Providence College 1987 Final Four Memories

1987 NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional bracket.

The 1987 Providence Friars had one of the most memorable runs in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

Providence entered the tournament as a No.6 seed in the Southeast Regional after finishing fourth in the Big East during the 1986-87 season. The Friars were led by a 35 year-old head coach named Rick Pitino as well as senior point guard Billy Donovan.

Pitino’s six-month old son Daniel died of cardiac arrest on March 8, 1987 just four days before the start of the NCAA Tournament. He had been battling various ailments since his birth.

Pitino made the decision to continue ahead and coach his team throughout the NCAA Tournament.

In the opening round, Providence beat the No.11 seed UAB on their home court 90-68. Providence followed that up with an overtime win over No.14 Austin Peay 90-87 and then upsetting No.2 Alabama 103-82.

They upset the No.1 seed Georgetown 88-73 in the Elite Eight which is the same team that had knocked them out of the Big East tournament two weeks prior 84-66.

The Friars improbable run would end in the Final Four with a loss to Syracuse 77-63 who featured several future NBA players including Derrick Coleman (No.1 overall pick in 1990), Rony Seikaly, Sherman Douglas and Stephen Thompson.

Pitino of course would leave Providence to became the head coach of the New York Knicks before winning two National Championships with Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013.

Donovan would go on to play for Pitino with the New York Knicks the following season before going on to win back-to-back National Championships as the head coach of Florida in 2006 and 2007.

Herb Sendek was one of Pitino’s assistants with Providence during the Final Four run in 1987 and he is now the head coach of Santa Clara. In an interview with, Sendek recounted his memories from that magical run to the Final Four.


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