minneapolis Lakers, McCarthy scored 13 points to go with 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
A leg injury held him to just 15 games in the 1961-62 season. He played for one year with the Pittsburgh Rens of the American Basketball League.
McCarthy returned to the NBA for the 1963-64 season with the Boston Celtics, where he won a World Championship as Red Auerbach's squad defeated the San Francisco Warriors four gaes to one in the best-of-seven finals.
He returned to the NBA in 1971 as the head coach of the Buffalo Braves, and three years later, he took over the men's basketball program at Canisius for three seasons (1974-77).
McCarthy was inducted into the Canisius Sports Hall of Fame in 1967. In his time at Canisius, he earned eight varsity letters, including three as a member of the school's baseball program and one each after he ran cross country (1954) and played tennis (1955).
A member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Class of 1996, McCarthy named to the Canisius men's basketball All-Sesquicentennial Team last November when the school honored its 150th year.