A Man Named Joyce

October 14, 2006

It's the wee hours of Saturday morning. Cleanup in McDonough Gym from Midnight Madness has begun in preparation for the convergence of three home contests -- football, men's soccer and volleyball -- all scheduled for 1 pm, twelve hours from now. There's a lot yet to do.

That can also be said of the celebration that will occur throughout the upcoming basketball season to commemorate the first century of men's basketball on the Hilltop. The 2006 edition of Midnight Madness this past evening was a marvelous beginning to our anniversary year, highlighted by an on-court appearance by the quintessential player in Hoya hoop history, Patrick Ewing. However, before I am swept up in the centennial Hoya fever, I want to pause to look back on how it all began: with a man named Joyce.


The biggest smile that ever graced McDonough Gym returned to see son, Patrick, Jr. perform and to celebrate Midnight Madness with the Hoya faithful

Most basketball enthusiasts can repeat the tales of Dr. James Naismith and the peach basket game he invented in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts to fill the gap in athletics between the football and baseball seasons. What is less familiar is that Naismith first put nine men per side on the court with very few rules initially. The result looked more like a roughhouse hockey game with frequent fistfights.

Newly arrived in Washington, DC in 1892, 31-year old Maurice Joyce had taken on the job of director and physical instructor at the Carroll Institute, a city-wide amateur athletic club like many then in vogue in major cities throughout the nation. He came across descriptions of Naismith's pastime in a magazine and decided to try it out with his charges as a form of conditioning. Soon he was modifying and adapting rules to improve the game. He dropped the number of game players from nine to

seven. Teams throughout the land began to follow suit. By 1897, he put five men on the floor and a more recognizable form of competition began to take shape with teamwork now not only possible but desirable.

Having introduced the game to the District of Columbia, Joyce worked to spread the new sport throughout the area, if only to expand the number of potential opponents. He gave instruction at the University of Virginia and at the Naval Academy. Teams subsequently sprung up on those campuses.

So when Georgetown completed the new Ryan Gymnasium in 1906 and was in need of a director of physical education, the university looked to the preeminent fitness instructor in the region, 45-year old Maurice Joyce, to join the faculty. And it is no coincidence that upon his arrival, a new intercollegiate sport began on the Hilltop: basketball.

A new gymnasium in 1906 prompted the hiring of a new director of physical education by the University

1907-08: Coach Joyce with his second team on the Hilltop

As we celebrate the hundred years since the sport's first season at Georgetown, I will remember kindly our first basketball coach and his instrumental role in starting the program. But I will also shout out to all who will listen, the story of the fascinating but nearly forgotten man who brought the sport of basketball to the entire DC area, and the athletic pioneer who truly shaped the future of the game for ballplayers throughout the world: our founding mentor, Maurice Joyce.

That's worth celebrating too.

Hoya, Hoya Saxa!

Hoya, Hoya Georgetown!

Hoya Joyce! Hoya Joyce!
Hoya Maurice Joyce!

Additional information about Coach Joyce can be found at this link to the Georgetown Basketball History Project.



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September 8
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September 9
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September 9
7:00 PM
UConn
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September 10
1:00 PM
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September 10
12:00 PM
Holy Cross
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September 15
2:00 PM
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September 16
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September 16
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Xavier
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September 17
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September 17
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September 18
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