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The Sweetest Moment

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Courtesy: Joe Dobrow, Brown Alumni Magazine

On a bright, blustery, afternoon in January 1982, after his team had completed its shoot-around practice in Brown’s creaky old Marvel Gym, Penn basketball coach Bob Weinhauer trudged up to the second-floor offices and extended a hand and an ironic smile to his old buddy, Mike Cingiser ’62, the forty-one-year-old rookie Brown coach.

The two men had first met back in 1965 on Long Island. Over the years, both had become successful high school coaches with big dreams. They’d even lobbied for each other as they landed their jobs at Penn and Brown. Now, on January 8, Bob Weinhauer arrived at Marvel Gym with a tall, athletic team that had won eleven straight Ivy League games the year before and seemed destined for greatness this year, too. And Weinhauer felt terrible about having to put his buddy Mike through what was in store for him that night. But a win was a win, and Weinhauer would take it, even though it would come at Mike’s expense.

For as Weinhauer well knew, Cingiser was something of a legend on Providence’s East Side. A multi-talented athlete in high school, Cingiser had been a star at West Hempstead High School on Long Island, where he led his team to the Nassau County Championship and was named South Shore player of the year. Recruited by schools all over the country, Cingiser chose to attend Brown. For three years he lit up Marvel Gym in a way no one ever had, scoring 1,331 points (then a school record) and earning First Team All-Ivy League honors in 1960, 1961, and 1962. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Boston Celtics, but refused the offer on the advice of Dean of the College Charles Watts ’47, who informed him that Brown was “not in the business of producing professional athletes.” Instead Cingiser chose to stick around Providence, do some graduate work at Brown, and coach the freshman basketball team.

Those who saw him coach that 1963 team might have thought he should have chosen some other line of work. He was a great clinician whose practices were spiced with a little humor, an occasional strained reference to some work of literature, and a hell of a lot of running and shooting. And his record of 17 wins and only 3 losses was remarkable. But he was a maniac. As a player, he had always been a ferocious competitor. Once, after a one-point loss to Penn—the team’s third straight by either one or two points—he had gone to the locker room and put his fist through the glass door. Now, with his old uniform number, 53, locked up and awaiting retirement in Brown’s Athletic Hall of Fame, all his energy was pent up. When a referee made a bad call, or when Cingiser’s emotions were running high, he no longer could find an outlet by committing an offensive foul or hitting an oh-so-satisfying jumper in the face of the opponent. Now he was on the sidelines, in a frumpy jacket and tie. So when the fury built up, as it did often during that 1963 season, Mike Cingiser ranted and raved and cursed his way up and down the sideline. Statistics were never kept for that sort of thing, but he may well have set a single-season record for most referees damned to hell.

In the years that followed, Cingiser calmed down (a little) and returned to Long Island, where throughout the 1960s and 1970s he settled into a nice life as an English teacher and coach, winning 67 percent of his games at Lynbrook High School and twice taking his teams to the county championship game. Then in April 1981 the prodigal son returned home, and after only eighteen winning seasons in eighty years of Brown basketball history, the hope was that things were about to change for Brown.

To read Joe Dobrow's story on Brown men's basketball's magical weekend in 1982, as found in the Brown Alumni Magazine, please click here.