The completion of the Harvard men's basketball team's 1990-91 campaign marked the end of superstar shooting guard Ralph James's illustrious but injury-riddled Crimson career.
James was the only player lost to graduation, so Harvard will return an experienced squad. But the team should have a different look this year with the arrival of new Head Coach Frank Sullivan.
In July, Coach Peter Roby stepped down from his six-year position as head coach to take a job with Reebok International Ltd.
"It was a tough decision for Peter," Athletic Director Bill Cleary said. "He loved Harvard, and we really enjoyed having him, but he got a wonderful opportunity from Reebok."
The search for a new Crimson leader commenced, and by late August, the coaching leak was plugged by Sullivan.
"Coach Sullivan was someone affiliated with some very successful programs, and he has a lot of breadth to his background," Cleary said. "In addition, he is coming from a very competitive league."
Sullivan comes to the Ivy League having just finished his seventh season as head coach at Bentley College. Before his tenure there, Sullivan served on the coaching staffs at Villanova, Lehigh and Seton Hall.
Although Bentley is a Division II school, Sullivan is clearly no stranger to Division I ball, a familiarity the Crimson players appreciate.
"He really knows the game of basketball well," Captain Ron Mitchell said. "And he's really committed to the program, to a competitive Division I program."
Competitiveness is something Harvard lacked down the stretch last season. Last year, the Crimson got off to a very hot 5-0 start in the Ivy League, but then fell to a third-place conference finish at 6-8 with an overall record of 9-17. Just what will be done to spark the Crimson this season remains to be seen.
"I haven't been able to evaluate the team yet," Sullivan said. "Everything could wind up the same, or there may be some adjustments."
Sullivan still has not reviewed last year's tapes, but he intends to rely primarily on his own observations.
"I'm going into this with my eyes wide open," Sullivan said. "I'm planning to look at strengths, weaknesses, see work habits, skill habits, get feedback from last year's staff, and then I'll be able to make valid assessments."
Although practices have not started yet, Sullivan's team already has confidence in the new coach.
"I have a lot of faith in his coaching ability," senior Ron Mitchell said.
"I think he can really put us in the right direction," added junior guard Matt McClain, who was recruited by Sullivan to play at Bentley College.
The arrival of Sullivan has also sparked renewed confidence and support from the athletic department. Sullivan has stressed the importance of creating a "positive environment" and has indicated that he has already seen an "over-whelming grass roots support" for the basketball program.
But clearly, changes from the outside will not be enough to put the Crimson back on track.
Two of Harvard's four returning starters will be missing, at least early in the season. Junior starters Tarik Campbell (point guard) and Peter Condakes (center) will be out for the season for academic reasons, although Condakes may return to play after fall midterms.
The Crimson does have some newcomers, however, including five freshmen recruits. Although it was Roby who recruited the players, Sullivan doesn't foresee any problems with the switch.
"The major thrust of choosing Harvard isn't the basketball coach," Sullivan said. "It may be a factor, but it isn't a really big one."
Crimson fans can certainly look forward to an exciting basketball season, but Sullivan anticipates some difficult times ahead.
"It's very difficult being unfamiliar with the players, and adjusting to playing without two of the starters," Sullivan said. "There's going to have to be a lot of give and take."
For now, as McClain put it, "we're all just waiting to see what happens."
'Sullivan really knows the game of basketball well. He's really committed to a competitive Division I program.' --Senior Ron Mitchell