Harvard's Version of the Harbowl

Published by Michael D. Ledecky on January 22, 2013 at 3:13AM

Let the countdown to the Harbowl begin. Wins by the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens Sunday set up the first all-brother Super Bowl coaching matchup. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh will face younger brother Jim Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

The matchup prompted The Back Page to look for Harvard games that involved similar sibling rivalries. We found the McLaughlins.Frank McLaughlin coached the Harvard men's basketball team from 1977 to 1985, compiling a 99-110 record over eight seasons.  McLaughlin may be best remembered for his 1983-84 squad, which set the NCAA single-season free throw record (82.2 percent) that still stands today.

But McLaughlin's tenure is also unusual because of two early-season, non-conference games. Why? Because McLaughlin's younger brother Tom coached UMass. From 1981 to 1983, Tom McLaughlin led the Minutemen, who went 16-40 during his two seasons at the bench.

This December 1981 article previewed Frank and Tom's first match-up. The two brothers downplayed any rivalry, but former Notre Dame coach and current ESPN analyst Digger Phelps, under whom both McLaughlins had coached as assistants, thought differently:

"They're lying," Phelps said. "They want to beat each others' brains out. They're just being nice to each other, and they'll be nice to each other until the jump ball."

UMass edged Harvard, 75-73, at the MAC in 1981. Frank coached through a ruptured disc in his back as the Crimson dropped its fourth straight.

But Frank would have the last laugh on December 4, 1982. Trailing 38-25 with 11:07 left in regulation, Harvard staged what writer Mike Knobler described as "one of the biggest turnarounds in Crimson history."

Harvard point guard Calvin Dixon led his team on a 18-2 run as the visiting Crimson emerged victorious in an absolute barn-burner, 45-44.

"He's about 10 years older than me now," Frank joked after the game about his brother, who is four years his junior.

By the second half of the decade, unfortunately, both Frank and Tom had drifted away from coaching, precluding any more McLaughlin thrillers. Frank served as Fordham's athletic director for 27 years before taking an emeritus role in May 2012. Tom is the founder and CEO of Best In Sports, Inc., a sports marketing and representation firm.

If the game in New Orleans is as close as either of the McLaughlin Bowls, football fans are in for a treat.