Local author recalls the making of legendary PC Friars in new book

Local author recalls the making of legendary PC Friars in new book

LINCOLN – Paul Lonardo’s latest book, “Homegrown: The Making of the 1972-73 PC Friars,” is meant as a 50-year commemorative, a couple years early, highlighting how that team came together.

Lonardo said he was only about 7 years old during that magical run to the Final Four, but even as a young child realized just how significant it all was.

“It was vague, but a big thing,” he said. “PC was so huge all over the state. It was just this buzz thing.”

This book, said Lonardo, “is a history of the PC basketball program, which paved the way for the homegrown talent and the remarkable 1973 run.” It is “inspired by the Great Ernie DiGregorio and the late great Marvin Barnes.”

Lonardo, a North Providence native and Lincoln resident who's written at least 15 books, told The Breeze he worked with Friar hero DiGregorio back in 2017 to help him write an autobiography, but that project has yet to come to fruition. He was inspired during those interviews with DiGregorio to write “Homegrown,” a history of the sport and DiGregorio's team. “Ernie D. is a hero to everyone, especially in North Providence,” he said.

This book is for those who are interested in how the past became the present of the team, what kept homegrown talent from going to other big universities and playing for their home state, he said. The coach of that team, Dave Gavitt, was born in Westerly.

Lonardo talked to friends of Barnes from when he was growing up in South Providence “right up until he died way too early,” sharing “stories about what made Marvin, Marvin.” Barnes was skinny and got beaten up a lot as a youth, he said, which forced him to get tough and led him to become the force that he eventually was.

“The Providence College Friars thrilling 1972-73 season began, in some ways, long before the players got together for their first practice,” states a synopsis for the book. “It was the culmination of fate, a little fortune, and the drawing power of this small Catholic college with a history of great former players which ultimately led to what has been called PC’s magic carpet ride to the 1973 Final Four of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

The 13 players who were part of the greatest team in PC basketball history were all young and talented.

“Their collective skills and the effort they gave all year contributed to the immense success the Friars had that season,” it reads. Alongside future NBA player and sharpshooter Kevin Stacom, Nehru King, Fran Costello, Charlie Crawford, Al Baker, and Gary Bello were some of the names that appeared in the box scores after each game, but Providence featured two local players who formed the nucleus of the team and dominated the headlines.

Barnes became an unstoppable force on both ends of the court as the team’s center, but “of all the stars in the constellation of the Providence College basketball universe, perhaps none shines more brightly than the 6’0" Italian kid Ernie D. from North Providence. Like Barnes, DiGregorio was a local product who played basketball on the playgrounds and in the school gyms just a couple miles away from the Providence College campus.

“You will certainly never see another collection of homegrown collegiate basketball talent on the same court at the same time, the likes of which was produced at PC’s Alumni Hall in the early 1970s, becoming the heart of soul of the 1972-73 team that generated so much interest and popular appeal that their home games had to be relocated to a new 14,000-seat arena in downtown Providence to satisfy the unprecedented demand for tickets,” states the synopsis. “Incredibly, it has been nearly 50 years since this magic basketball season in Providence. In this book, readers can relive the excitement of that season, while being taken on a historical journey from the earliest days of Providence College basketball history straight through to the PC’s Final Four matchup against Memphis State in the 1973 NCAA tournament."