|1967-1968 Syracuse Orangemen|
Coach: Fred Lewis
There were reasonable expectations for the team to continue its string of post season play. Three starting seniors returned, including the terrific shooting George Hicker, the rebounding phenomenon Vaughn Harper and the steady guard and captain Richie Cornwall. A couple of highly touted sophomores were joining the varsity in Ernie Austin, who in the previous season had set the Syracuse scoring mark for a freshman, and big Wayne Ward at center.
The season started out with the Orangemen winning four of their first five. Leg injuries to guard John Suder and forward Frank Hamblen, cost the team some depth. Other issues arose and slowly the season started to fall apart. The team would lose four of its next six games, and many of the players failed to hustle in the games. Fred Lewis was shaking up the lineup to find the right chemistry, with little luck.
In January, the season collapsed. The team lost 7 straight games. Against Niagara on January 31st, Calvin Murphy torched the Orangemen for 50 points even though Lewis had employed a defense to specifically stop him. Hicker and Lewis were having their differences, resulting in Hicker losing his starting position, and eventually getting suspended for a game. Austin, who had played so well during most the season started to fall off dramatically in his shooting failing to score in double figures the last 8 games, after scoring double digits for eight straight. Bob Kouwe and Tom Ringelmann would also serve suspensions for violating team rules.
Making things worse, the players started complaining out loud, and their comments and criticisms were making their way into the newspapers. The team wasn't hustling, there were lots of turnovers, and generally sloppy play. The team appeared to have a lot of individual efforts as opposed to team efforts, and players were complaining about Lewis' coaching techniques.
The team put some strong efforts together down the stretch and won five of the last seven. Ironically, it was a hot Hicker, who had been in Lewis' doghouse, and Harper who led the way. Nevertheless, a team that had expectation of postseason play ended the year at 11-14.
Fred Lewis was at the end of his contract. After the end of the season he walked away to be the athletic director at Sacramento State.
© RLYoung 2005, 2006, 2007