Xavier wasn’t always the basketball powerhouse it is today. Far from it, in fact. Its record was so dismal in the 1960s and 1970s that a committee was formed to determine what the sport’s future would be. Enter Bill Daily, the white-haired 32-year faculty member who once dabbled in the sport himself. As chair of a board convened by then-President Robert W. Mulligan, S.J., in 1978, Daily was put in charge of assembling a group to debate whether basketball should be promoted or demoted.
The decision was to emphasize it and make it the center of the University’s athletic offerings. Daily and the board then set out on a nationwide search for a new coach—a savior—to lift the program from the ashes of basketball mediocrity. Among more than 50 applicants they found Bob Staak, a little-known assistant coach from the University of Pennsylvania who “set the table,” Daily says, by taking the program to the NCAA Tournament in his fourth year with a 22-8 season. Pete Gillen followed him, with Skip Prosser after that and now Thad Matta.
“We’ve only had one losing season since then,” Daily says. “Our committee enabled us to have what we have today.”