Jim Nantz, Joe Mihalich, Tim Cluess and Gail Marquis are this year’s recipients of the Joe Lapchick Character Award.
Nantz has been the voice of March Madness since 1986 when he started calling early-round games for CBS. He became the Final Four studio host for five years before taking over play-by-play duties from Brent Musburger in 1991. This weekend is Nantz’s final broadcasts of the tournament. He will have called 354 NCAA Tournament games, including 32 championship contests.
Mihalich had a tremendous coaching career at both Niagara and Hofstra starting with the Purple Eagles in 1998. He had 265 wins at the school and led them to two NCAA Tournament bids, winning a game against Florida A&M in 2007. Mihalich’s teams were known for their up-tempo style, scoring 70 points a game in nine of his last 10 seasons at the school.
He then went on to coach at Hofstra from 2013-2020. Mihalich turned around the struggling program and the team went 26-8 in his final season there in 2020. The Pride qualified for the NCAA Tournament that year, but it was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cluess coached at all levels from high school to junior college and Division II before getting the Iona job in 2010. Cluess went 199-108 at Iona, leading the team to the NCAA Tournament six times. He helped the Gaels get the second at-large bid ever for the MAAC conference in 2012. He stepped down in 2020 because of a health issue.
Marquis had an incredible playing career at Queens College where she earned All-American honors twice, averaging over 20 points a game her final two seasons. She was part of the team at Queens College that played the first women’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden when the team faced Immaculata in 1975.
She went on to make the U.S. Olympic team in 1976 — the first year that women’s basketball was contested in the Games. She won a silver medal as the Americans lost to eventual champion Russia.
This is the 15th year the award will be presented to those who have shown the character traits of Lapchick, who coached at St. John’s and with the New York Knicks. The quartet will be honored at a luncheon on Sept. 21 in New York.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25