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Hoops brought Monk to ND, remained central to identity

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

At a University so attentive to athletic achievement, Father Edward Malloy fit right in. It was basketball, after all, that first brought him to Notre Dame.

Having won 55 straight games and earned a No. 1 team ranking as a player for Archbishop John Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., Malloy received 50 different scholarship offers to play basketball at the next level. Malloy said he chose Notre Dame because the school, among other things, was Catholic.

The experiences on the court and in the classroom would benefit Malloy in all future endeavors, whether in the seminary or in the president’s office, and would make him a frequent and visible fan at football games and men’s and women’s basketball games during his presidential tenure.

“One of the things that you can learn as a student-athlete is how to balance your life, which everybody struggles with, every student,” Malloy said. “But I can tell you it won’t change in the rest of your life, trying to balance profession and family and citizenship and the Church and so on.”

Malloy lettered one year as a varsity athlete at Notre Dame, but he would not develop an enormous athletic reputation until he returned as Sorin Hall’s assistant rector in 1979, according to former Sorin resident and 1983 graduate Jack Burke.

“[Malloy] recruited a couple guys from the dorm to come over, and initially we were playing against the [Moreau] seminarians,” said Burke, a first-team All-Bookstore Basketball member his senior year who also played on the same Bookstore team as Malloy the year before. “We would walk over [to the seminary] around 10:15, start around 10:30 and play until about midnight.”

Burke said so many Sorin residents were interested in playing that they eventually did not need the seminarians as competition. Malloy and a select group of Sorin residents began playing basketball consistently – every Monday and Wednesday from 10:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. – and thus began ‘Monk Hoops.’

“He’d come out of his room, come down to the first floor and the crowd would be waiting,” Burke said.

Malloy made the nighttime games a friendly and competitive tradition, especially due to his background as an accomplished player.

“He was a good player … as you could probably imagine with someone who played at the college level,” Burke said. “He had a quick release from the outside. He’d go up off screens and get that quick shot off … he had a real strong outside shot and was real accurate.”

Burke, now a consulting actuary at Milliman USA in Wayne, Penn., also said Malloy held his own physically with the much younger players.

“Relative to the college kids, he was not lightning fast,” Burke joked, “but he could run a whole game. He could definitely run up and down the court for an hour and a half.”

Tendonitis in Malloy’s shoulder halted his athletic career in time, but Malloy’s “persistence” – as Burke described one of his most distinct qualities – would serve him well as he succeeded the legendary University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh as president of Notre Dame.

“Since I have my background in competitive athletics, I’ve always enjoyed a challenge,” Malloy said.