Introducing Scranton’s Team – 1982-1983 Royals (Web Exclusive)
If the 1982-1983 men’s basketball team received any rock star treatment, it was because they sort of were rock stars, explains Karen Kaczmarczyk Roberts ’84. “The team was just so good, and they jelled so well together. Plus, they almost all seemed to have their own personas,” says the former cheerleading squad captain.
Mickey Banas ’84 was the All-American boy next door, Roberts explains, while Billy Bessoir ’85, the coach’s son, always conveyed a laid-back demeanor. Likewise, Hutchinson was “the calming influence; with never a hair out of place,” adds Rocco Mariano ’84, one of the Royals’ most staunch supporters. While Todd Bailey ’85 was the speed guy who wanted to “run, run, run,” and Jeff Jones was the leaping machine and inside force. “Plus, Tom Kosin ’83 was a good 6-foot-5 swing man who could either shoot it or take it to the basket,” says Mariano, completing his scouting report.
While they continued the program's “Rock-N-Roll" Royals tradition, they were also the city of Scranton’s Royals, with the majority of its roster hailing from Northeastern Pennsylvania. Dan Polacheck ’85, Kosin, Banas and Bailey were all from the Wilkes-Barre area, and much of the bench hailed from Scranton suburbs. There were a few exceptions likes Philadelphia products Jeff Jones ’84 and Mark Hutchinson ’83, but the Royals were a Northeast Pennsylvania team, Coach Bob Bessoir says. This fact was a significant difference from the University’s 1976 men’s championship team.
In 1975-1976, the NCAA allowed athletic scholarships, and the men’s basketball program recruited players throughout the Middle Atlantic states, according to Coach Bessoir. “By 1983, our recruiting was mostly local. The 1976 team and the 1983 team were very different, but the talent was equivalent,” he says.
This local flavor helped grab hold of the Scranton community, not just the campus. “We didn’t have minor league or major league sports of any kind, so the Royals were the only show in town,” says Paul LeClair ’84, the Royal Rooster. “Plus, it was a good product; they won most of their games.”
While there was a certain celebrity that goes with being ranked No. 1 nationally, which the Royals were through much of the 1982-1983 season, the players never grew too popular for their fellow students. “You would see them at parties and around campus, and although they weren’t my circle of friends, they were always welcoming,” says LeClair.
Adds Mariano, “They were all down to Earth. You could talk to them. If you saw them on campus, you could walk up to them and talk with them like anyone else.”
They might not have been rock stars, but they were Royals through and through.