Out Of The Loop

This feature originally appeared in the Sept. 20 edition of Army Football Gameday vs. Akron.

By Ryan Yanoshak

The United States Military Academy offers some pretty special places around post. Trophy Point, among the most popular places in the Hudson Valley to go for a breath-taking view, the large offering of houses of worship, Fort Putnam, which was utilized during the Revolutionary Way, top-notch facilities and the new library all come to mind and are popular places among visitors.

What most folks don’t get to see is what former Army hockey head coach Jack Riley refers to as “The Loop.” There are no signs, no historical markers or no directions if you wanted to find it.

Had you been at West Point during the mid-1960s, you would have been surrounded by 1,107 wins, four trips to the National Invitational Tournament in men’s basketball, 29 winning seasons in hockey, 11 berths into the NCAA Soccer Tournament and three baseball championships.

“All of the coaches were very friendly and so were all the wives, so we were always together,” said Riley. “We had a fantastic group of coaches.”

Of the nine coaches in the Army Sports Hall of Fame, four of them were neighbors, and one was recently retired and still offering tips for success.

Riley, Joe Palone and Eric Tipton were included in the first four classes of the Army Sports Hall of Fame for their successes as coaches. And now, their former neighbor has joined them in earning one of Army’s top honors.

Last evening, Bob Knight was among the 10 individuals inducted into the Army Sports Hall of Fame.

Mike Silliman (baseball and men’s basketball), Curt Alitz (cross country, track and field and men’s swimming), John Boretti (baseball, soccer and hockey), Ted Kanamine (men’s swimming), Arnold Tucker (football and basketball), Jose Olivero (lacrosse and men’s soccer), Alexis Albano (women’s soccer and track and field) and Richard Shelton (pistol) joined Knight in the fifth class.

The 10 honorees were officially inducted into the Army Sports Hall of Fame yesterday. A special afternoon plaque unveiling ceremony was held in the Kenna Hall of Army Sports inside Kimsey Center, with the formal black-tie banquet at for Eisenhower Hall later in the evening. The group will also be recognized during today’s game.

The Army Sports Hall of Fame is a subset of the Kenna Hall of Army Sports, a comprehensive museum displaying Army’s rich and proud intercollegiate athletic program. It is located on the third floor of the Kimsey Athletic Center, Army’s massive football training facility.

In addition to the 10 Hall of Fame members honored, Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson presented the Office of Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (ODIA) Distinguished Service Award to Gus Fishburne. Fishburne, a vital resource in the Kenna Hall of Army Sports, has been a generous supporter of the United States Military Academy. His daughter, Holly, was a women’s soccer player while his son-in-law, Mark West, competed in sprint football. Both athletes graduated with the Class of 1991. His son, Gus Fishburne IV, graduated with the Class of 1994.

Knight coached at Army from 1965-72 and got to know Riley (1951-86), Tipton (1957-77) and Palone (1947-78) and all four racked up the wins and honors. Knight was also introduced to former Army football coach Col. “Red” Blaik, who retired in 1959.

“Those guys were the greatest,” said Knight. “Tipton and I would go fishing, Jack and I would play golf and I would go with Palone when he refereed soccer games. Those were three great people.

“Jack is one of my all-time favorite people,” said Knight of the hockey mentor who won 543 games and an Olympic gold medal during his coaching career.  “On top of that, I got to know Col. Blaik. I was a great admirer of Col. Blaik and meeting him just enhanced the tremendous amount of respect and admiration I had for him.”

Blaik won three straight national championships while guiding the Army football program for 18 years. Palone was a baseball and soccer coach and led the Black Knights to 11 appearances in the NCAA Soccer Tournament. Riley had a winning season in 29 of his 36 remarkable years and Tipton was a baseball and sprint football coach following a 15-year professional baseball career.

Now, they have welcomed their former neighbor into their exclusive club.

“I don’t think that I was ever given anything or anything was given to me that I appreciated more,” said Knight. “To be able to go in after them (Blaik, Tipton, Riley and Palone) is something very special. To be recognized in that way because of my feelings for West Point and the players that I had while I was there, it means a tremendous amount to me.”

Knight was hired as a 24-year-old, the youngest coach in Division I men’s basketball history. He led his squad to a 102-50 mark during that time and went to the NIT four times, including a third-place finish in 1969-70. He stands as one of just two coaches to win 100 games during their tenure at the helm of the Black Knights.

Knight left West Point for Indiana, where he won three national championships, including the last unbeaten team in Division I history. After a move to Texas Tech, the success continued as Knight became college basketball’s all-time winningest coach before stepping away from the bench and into the studio at ESPN and taking his spot next to his former neighbors.

Ryan Yanoshak is the Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at West Point.