It is not every day you get the chance to continue your family’s basketball legacy but, Marist freshman forward Mack Wall has the honor of doing so.
Wall comes from a basketball family. His brother and father were both college basketball walk-on students. The biggest basketball figure in his family is a familiar name in Poughkeepsie: Ron Petro.
Petro was Marist’s men’s basketball head coach from 1966-1984 and the Red Foxes’ athletic director from 1977-1984.
Wall, like his brother and father, was a walk-on student at Marist. Initially, Wall had a few Division III and Division II offers, but then the opportunity arose to play for his grandfather’s school.
“This was my best situation for Division I, just to walk on, and this is the level I want to be at. I was pretty familiar with the role and I knew what to expect,” said Wall.
The native of Portland, Oregon made three appearances in his freshman campaign, including getting on the court twice in the MAAC Tournament when the Red Foxes were putting the finishing touches on victories of Quinnipiac and St. Peter’s.
His decision to walk on to the team was majorly influenced by discussions he had with his grandfather.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit, talked about how great the school is. He was obviously very biased about it. I really wanted to play basketball and I was just lucky that he could help me out with my situation,” said Wall.
Being part of a family legacy is almost never easy. For some people, there is a huge amount of pressure to continue that legacy, but Wall, on the other hand, really enjoys being a part of this history.
“It means a lot, he (Petro) built this program up. He started all athletics at the NAIA and moved up all athletics up to Division I before he left. It’s good that someone here is keeping his legacy alive,” said Wall.
Petro accomplished many things during his time at Marist. During his 18 years with the school, he won 231 games, and three league titles, moved Marist athletics to Division I, and was responsible for the growth of many buildings and programs.
Wall believes that moving Marist to Division I and the construction of the McCann Center were the most important accomplishments that Petro had throughout his career at Marist.
“The McCann Center is the hub for the athletics on campus and the construction of the building helped facilitate Marist to Division I,” said Wall.
Petro helped lay a lot of the groundwork for the men’s basketball team’s success soon after it joined the Division I ranks. He led the program to a more-than-respectable 12-14 season in its first year in the ECAC Metro and back-to-back .500 records in the next two seasons.
Having accomplished so much, Petro never had a flare for the dramatics.
“He’s [Petro] the most humble guy ever. He wouldn’t want to talk about his accomplishments unless you asked him about it,” said Wall.
The part that resonated with Petro during his time at Marist was the culture and the students. Petro, in every way possible, was always trying to improve the campus for the benefit of the students.
When Petro wanted to start the funding for a new building– the McCann Center– he would have basketball camps set up. One of his big sponsors was Blue Ribbon Sports, now known as Nike, to fund the basketball and track camps.
Another aspect that was important for Petro was the well-being of the students. Petro would offer and allow students to stay in his home to heal and recover if they ever had surgery.
After Petro’s time as Marist men’s basketball head coach had come to an end, he went on to serve as the athletic director for the University of Alaska from 1984 to 1992.
At the University of Alaska, Petro popularized the Great Alaska Shootout. A basketball tournament held at UAA since 1978.
“They were bringing in eight top twenty-five teams every year and it was the tournament back then,” said Wall.
After those eight years, he served as the athletic director for the University of Rhode Island from 1992-2004. He now resides in the school’s athletic hall of fame.
In 1998, he helped the Rams men’s basketball team make their deepest playoff run in school history. They made the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
Unfortunately for URI, they missed a few late-game free throws that kept them from the Final Four. And while this game was taking place, Wall’s family was trying to buy tickets for the Final Four game but unfortunately couldn’t attend.
Petro at a Marist football game in 2017. He’s third from the left, standing next to Marist athletic director Tim Murray (from Marist Athletics)
After URI, Petro ended his career in college basketball and went on to work for ESPN. He still had one more accomplishment left in store. In 2017, Petro was one of Marist’s inductees in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Honor Roll.
Wall has the honor of doing something that only so many people get to do– he gets to continue the legacy of his grandfather. A legacy that is most valuable to Marist Athletics.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane
Photo from Marist Athletics