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The question of retiring numbers

By Vinny Pezzimenti

When I wrote a few weeks ago that David Vanterpool deserved consideration for number retirement at the Reilly Center, it was a sentimental folly. I had seen Vanterpool play. His greatest performances are permanently etched in my memory. It was a biased piece of writing lacking context and history.


St. Bonaventure has retired 10 men’s basketball numbers in nearly 100 years.

Vanterpool was a very good player. The collective numbers he amassed in points, assists, steals and rebounds won’t be matched anytime soon – if ever. He helped lead the program’s revival in the 1990s. He is a key character in the history of St. Bonaventure.

St. Bonaventure has retired only 10 numbers in its near 100 years of basketball. It is an elite group. It should remain that way.

Is Vanterpool elite? Does he belong?

During and in the aftermath of reporting on and finding Greg Sanders, other legends of the past were brought up to me.

What about Glenn Price? George Carter?

Glenn Hagan (with an assist from his coach, Jim Satalin) made a compelling argument for himself. (More on this later this week.)

Were they elite? Do they belong?

You tell me. I only know them by numbers in a record book.

Athletic director Tim Kenney has taken the right step by planning to convene the hall of fame selection committee to discuss number retirements. Hopefully this will make the selection process more objective than in the past – when the decision was left solely to the AD.

But many great players have passed through St. Bonaventure. How you can possibly honor them all appropriately without making others feel slighted?

It’s impossible.

Jim Engelhardt, an SBU grad, former sports information director and member of the hall of fame selection committee, suggested eliminating number retirements all together.

“I’d opt for a ring of honor or commensurate going forward,” he said. “I’d put a moratorium on retiring numbers but acknowledge that others support retiring numbers and certainly respect that.”

Kenney brought up a good point in passing before Saturday’s game: What if a star recruit wants to wear No. 44 or 25 or any other of the retired numbers?

Other schools hang banners to honor past players, yet allow their numbers to be worn by others. Sooner or later, St. Bonaventure will have to consider doing the same – or like Engelhardt proposed – something different.

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.


  1. Go Bonas

    Yikes, a few whispers from the AD and crew make your opinions sway like Donald Trump. Kidding aside… I sort of respect it.

    I would love to see this redaction: “When I wrote a few months ago defending the seats in front of the students it was a sentimental folly. I felt bad our athletic director was rightfully getting pummeled in the ground. Yes, his logic was entirely flawed, his actions were cookie cutter at best, and he borderline lied to the entire community just a few months into job, but I felt bad so I regurgitated some appeasing but truly baseless points defending the still ridiculous decision.”

    Anyways…. I agree with Tim Kenney and Jim on this one that having retired numbers creates an inevitable dilemma that should probably be addressed. I would hope whatever the decision ends up being that they keep the club pretty exclusive, in other words with exception to Sanders and maybe a few others, no more historical additions.

  2. whoa

    “What if a star recruit wants to wear No. 44 or 25 or any other of the retired numbers?”

    did tim kenney really say that? whoa

    there’s a simple answer: too damn bad. we respect tradition here and recognize our greatest players. find a new number and if you are good enough we’ll retire yours

    • Vinny Pezzimenti Post author

      That is the answer. No one said it wasn’t.

      But there are ways of honoring players without retiring numbers. Plenty of prestigious programs with quite a bit of tradition do so — and do it the right way.

  3. Vinny Pezzimenti Post author

    Fair enough. It was a very, very informal discussion with the AD. Nothing more, nothing less.

    To be perfectly clear, Tim Kenney gets SBU’s tradition and respects it greatly.

    • okay

      okay thats cool. I didn’t understand the context of that quote there on its own. I personally think retiring jerseys should be reserved for a select few but I don’t think we need anything else because it would diminish the honor that is that Bona Athletics HOF. Vanterpool, Carter, Hagan, Price - they are all well deserved members of the HOF. That’s a great honor!

  4. Patrick

    If you want to get really stingy, only T. Stith and Lanier should be up there. Then “ring of honor” or whatever for other truly greats, maybe the rest of the guys who are currently in the rafters. And only add truly great names to the RoH. A10 POY should be almost a must-have requirement. Lead us to S16 or something. Problem with honoring any guy that takes us to the dance is, shouldn’t that be our program’s expectation as we move forward? Not saying that’s only reason 44 got in, he was also POY and won A10 tourney, it felt quick but was deserved. It needs to be someone who you just say “I could never ever see another Bonnie in that number.” to get the jersey actually retired. I cannot fathom another 31. Good discussion, but we live in an age of instant gratification and everything is just “the best ever” when it isn’t. You want to honor and create tradition, have a well populated hall of fame, a really tight RoH, and there should be an accompanying bronze bust for any number that gets shelved for good.

    P.s. great job finding Greg Sanders