Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: Rhode Island Great Ernie Calverley

    
December 15th, 2010
In the latest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" player interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with the son of the late Rhode Island great Ernie Calverley, Ernie Jr. Ernie Sr., who led Frank Keaney's "Runnin' Rams" to a second place finish in the 1946 NIT, was named MVP of that tournament despite his team not winning and still owns the school record for points per game average in the single season (26.7 ppg in 1944). Ernie Sr. was a three-time All-America at URI and ranks fifth all-time in career scoring.

Jon Teitel: Your dad was known as "The Spendid Splinter" of basketball. Did he steal that from Ted Williams, and how did he like the nickname?

Ernie Calverley, Jr.: I never saw him play but that was his nickname. However, he was before Ted Williams, so maybe Ted stole it from him!

JT: He was a three-time First Team All-State basketball player at Pawtucket (RI) East HS. Did he have his heart set on staying in-state for college, or did he consider going elsewhere?

ECJ: I think he planned on going to URI the entire time.

JT: In the spring of 1943 he joined the Army Air Corps, but after five months he was discharged after a physical revealed a heart murmur. How did he enjoy his time in the Army, and how close did he come to having to give up basketball because of his health?

ECJ: He never talked much about the Army, but I think that he did not seek active duty.

JT: In 1944 as a 5'10"sophomore for URI (then known as Rhode Island State) he led the nation in scoring with 26.7 PPG (which is still the highest scoring season in school history), and at the time he graduated his 1,868 career points was the most scored by any player in college basketball history. What made him such a great scorer, and how famous was he back then?

ECJ: Around the Rhode Island area he was very, very famous, and gained most of his national fame after his famous NIT shot. Rhode Island had a unique running style that was unheard of at the time, as Coach Frank Keaney introduced the fast-break to college basketball. URI would score about 70-80 PPG, while most other teams at the time scored in the 40s.

JT: In the 1946 NIT at MSG he made a 62-foot two-handed game-tying shot at the buzzer that hit nothing but net en route to a three-point overtime win over Bowling Green, but nobody will ever see a replay of the "shot heard round the world" because the camera crew shooting the game ran out of film just before the shot and did not have time to reload. How did that shot change his life, and how frustrating is it to be unable to see the actual shot?

ECJ: I have heard enough about it that it almost seems like I was there. Probably 5 million people have told me they were there that night! It was absolutely his signature moment. They brought him back the next morning to try and recreate it on film...and he could not even reach the basket!

JT: Your dad was named NIT MVP despite scoring eight points before fouling out in a one-point loss to Adolph Rupp's top-seeded Kentucky team in the title game. How devastating was that loss for him, and how exciting was it for him to be named to the all-time NIT team in 1987?

ECJ: I think it is very unusual for the MVP to come from the losing team, but my dad's shot kind of overshadowed the loss.

JT: He was a three-time All-American. What did it mean to him to win such outstanding individual honors?

ECJ: I am sure it meant a lot.

JT: The Basketball Association of America (BAA) had just come into existence around that time, and he led the leagued in assists per game in each of the league's first two years (1947 & 1948) while playing for the Providence Steamrollers. Was he nervous about joining a professional league that was just getting started, and was he considered the best point guard in the league at the time?

ECJ: I know for that time in history they were paid very well. After he retired from pro ball to become a junior high school physical education teacher in Pawtucket, his annual salary dropped from $15,000 to $4,500.

JT: He later returned to URI as head coach and associate AD from 1958-1968, where he led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 1961 & 1966. What did it mean to him to become head coach at his alma mater, and how did he enjoy coaching as compared to playing?

ECJ: He was very proud to coach at his alma mater. Outside of a couple of bad years at the start of his coaching career, he had a lot of success when I was growing up. He loved representing Rhode Island because he had a love affair with the state.

JT: Your dad passed away in 2003. When people look back on his career, how do you want him to be remembered the most?

ECJ: As a good person/coach, a great player, and of course, "The Shot".

Mr. Calverley is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in A-10 history.

Charlotte: Henry Williams (1992) 2,383 PTS (#1), 308 3PM (#4), 82.2 FT% (#5), two-time All-American

Dayton: Jim Paxson (1979) 1,945 PTS (#5), 515 AST (#4), 168 STL (#3), All-American

Duquesne: Dick Ricketts (1955) 1,963 PTS (#1), 1,359 REB (#1), two-time All-American

Fordham: Ed Conlin (1955) 1,886 PTS (#1), 1,930 REB (#1), All-American

George Washington: Joe Holup (1956) 2,226 PTS (#1), 2,030 REB (#1), All-American

La Salle: Tom Gola (1955) 2,462 PTS (#3), 2,201 REB (#1), three-time All-American, national POY, NCAA MOP, NIT MVP

Massachusetts: Lou Roe (1995) 1,905 PTS (#3), 1,070 REB (#1), two-time All-American, conference POY

Rhode Island: Ernie Calverley (1946) 1,868 PTS (#5), three-time All-American, NIT MVP

Richmond: Johnny Newman (1986) 2,383 PTS (#1), 89.5 FT% (#1), three-time All-American, conference POY

Saint Louis: Anthony Bonner (1990) 1,972 PTS (#1), 1,424 REB (#1), 192 STL (#1)

St. Bonaventure: Bob Lanier (1970) 2,067 PTS (#3), 1,180 REB (#1), three-time All-American, conference POY

St. Joseph's: Jameer Nelson (2004) 2,094 PTS (#1), 713 AST (#1), 256 STL (#1), All-American, national POY

Temple: Mark Macon (1991) 2,609 PTS (#1), 281 STL (#1), three-time All-American, conference POY

Xavier: David West (2003) 2,132 PTS (#2), 1,308 REB (#2), 228 BLK (#1), two-time All-American, three-time conference POY, national POY