Until the Yale men’s basketball team takes the floor next week for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the days since Yale’s last March Madness appearance will continue to rack up. That team, the 1962 Elis, was led by head coach Joe Vancisin, who guided the program to two of its three trips to the tournament.
When Vancisin left New Haven after 19 seasons at the helm, no other coach in school history had more wins. That record stood until March of 2014, when current head coach James Jones surpassed Vancisin’s 206 victories at Yale with a victory over Holy Cross. The News spoke with the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Famer about his historic Bulldog teams and the significance of this year’s Yale squad.
Q: Have you been keeping up with this year’s basketball team?
A: As much as I can. We are in Florida, and the Florida people are partial towards the University of Florida and Florida State. The Ivy League is way down the list on reporting things, but I do talk to people up north and they fill me in.
Q: Have you had any conversations with Coach Jones about what it means to go to the NCAA Tournament?
A: No. I congratulated him after he won the championship this weekend. I managed to get ahold of him. He was a difficult person to get ahold of, but I did congratulate him. He is pretty excited and pretty busy now getting ready for his first tournament game. I went to a couple of those, you know.
Q: How special a memory is your trip to the NCAA Tournament in 1962?
A: I’m still in touch with most of those guys — Rick Kaminsky ’64, Dave Schumaker ’64, Denny Lynch ’64, Hank Bryant ’64, Billy Polinski ’62. I have been in touch with most of those kids.
Q: How special was Kaminsky for your team?
A: He was a great player. He was one of the better ones that I have had up there. John Lee ’56 was an All-American and I think that Kaminsky was outstanding. I don’t want to belittle any of the other players. They were all great kids, but those two outstanding players that I had at Yale — Lee and Kaminsky — are kind of in a class by themselves. The rest of the kids might not have had as much talent, but they were a very, very important part of anything that we accomplished.
Q: What do you remember most about your NCAA Tournament game in 1962?
A: We should have won. We lost in overtime, and we had a young man on the free-throw line with about five seconds to go with a one-and-one. Had he made it, we would have beaten them. He missed the shot and we went into overtime. I don’t want the young man to feel that he let us down or anything like that.
Q: Did you think it would take this long for another team to win the Ivy League championship outright?
A: Yale’s [recruiting] policies are different, like a lot of the Ivy League schools’ policies. I think it was pretty rough on getting outstanding players. There are so many excellent sports at Yale too, including hockey and football.
Q: In general, what advice would you give to a team going to the tournament?
A: They have accomplished quite a bit, and they have beaten some good teams outside of the Ivy League. I think James [Jones] can be proud of their showing against those teams. What they have already accomplished is tremendous.
Q: If your 1962 team matched up with today’s team, could you put a prediction on the game?
A: No, I couldn’t put a prediction on that game. The game has changed so much from that time. That would be silly for me to try to make a comparison.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: I want to wish James all the luck in the world. I would like to see them go do very well in the tournament. I will be pulling for them!