A Raider to Remember

Guard Carl Braun, Colgate class of 1949 (bottom, third from right), poses for a preseason photo with his New York Knicks teammates ahead of the 1958-1959 season. Because of his NBA stardom in the 1950s, Braun was recently elected posthumously to the Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2019 induction class. 

The Direct Elect Members Veterans Committee elected guard Carl Braun (’49) into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame posthumously on April 6. The 2019 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Presented by Nike will take place at the Springfield Symphony Hall on September 6.

Having been born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island and educated in upstate New York, it seems Braun could only have signed with the New York Knicks after being passed over by eight teams in the 1947 Basketball Association of America (BAA) Draft.

The undrafted dual-sport ball handler out of Colgate University made his professional debut on November 13, 1947 against the Washington Capitals, scoring 14 points in a 80-65 win. Wasting no time, Braun led the Knicks in scoring with 14.3 points per game in his rookie season and was named to the All-BAA Second Team. Consistent and reliable as the general of the floor, Braun played in all but one game in his first campaign. The Knicks reached the postseason, but fell to the Washington Bullets (who would go on to win the BAA Finals) two games to one in the first round.

But before he made a name for himself in Manhattan, he was working on his game in Huntington Gymnasium, where today’s Colgate basketball players and frat stars enjoy intramural bouts in the hours after classes let out and before the bars open.

Imagine it, snowy Hamilton in mid-winter and Braun is working on his game. He’s shooting mid-rangers, but he’s not alone! Who is there to grab his rebound but Colgate classmate and future Knicks teammate guard Ernie Vandeweghe. Man, that would be a crazy game of H.O.R.S.E.

Braun and Vandeweghe shared the backcourt in Hamilton from 1945 to 1947 and for the Knicks from 1949 to 1950 and 1952 to 1956. Braun missed two years between 1950 and 1952 due to military service, but returned to Vandeweghe’s side and made five consecutive all-star games, averaging 14.6 points in that span.

By the end of his career, Braun was a two-time All-BAA/NBA player who logged 788 games.

He made history from start to finish. Braun scored the most points ever in a BAA game in his rookie season (47 against the Steamrollers on December 6, 1947), and he was the first and only player-coach in Knicks franchise history (from 1949 to 1951).

Though Braun reached the finals with the Knicks in 1953, a title eluded the New Yorker during his 12 seasons at the Garden, as it has for so many. But, in his last and lucky 13th season, he captured a ring in the 1961-62 NBA season with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy in Boston.

That Celtics team, coached by the legendary Red Auerbach, went 60-20 in the regular season and finished first in the Eastern Conference. In the NBA Finals, they stormed back from a 3-2 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling seven-game series.

Though Braun’s induction was long overdue, the impact on his family, Colgate alumni and the basketball program is not lost.

“It is important to understand and recognize that we represent those who came before us and are paving the way for those who will someday sit in our chairs and wear our shoes. Even though Carl’s Colgate and NBA career were during a time that we don’t know firsthand, his achievements are now acknowledged at the highest level, something Colgate and our Colgate Basketball Family will be proud of forever,” two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year Matt Langel said.

When she heard the news of Carl’s induction, Joan Braun told the New York Post she was thrilled because she knew how much basketball meant to her late husband.

“People need to know your father loved the game so much that he would’ve paid the Knicks for the privilege of play- ing pro basketball,” Joan told Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post via a phone call with her daughter, Susan.

The news also caught the attention of journalist and basketball fan Howard Fineman ’70.

“A great run for my college’s 119-year-old men’s basketball program. @ColgateMBB compiled a record 24 wins, won the @PatriotLeague title, played [Tennessee] tough in @marchmadness. Now the @NaismithHall is posthumously inducting Colgate (and NBA) 40s-50s star Carl Braun into HOF,” Fineman tweeted.

More than just Braun’s family and Colgate alumni can claim pride in his election to the Hall. Loyalty is unwavering among New York sports fans, and so is their memory, for better or worse.

A special thing about being a New York sports fan is that most of the hometown teams have been around for three or four generations. And though super teams have lured younger fans away, I’d say most of us are still rooting for our grandpa’s favorite baseball team. Who does not love a good “When I saw Seaver pitch” story? I can’t wait to tell the next generations about seeing games at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

When Braun was inducted to the Hall of Fame this past Saturday, joining fellow former two-sport athlete, Col- gate Athletic Director and vice-president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) William Reid ’18 as the second Colgate Raider in Spring- field, Massachusetts, maybe there were grandparents, perhaps alumni, calling their grandchildren to share nostalgic memories of seeing him play.

Maybe they remember walking into the old cigarette-clouded Madison Square Garden and watching Carl Braun go 16- 16 from the line and score 44 against the St. Louis Hawks on February 27, 1956.

Kids playing pick-up games in New York City grow up imitating their favorite NBA stars on the court and dreaming of playing in the league.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to go play in the NBA. I want to be able to represent NYC everywhere I go because it is such a special place,” Colgate junior forward and New York City native Will Rayman said.

Rayman, the former Patriot League Rookie of the Year, averaged 13.1 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game in his junior year and was named to the Patriot League All-Defensive Team and Patriot League All-Tournament Team.

When Carl Braun was elected to the Hall of Fame this past weekend, Rayman said he felt honored once again.

Curiously, in a bicentennial year that has been full of memory on Colgate’s campus, basketball reemerged to the forefront of the school’s identity. Marching through Patriot League competition into the Madness, the team reached the Big Dance for the first time since Adonal Foyle was blocking shots into the fourth row of Cotterell Court in the Reid Athletic Center and gave Tennessee a tough first round match up.

“The timing of Carl’s induction is very fitting as it adds even more to what has been such a special year in Colgate Basketball history,” Langel said.

Now that the season is done, it is time to turn to next year and look to continue to build upon past success.

Contact Eric Fishbin at efishbin@colgate.edu.

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