MAAC Alumni Madness: Meet the Graduates

While neither Marist basketball team was able to complete a Cinderella run at the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City, Center Field is continuing its yearly tradition of holding a March Madness Tournament that Marist can compete in.

Last year, it was mascots, this year, it’s famous alumni. While lacking in A-List celebrities, the MAAC still has its fair share of notable names, from athletes and coaches to politicians. We’ve asked 11 of our writers to each choose who they think is the most famous alumni from their assigned school for a single-elimination tournament to determine which MAAC institution boasts the best-known graduate.

If you ask a lot of fanbases, many of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s decisions seem awfully arbitrary. In this spirit, we decided to randomly seed the celebrities. They are listed below, in order from one to 11.

1-Seed – Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City (Marist)

I’m proud to be the Marist head coach this time around! Step aside Giorgis and Dunne, it’s my turn.

Marist has connections to the mainstream world on many fronts. In athletics, you could talk about the legend of Rik Smits, the Dunking Dutchman who became an NBA All-Star and was the #2 overall pick of the 1988 draft. You could talk present with the newly-extended Seattle Seahawks kicker, Jason Myers, putting together his second Pro Bowl season and signing a massive four-year, $21 million deal.

But that’s not the route I’m taking today. I’m taking the political road– no, not Bill O’Reilly– with the current mayor of New York City Eric Adams.

Born in Brooklyn, Adams got his MPA from Marist and has quite the comeback story. After struggling to even pass high school, he earned an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and master’s and immediately joined the NYPD for 22 years. 

After his long career with the police force with the rank of captain, Adams ran for New York State Senate and was so for four terms, then became Brooklyn Borough President, THEN became New York City’s Mayor as of  Jan. 1 this year.

He might not be the most notorious, but he is certainly making a name for himself. Bonus points for being a native New Yorker in every way. –Dan Aulbach, Associate Editor

2-Seed – Joe Engel, Former MLB Pitcher (Mount St. Mary’s)

I had to dig through the archives for the new school in the MAAC, but it’s the former MLB pitcher who is the most famous alumnus. His most notable accomplishment with the Mountaineers was that he pitched a perfect game. 

Moving to Engel’s professional career, he pitched for the Washington Senators for five seasons (1912-1915, 1920), and a few for the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians in between stints in the nation’s capital. He had 151 strikeouts total in seven seasons in the majors, but after his last appearance in 1920, he went on to become one of the best scouts for Chattanooga Lookouts.

In Tennessee, Engel scouted the likes of Goose Goblin, Joe Cronin, Alvin Crowder, Buddy Myer, and Bump Hadley just to name some of the most notable players he scouted for 34 years. The Lookouts’ stadium is also named after Engel.  —Ricardo Martinez, Deputy Editor-In-Chief

3-Seed – Matt Turner, USMNT Goalkeeper (Fairfield)

I thought I had an easy answer in Paul Rudd, most known for his roles as Ant-Man and as Josh in Clueless, but upon further review, it was Paul Ryan Rudd the, “actor who played John F. Kennedy in the 1977 NBC movie Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye” but Matt Turner, the U.S. Men’s National Team’s goalkeeper is Fairfield University’s representative. 

The 2015 graduate did not play competitive soccer until high school at 14 years old. As a Stag, Turner in 39 total appearances as goalkeeper held a shutout in 21 of those. This led to Turner achieving All-MAAC second team in his senior year. The odds were stacked against Turner, as he had an infamous video go viral on ESPN’s SportsCenter “Not Top 10 Plays” Matt Turner’s No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 in 2013 and he was not selected in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. 

Nonetheless, Turner signed with the MLS team New England Revolution in 2016, became a starter in 2018, and was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021.

Since then, his domestic and worldwide notability has grown. During the 2022 FIFA World Cup Turner kept two clean sheets for the United States including a 0-0 draw against England in pool play. Currently, Turner has a long-term deal with Premier League club Arsenal.

At only 28 years old, Matt Turner has the potential to be one of the faces of United States Soccer for years to come and become one of the best goalkeepers in the world. That said, it’s worth remembering that Turner got his career started with the Stags. – Jarod Rodriguez, Social Media Director

4-Seed – William Kennedy, Journalist, Novelist (Siena)

Let’s address the elephant in the room. When looking at Siena’s most notable alumni, no name is as prominent as Wayne LaPierre, executive VP and CEO of the NRA. However, this is no forum for a policy debate. 

In a group of governors, archbishops, and college football head coaches, the most impressive resume belongs to William Kennedy, an author and journalist whose 1984 novel Ironweed won him a Pulitzer Prize. Kennedy, a native of Albany, began his career in journalism as a sports writer for the Post Star after he graduated from Siena in 1949. 

Kennedy was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950, causing him to endure a brief hiatus from writing. Upon his return in 1956, he took over as managing editor for Puerto Rico’s San Juan Star. Here, Kennedy befriended legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and the two remained friendly until Thompson’s passing in 2005. 

Kennedy eventually returned to Albany to work as an investigative reporter for the Times Union, where he focused on the political happenings in New York’s capital. Beyond the aforementioned Pulitzer, Kennedy’s work helped him accrue achievements including the inaugural SUNY Medallion of Distinction and the Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature. 

While another Siena alumnus might have more name recognition, William Kennedy is the gold standard for future Saints to emulate. – Daniel Capuano, Contributor

5-Seed – Digger Phelps, Former College Basketball Coach (Rider)

Hudson Valley native Digger Phelps earns our selection for Rider’s most famous alumnus. He was born in Beacon, the son of a mortician, and graduated from Rider in 1963 (fun fact: he has a street named after him in his hometown).

Phelps got into college coaching as an assistant at Penn before getting his first head gig at Fordham in the 1970-71 season. After his Rams team won a game in the 1971 NCAA Tournament, Phelps bolted for Notre Dame where he spent the next 20 seasons.

Phelps went on to win almost 400 games in South Bend, famously ending UCLA’s 88-game winning streak and notching seven wins over top-ranked teams. The current generation might know him for his time as one of the hosts of ESPN’s College Gameday, where he remained until 2014. – Jonathan Kinane, Editor-in-Chief

6-Seed – Elizabeth MacDonald, Journalist (Canisius)

Canisius has a few strong candidates for this spot, but I have decided to select Elizabeth MacDonald to represent the college. MacDonald is currently an anchor on The Evening Edit for Fox Business Network (FBN), where she covers news in the industry. MacDonald has been at the company for some time now, as she joined all the way back in September of 2007.

MacDonald did some great work prior to her time at Fox Business Network. She did a brilliant job covering a wide variety of accounting scandals in the mid-nineties for The Wall Street Journal

MacDonald was one of the first journalists to shine a light on that problem, one of the many reasons why she has received 14 different rewards. Some of those include the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business Journalism and the Society of Professional Journalists Award for Outstanding Public Service reporting.

Standing out and doing work that is impactful is what we strive for in our world of journalism. Elizabeth MacDonald has provided important information to the general public for quite some time now. She has done that work for multiple companies, filling different roles along the way. In a knockout bracket, there is no better person to represent Canisius than MacDonald. – Christian De Block, Assistant Editor 

7-Seed – Joe McCarthy, Former Manager of the New York Yankees (Niagara)

While Robert Wegman, Founder of Wegmans Supermarkets (and Jonathan’s pick), John O’Hara, noted American author, and Calvin Murphy, Basketball Hall of Famer and former NBA-All Star were in the running for Niagara’s most noteworthy alumnus, the nod goes to Joe McCarthy, former Major League Baseball player, and manager.

McCarthy is most known for his leadership of the “Bronx Bombers,” the nickname of the New York Yankees during his time at the helm. He managed the team from 1931 to 1946 and was the first manager to win pennants in both the National and American League. He won with the Chicago Cubs in 1929 and the Yankees in 1932. McCarthy has a total of nine league pennants and seven World Series championships.

The Yankees hired McCarthy in 1931. Jacob Ruppert, owner of the Yankees at the time, was not impressed by the success of the club with Babe Ruth only winning three World Series titles since his arrival in 1920. McCarthy was hired under the pretense that he had three years to bring a championship to New York, and he did just that in only his second year as a manager. 

He cemented his legacy in New York and built the Yankees into the powerhouse franchise they remain in baseball to this day. He won seven World Series Championships with the Yankees. From 1936 to 1943, he won seven out of eight possible pennants and won six World Series.

McCarthy was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1957 for his remarkable work as a manager. He recorded a 100-win season and holds the record for the career winning percentages in both the regular season (.615) and postseason (.698). 

For his legacy in New York in beyond, McCarthy gets the crown for Niagara’s most noteworthy alumnus, and whether you are a Yankees fan or not, you cannot deny the legacy McCarthy has had on the sport of baseball to this day. – Issy Cicinelli, Assistant Editor 

8-Seed – Rudy Giuliani, Former Mayor of New York City (Manhattan)

Going back to the theme of New York City mayors, the Manhattan College alumnus with the most notoriety over the years has to be former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani.

While studying at Manhattan, Giuliani majored in political science with a minor in philosophy. Upon graduating from Manhattan, Giuliani considered priesthood before deciding to attend law school at NYU. From there, he had a lengthy career as a prosecutor before becoming the city’s first republican mayor in three decades.

Giuliani, who served as mayor from 1994-2001, was widely known in the aftermath of 9/11 as “America’s mayor” for his leadership through the tumultuous times. Time named him their Person of the Year in 2001, underscoring his national profile during that time period.

In more recent times, Giuliani has made headlines for his role in former President Trump’s administration. He joined Trump’s personal legal team in 2018, representing the former president in numerous lawsuits that sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

He even played a role in escalating the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol, speaking at a Trump rally that morning, where he called for “trial by combat.” As a result of his actions, the state of New York suspended his license to practice law in 2021.

No matter your thoughts on the former mayor, there’s no denying he’s been a widely known public figure for decades in American politics. – Luke Sassa, Assistant Editor

9-Seed – Richie Guerin, Former NBA player (Iona)

Unless you are Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, who would have guessed that one of the greatest Knicks of all time spent some time at Iona?

The Bronx native’s later scoring dominance with the Knicks was teased during his time at New Rochelle, where he long had Iona’s single-season scoring average record of 24.7 points-per-game in 1954, a record that wouldn’t be broken for 52 years.

The Knicks selected Guerin with the 17th overall pick in the 1954 NBA Draft, but Guerin wouldn’t play for his hometown team until 1956 because he was required to complete two years in the United States Marine Corps – he had been with the Reserves since 1947.

Once he got his first playing time with the Knickerbockers, it clicked right away. He became an NBA All-Star in his second season, his first of six consecutive appearances. Guerin also had both the single-game points and assist records for the Knicks, with 57 and 21 respectively.

Guerin was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 for his career as a player, and his jersey at Iona got retired in 2014. A little late, yes, but better late than never. – Andrew Hard, Managing Editor

10-Seed – Molly Qerim, Host of First Take (Quinnipiac)

Connecticut native and ESPN host Molly Qerim is our selection for Quinnipiac’s most famous alumnus. She was born in Cheshire, Connecticut, and attended the University of Connecticut where she got her Bachelor of arts in communication and a minor in business administration.

Qerim then went on to attend Quinnipiac to get her master’s degree in broadcast journalism. After graduating from Quinnipiac, her professional broadcasting career kicked off when she started with the CBS Sports Network.

In her career, she has covered several Super Bowls, the Heisman Trophy presentation, the NBA Draft, NBA All-Star Game, and the MLB All-Star Game. In 2015 she was named the interim host of First Take and was then named the permanent host later that year where she has stayed ever since. – Jimmy Tsiantoulas, Contributor

11-Seed Frank D’Amelio, former CFO of Pfizer (Saint Peter’s)

If we’re talking about a culmination of power, intelligence, and the capability to help a hurting world, then we’re talking Frank D’Amelio. This St. Peter’s alum since 1979 graduated with a BS in Accounting and eventually landed the prestigious role of Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Global Supply at Pfizer in 2007.  

Now retired, D’Amelio was stationed in this role until 2022. While this isn’t the most prestigious position D’Amelio could have landed, when you consider the obstacle of a worldwide pandemic, you may want to better understand the magnitude D’Amelio had on not only the nation but the world.  

D’Amelio oversaw Pfizer’s manufacturing network which helped to guide the organization through one of its most challenging periods as it worked to address the COVID-19 crisis. Pfizer made history during the pandemic when at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, their vaccines were authorized to the public. 

This was something life-changing for the overall well-being of the world and something D’Amelio had a direct relationship with. D’Amelio was not only able to find success in himself and his career after graduating from St. Peter’s, but he was able to help the world succeed again. – Gabby Bean, Multimedia Director

With those not-so-brief introductions out of the way, let’s take a look at the first-round matchups. Remember, this is structured like the MAAC Tournament, so the top five seeds will all receive byes to the quarterfinals.

(6) Elizabeth MacDonald (Canisius) vs (11) Frank D’Amelio (Saint Peter’s)

(7) Joe McCarthy (Niagara) vs (10) Molly Qerim (Quinnipiac)

(8) Rudy Giuliani (Manhattan) vs (9) Richie Guerin (Iona)

Winners will be determined by the Center Field staff, who will vote on each alumni matchup. The full results will be announced on Friday.

There is certainly potential for some intriguing matchups down the line. We’ll see if things go to plan or if chaos ensues. Perhaps there will be a little of both. Buckle up and enjoy!

Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Dan Aulbach

Header image created by Jarod Rodriguez

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