Winter 2021–2022

When Dynasties and Legends Roamed Campus

Black-and-white archive photo of Red Auerback and Bill Russell practicing at Babson

Babson College’s sports history includes more than five NCAA national championship teams. It also includes a parade of pro sports teams and legends such as Bill Russell and Diego Maradona.

Most notably, at the height of their dynasty, the Boston Celtics held their preseason camps from 1959 to 1966 at Peavey Gymnasium, now the PepsiCo Enrico Pavilion.

Though the Celtics had Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach and all-time greats such as Russell and Tom Heinsohn, two other players caught the eye of Ohio native Brian Barefoot ’66, H’09, P’01, a junior transfer on campus in fall 1964. A three-sport athlete, Barefoot would go on to serve as Babson’s president from 2001 to 2008.

“I followed basketball, and (Larry) Siegfried and (John) Havlicek were from Ohio,” Barefoot says. “I had the opportunity to observe and interact with them. They were all nice guys. You’d sit there, just in awe of these guys.”

Former Babson basketball coach Tom Smith watched those Celtics training sessions, applying lessons to his own practices. Likewise, baseball coach Matt Noone has leveraged his longtime assistant position with the Boston Red Sox to introduce his players to a championship work ethic.

Longtime men’s soccer coach Jon Anderson ’75, P’04 ’08 ’13 ’13, who won a national championship with the Beavers his senior year, says Babson’s secluded location and quality athletic facilities—especially its manicured grass fields—have attracted high-profile soccer teams, including men’s and women’s national teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ireland, Russia, and the United States; Italian champion Juventus in 2017; and the New England Revolution.

“It was an experience that I’ll never forget. I get to say I trained with the national team. They didn’t even know my name when they left, but I thought I held my own.”
Goalkeeper Stephen Webber ’92, MBA’05, now a Babson assistant coach

Argentina, with the legendary Maradona, set up camp on campus during the 1994 World Cup. Anderson marveled at Maradona’s ball-handling wizardry with his shoes untied. But the mercurial superstar wasn’t in shape. “That was a funny part,” Anderson says. “Maradona came late, and they were trying to get him fit. So, I was driving him to Gold’s Gym.”

Bora Milutinovic, who coached the 1992 U.S. men’s national team, invited the Babson varsity—coming off a Final Four season—to scrimmage. Erik “Izzy” Isbrandtsen ’94—who was later killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and whose name now graces the practice field—was on that team. “All of a sudden, Isbrandtsen gets the ball at top of the 18 and blows one by Tony Meola into the low corner,” Anderson says. “And, we’re up, 1-0, at halftime.”

Though the U.S. squad rallied to win, the Babson players weren’t disappointed.

“It was an experience that I’ll never forget,” says goalkeeper Stephen Webber ’92, MBA’05, now a Babson assistant coach. “I get to say I trained with the national team. They didn’t even know my name when they left, but I thought I held my own.”

Posted in Community

More from Babson Magazine »