Men's Basketball Has an Up and Down Season
March 31, 1998
Virginia Compiles 11-19 Record
Virginia finished the 1997-98 season with an overall record of 11-19 and a 3-13 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The 11 wins mark the fewest by a Virginia squad since the 1973-74 team posted an 11-16 record in Bill Gibson’s last season at Virginia.
The Cavaliers finished ninth in the ACC, the first last-place league finish for Virginia since 1985 when UVa finished with a 3-11 league record (17-16 overall).
Norman Nolan led the team in scoring (21.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.2 rpg), while national record-holder Curtis Staples led the nation in three-point field goals (130 3FGM, 4.3/g).
Jeff Jones Resigns as Head Coach after Eight Years
Jeff Jones, the Cavaliers’ head coach for the past eight years, resigned his position following the 1997-98 season. Jones’ resignation is effective March 31. He received a two-year contract extension following the 1996-97 season and will receive $600,000 in severance pay, as he is entitled under his contract.
Jones was named Virginia’s eighth head coach in April 1990, after four years as a player and eight as an assistant under Terry Holland. Jones compiled a 146-104 record as UVa’s head coach and led the Cavaliers to five NCAA Tournament appearances and the NIT championship in 1992.
Staples Wins Three-Point Shooting Contest
In what should not come as a surprise, Curtis Staples captured the three-point shooting championship at the Tenth Annual College Basketball Slam Dunk & Three-Point Shooting Championships during the 1998 Final Four weekend in San Antonio, Texas.
Staples sank 18 consecutive three-pointers en route to defeating Notre Dame’s Pat Garrity 23-12 in the men’s final.
Staples’ 25 points in the second round was the highest round of the tournament.
Matching up against the women’s three-point champion, Staples defeated Kari Gallup of Brigham Young 15-13.
Nolan Participates in NABC All-Star Game
Curtis Staples wasn’t the only Cavalier displaying his talents in Final Four festivities. Joining Staples in the Lone Star state was Norman Nolan, who played for the East squad in the 36th annual National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-Star game. The NABC all-star game is an annual contest featuring college basketball’s top senior players not competing in the Final Four.
Nolan scored 10 points to help lead his East team to a 102-89 win over the West. The Baltimore, Md., native connected on five of nine shots from the field and grabbed two rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
Pete Gillen Hired as Head Coach
Pete Gillen, the head coach at Providence College for the last four years, was named to replace Jeff Jones as UVa’s head basketball coach by Virginia athletic director Terry Holland on March 28. Gillen agreed to a seven-year contract.
Gillen’s four Providence teams compiled an overall record of 72-53 and the 1997 team reached the championship game of the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament before losing to eventual national champion Arizona. Providence competed in the National Invitation Tournament under Gillen’s direction in 1995 and 1996.
Prior to assuming the head coaching position at Providence, Gillen was the head coach at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, for nine seasons. His Xavier teams had an overall record of 202-75 and participated in the NCAA Tournament seven times, reaching the Midwest Regional semifinals in 1990. He was named Coach of the Year in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference five times. Xavier won six regular season conference championships and four conference tournament championships under Gillen’s guidance.
His career record in 13 seasons as a head coach is 274-128. The 50-year old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was an assistant coach at Hawaii (1975-76), VMI (1976-78), Villanova (1978-80) and Notre Dame (1980-85) before taking over at Xavier.
Gillen graduated from Fairfield University (Conn.) in 1968 with a degree in English Literature. He played basketball and baseball at Fairfield.
Nolan and Staples Conclude Collegiate Careers
Norman Nolan and Curtis Staples completed outstanding careers at the University of Virginia with the conclusion of the 1997-98 season. Nolan, a native of Baltimore, Md., had by far the best season of his career in leading the Cavaliers in scoring (21.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.2 rpg). He was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and finished his career 17th in school history in scoring (1,321 points) and sixth in rebounding (765).Staples became the most prolific long-range shooter in NCAA Division I history by connecting on a record 413 three-point field goals. He led the nation in three-pointers with 130, while averaging a career-high 18.1 points per game during the 1997-98 season. Staples was a third-team All-ACC selection last season. He scored 1757 points in his career, eighth in school history.
A Brief Glimpse at Who Returns Next Season
Virginia is expected to return three starters next season-swingman Willie Dersch, center Colin Ducharme and point guard Donald Hand. Also expected to return are center Kris Hunter, and guards Greg Lyons and Chezley Watson. Ducharme is the leading returning scorer (7.8 ppg), rebounder (5.0 rpg), shot blocker (34 blocks), field goal shooter (50.3 percent) and free throw shooter (73.3 percent).
Hand led the team in steals (37) in 1997-98 and tied Dersch for the team lead with 99 assists. Dersch and Hand also made 18 three-point field goals to tie for the lead among players expected to return next season. Virginia is expected to return players who accounted for 34.4 percent of the team’s points and 43.4 percent of its rebounds during the 1997-98 season.
First Team in History to Face #1 Five Times
The 1997-98 Cavaliers became the first team in NCAA history to face the nation’s #1 team five times in a season. Virginia was helped in this accomplishment by a series of schedule quirks that began with the Cavaliers’ game against Duke in December, and continued as Duke and North Carolina traded turns at #1 throughout the season.
Virginia lost that December game at Duke in its ACC opener when the Blue Devils sat atop the polls.
North Carolina replaced the Blue Devils in the top spot on December 16 and remained there for five weeks. The Cavaliers fell to the Tar Heels 81-73 in Chapel Hill on January 10.
Duke moved back into the top spot following North Carolina’s loss to Maryland on January 14. The newly reinstalled #1 Blue Devils downed the Cavaliers 72-65 in Charlottesville on January 24.
Following North Carolina’s win over #1 Duke on February 5, the Tar Heels supplanted the Blue Devils atop the polls. The Tar Heels came to Charlottesville ranked #1 and defeated the Cavaliers 60-45.
The Blue Devils moved back to #1 with their win over North Carolina in the regular-season finale. The victory also earned Duke the top seed in the ACC Tournament and a first round match-up against the Cavaliers. Duke ended Virginia’s season with a 63-41 win in the tournament.
Earlier in the season, the Cavaliers became just the second team to play four games against the #1 team in the same season.
Southern California played (and lost) four games against UCLA during the 1966-67 season. The Bruins were ranked first in all 15 Associated Press polls that season en route to their third national championship in four years.
Field Goal Shooting Improved
Virginia has not been known recently for its field goal shooting proclivity, but the Cavaliers were a better shooting team this season. They finished the season at 43.9 percent (vs. last season’s mark of 42.7 percent).
Virginia topped the 40-percent mark in the first 16 games of the season before shooting 34.4 percent against Georgia Tech on January 15. (The season high was 58.9 percent vs. VMI on December 22.)
Virginia topped 45 percent 15 times during the 1997-98 season after doing so just 12 times in 31 games during the 1996-97 season. The Cavaliers had only five sub-40 percent games this season after compiling 10 in 1996-97.
The Cavaliers’ field goal shooting percentage during the 1997-98 season is their best since shooting 44.4 percent three years ago.
Nolan, Staples 1-2 in Scoring
As Virginia’s leading returning scorers, it was no surprise that Norman Nolan and Curtis Staples carried the scoring load during the 1997-98 season.
One of the two led the team in scoring in every game except the Clemson game on January 20 when Colin Ducharme led with 16 points.
Overall there were 24 games where the duo ranked 1-2 in scoring.
Nolan led UVa in scoring, averaging 21.0 points per game. It is the highest average by a Cavalier since Jeff Lamp led the ACC with a 22.9 scoring average in 1977-78. Nolan was named a second-team All-ACC selection in 1997-98.
Staples was the only other Cavalier in double figures, averaging 18.1 points per game. He led Virginia in scoring nine times and posted the highest average by a Cavalier guard since Cory Alexander averaged 18.8 ppg in 1992-93. Staples earned third-team All-ACC honors in 1997-98.
With a combined scoring average of 39.1 ppg, they are the most prolific Cavalier duo in over 40 years. Buzzy Wilkinson (32.1 ppg) and Bob McCarty (19.7 ppg) had a combined scoring average of 51.8 ppg in 1954-55.
Nolan Turns in Fabulous Senior Season
Norman Nolan did not get the national acclaim that some players did, but he clearly was one of the top power forwards in the college game during the 1997-98 season and had a season that ranks with the best in Virginia history.
After a rigorous off-season where he worked hard on his strength and conditioning, and adding to his outside game, Nolan picked up his level of play tremendously during the season and caused ACC coaches and NBA scouts to take notice.
He averaged 21.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in 1997-98. He ranked third in the ACC in both categories with career highs in each, despite constant double-teaming, and occasional triple-teaming.
Nolan also finished fourth in the league in field goal percentage (52.4) and minutes played (35.9 mpg), and fifth in offensive rebounds (2.90 rpg).
He was selected the ACC Player of the Week three times and joined North Carolina’s Antawn Jamison (seven) as the only players to win the honor more than once during the 1997-98 season.
Nolan finished second in the conference behind Jamison with 17 games of 10+ rebounds and was third in the league with 17 20-point games.
Turnovers Decrease Chances to Win
Turnovers are one thing that drive basketball coaches crazy. And turnovers were a big bugaboo for the Cavaliers during the 1997-98 season as they averaged 16.5 turnovers per game. Virginia had four games of 20+ turnovers and two others of 19 miscues.
The Cavaliers finished the season with 149 more turnovers than the opposition. They also attempted 47 fewer shots despite having 29 more offensive rebounds than their opponents.
An inability to maximize their scoring chances doomed the Cavaliers in several games as they lost three games by seven points, three games by eight points, two games by five points, and others by four and 11 points.
In games when the Cavaliers had as many or more turnovers than the opponent, they were 10-18.
Incredibly, five of Virginia’s six-lowest turnover totals occurred in losses. The Cavaliers turned the ball over in a game 13 times or fewer six times this season and lost five of those contests. The season-low was 10 turnovers in a win over VCU.
Factors to Victory
Conventional baseball wisdom says it takes pitching and defense to win. For Virginia’s basketball program it took shooting, rebounding and defense to win during the 1997-98 season. The Cavaliers’ statistics in these three categories varied greatly between wins and losses in 1997-98.
When they won, they out-rebounded the opposition by nine rebounds per game. By contrast, when they lost they had a rebound advantage of just over one rebound per game.
There was also a great difference in field goal and three-point shooting between wins and losses.
A look at several areas broken down when the Cavaliers won and lost is below.
UVa wins UVa losesUVa FG% 47.6 42.0UVa 3FG% 37.4 32.4UVa reb./g 39.7 34.4UVa reb. margin +9.0 +1.2UVa Ast.:TO 0.95:1 0.81:1UVa PPG 69.2 63.7Opp. FG% 35.0 47.5Opp. 3FG% 29.0 40.2Opp. FTA/g 17.0 26.2Opp. Ast.:TO 0.83:1 1.31:1Opp. PPG 56.9 77.6
Staples Sets NCAA Three-Point RecordCurtis Staples came to Virginia with a reputation as an outstanding long-range shooter. He lived up to that reputation throughout his career by rewriting the UVa, ACC and NCAA record book for three-point shooting.
He finished his career with NCAA records for three-point field goals made (413) and attempted (1079) in a career.
Staples also led the nation in three-point field goals during the 1997-98 season (130 overall, 4.3/g).
He led the ACC in three-point field goals all four of his seasons at Virginia and was the league leader by a wide margin in 1997-98. He became just the third player in ACC history to lead the league in a statistical category for four consecutive seasons. (Ralph Sampson and Tim Duncan led the league in blocked shots four straight seasons.)
Staples tossed in at least five three-pointers in 14 games during the 1997-98 season, including a school record-tying nine threes against Georgia Tech on February 14. He also connected on nine three-pointers against UNLV in 1994-95.
He established a school record for three-point attempts in a game with 17 against North Carolina on February 11.
Staples’ nine three-pointers against Georgia Tech is the most by an ACC player in two years. He had nine of the top-18 performances in the ACC in 1997-98 for threes made in a game (including games of six or more three-pointers). No other player had more than two.
Staples also posted two of the top-five seasons in ACC history for three-pointers.
That list is below. Player, school, year 3FGM 1. Dennis Scott, Ga. Tech, 1989-90 137 2. Curtis Staples, UVa, 1997-98 130 3. Scott, Ga. Tech, 1988-89 116 4. Rodney Monroe, N.C. State, 1990-91 104 5. Staples, UVa, 1994-95 103
Dersch and Hand Tie for Team Lead in Assists
Willie Dersch and Donald Hand tied for the team lead in assists this season with 99 (3.3/g, tied for 10th in the ACC).
Dersch’s 99 assists led all ACC frontcourt players and are the most in school history for a frontcourt player. Jason Williford held the previous record with 75 assists in 1993-94.
Hand failed in his bid to become only the third freshman in school history to record at least 100 assists, but he still posted the third-highest total by a Virginia rookie.
Hand also used his quickness to lead the team with 37 steals, the sixth-highest rookie mark in school history.
Nolan Joins Gerard in Exclusive Club
Norman Nolan is just the second player in school history to average as many as 20 points and eight rebounds per game in a season after averaging 21.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game during the 1997-98 season.
He joins Gus Gerard as the only players in school history to accomplish this feat. Gerard averaged 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in 1973-74.
In case you’re curious, Ralph Sampson’s career high scoring average was 19.1 ppg during his senior season in 1982-83.
Ducharme Named to All-Academic Team
Center Colin Ducharme was selected to the 1998 GTE University Division Academic All-District III Men’s Basketball Team in 1997-98.
He is joined on the team by Matt Harpring of Georgia Tech, Matt Javit of UNC-Greensboro, Adam Larrick of Charleston Southern, Corey Reed of Radford and Tom Wideman of Clemson.
An Echols Scholar, Ducharme led UVa with 34 blocked shots, while averaging 7.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in 1997-98.
Rookie Hand Leads Team in Steals, Assists
Freshman Donald Hand stepped into the starting point guard slot over the Christmas holidays and remained there for the rest of the 1997-98 season, becoming another in a long line of freshmen to start at point guard for the Cavaliers recently (joining Cory Alexander and Harold Deane) .
Hand led the team with 37 steals and tied Willie Dersch for the team lead with 99 assists.
The freshman from Paterson, N.J., finished third in school history in assists by a freshman and sixth in freshman steals. He also averaged 4.7 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Hand reached double figures in scoring four times and scored a career-high 14 points in a win over Brigham Young in Hawaii’s Rainbow Classic.
He led the team in assists on 12 occasions, including five of the last six games of the season. He recorded a career-high nine assists, the fourth-most ever by a Virginia rookie, against then #1 Duke on January 24. He also dished off eight assists against Appalachian State on December 2.
Hand played a key role in Virginia’s 78-74 overtime win over Clemson on February 21. In that contest he turned in perhaps the biggest series of plays of his young career in the final 30 seconds of overtime.
With 28.4 seconds remaining in overtime and Virginia clinging to a slim 75-74 lead, Norman Nolan missed two free throws that would have padded the Cavaliers’ lead. Colin Ducharme tipped the second miss out and Hand chased it down to retain possession for Virginia.
Hand passed the ball to Curtis Staples who was promptly fouled. Staples made one of two free throws to put UVa ahead 76-74.
Clemson point guard Terrell McIntyre was given the opportunity to tie the score or put the Tigers in the lead. He had beaten Hand earlier in the game on a drive into the lane and tried a similar move on his rookie counterpart.
This time Hand was looking for it, beat McIntyre to the spot and drew the charge in the lane with 10.8 seconds to play.
Hand was then fouled with 10 seconds remaining. After struggling from the free throw line all season (55.3 percent at the time), he calmly knocked down both attempts to provide the Cavaliers with the game’s final points in the 78-74 win.
Hand finished second among ACC rookies in assists, fifth in steals and sixth in starts (21).
Nolan Sixth in School History
Norman Nolan led Virginia in rebounding the last three seasons, the first Cavalier to do so since Ralph Sampson led from 1980-83.
Nolan’s 9.2 rpg average in 1997-98 is the highest by a Cavalier since Sampson averaged 11.7 rpg as a senior in 1982-83.
Nolan finished his career ranked sixth in school history with 765 career rebounds.