Christopher F. Gallagher ‘69
Basketball - Hall of Fame Class of 1998
Harvard Athletic Achievements
This Rhodes Scholar finalist was a steady post-up force for the gritty cager teams of the late 1960s. Voted the team’s MVP for his sophomore and senior seasons and selected as an honorable mention All-Ivy performer three times, he could always be counted upon for consistent contributions and solid leadership. In the 1968 Blue Nose Classic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which Harvard captured thanks to Chris’ efforts, he was named the tournament’s MVP.
Remembering Harvard Athletics
I am deeply honored to be selected to the Harvard Hall of Fame and to join a distinguished group of dedicated student-athletes. I thank the Committee for this recognition.
I am partial to today’s mantra, “I want to be like Mike”; coming to Harvard I dreamed, “I want to be like Jack (Kennedy),” who tonight is also being inducted into the Hall of Fame and who gives special meaning to tonight.
I applied to Harvard in May 1965 after acceptances to the class of 1965 had already been sent out. On my recruiting trip, I stayed at Quincy House with two current Harvard Hall-of-Famers, John Dockery and Keith Sedlacek. I rode around Boston at high speeds on the back of John Dockery’s motorcycle, wondering if I would get back to New York in one piece. John, Keith, and their roommates showed me a good time but never showed me the gym, then called the IAB. Fortunately, I met Floyd Wilson and immediately recognized a good, caring individual.
In 1965, I was the top high school player in New York City after Kareem Abdul Jabbar and had scholarship offers from virtually all of the major basketball programs in the country. I chose Harvard.
Although we were touted as an unusually talented recruiting class, the basketball recruits throughout the Ivy League were the strongest ever, following the success of Bill Bradley at Princeton.
We played competitively against nationally powerful teams inside and outside the Ivy League. Columbia and Princeton were ranked in the top ten nationally. Columbia had David Newmark (older brother of Brain ’72), who played in the NBA for a number of years, and Jim McMillan, a future NBA star who helped the Lakers to their first NBA championship in Los Angeles. Princeton had one of its best teams ever. Penn was on the cusp of being a top-five team with future NBA player Dave Wohl. Cornell was a powerhouse with high school All-Americans Hank South and Walter Esdaile. We also played tough games against Boston College, Arizona, Ohio State, Rutgers, San Francisco, Dayton, San Jose State, Loyola, etc. I am grateful for this opportunity to have played at this level of competition.
I had two coaches while at Harvard, Floyd Wilson and Bob Harrison. Floyd is a wonderful and caring man and was a solid basketball coach. He used the best strategies in putting out team together. Floyd and I always lamented the T-fracture of my big toe in my sophomore year when we were in Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic and were off to a 5-2 start with losses only to nationally-ranked Boston College and Arizona. The break forced me to miss nine mid-season games and come back to play only 5 ½ weeks after the break, with no rehabilitation.
I also thank Bob Harrison, who was my coach in my senior year and who gave us the benefit of his many years of NBA experience. Neither Floyd nor Bob could overcome both the fact that we did not start a player over 6’5” and the injuries to myself and other key players. Although we had the smallest team during the Golden Era of Ivy League basketball, we generally outrebounded our opponents, who knew they were going to war when they played us.
I am proud to have always put the team above my own statistics and to have played an aggressive game regardless of my own well-being. I love basketball. I loved running the court, jumping, driving hard to the basket, hitting opponents cleanly but hard on picks and rebounds, playing strong bump, in-your-face defense, pursuing rebounds, and distributing the ball. I enjoyed contact and I miss it.
After Harvard I had a successful stint in the premier professional league in Switzerland. I had tried out with the Philadelphia 76ers when Jack Ramsey was the coach. He wanted to convert me to guard, but that was too long a haul for someone like me who enjoyed hanging around the basket. I finished up at Pennsylvania Law School instead and have enjoyed a successful legal and business career.
As I stand here tonight with my beautiful wife Regina, and our four children, in whom we take so much pride, and my family and friends in and outside the Harvard community, I know that Harvard was the best place for me. I am honored to be part of the Harvard community, to have represented Harvard on the playing field, and to have been a part of Harvard’s storied tradition.