The sporting world turned its attention to Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27, 1985 as No. 1 St. John’s hosted No. 2 Georgetown.
The Redmen had defeated the seemingly invincible defending-champion Hoyas a month earlier to rise to the top of the polls.
On the court, Chris Mullin was taking St. John’s to new heights. On the sidelines, head coach Lou Carnesecca was wearing a hideous sweater that he began to sport on a cold night in Pittsburgh on the advice of his wife but, because the Johnnies won, he had to keep wearing.
“It was really ugly,” he said in “From Redmen to Red Storm,” a video history of the program. “Nobody could describe it. It didn’t have any composition. It was just a wild one.”
St. John’s won 13 straight games with Carnesecca wearing the brown sweater with red and blue chevrons he was given by an Italian national coach.
Then Georgetown, led by Patrick Ewing, arrived in New York, looking to avenge the 66-65 loss several weeks earlier.
“We just hated Georgetown. I don’t think I spoke a word to Patrick in four years,” Mullin said in “From Redmen to Red Storm.” “And if I did, I couldn’t say what they were.”
As Carnesecca went to shake hands with Georgetown head coach John Thompson before the game, Thompson opened his jacket and revealed a replica sweater.
After the laughter died down, Georgetown went out and dominated St. John’s in an 85-69 win. Ewing finished with 20 points and six blocks. Hoyas forward Reggie Williams scored a game-high 25 points as St. John’s focused its attention on Ewing.
The ESPN telecast was the highest-rated and most-watched in network history.
Georgetown would stand in St. Johns’ way twice more. The teams met again in the Big East championship game, with the Hoyas again winning at MSG.
In the Final Four, the Redmen fell to the Hoyas again. St. John’s finished the season 31-4, with three losses to Georgetown.
The basketball landscape changed. Ewing was drafted by the Knicks and became a fan favorite at MSG. Mullin played for the Warriors and Pacers, though he would return to coach his old school, as did Ewing.
But the memories of the sweater game remained in the minds of fans.
In 2009, the sweater game was named the No. 9 college basketball moment at MSG to celebrate the 75th anniversary of college basketball at the arena. In 2013, St. John’s handed out Carnesecca bobbleheads to fans attending a game. The bobblehead had the coach holding a basketball and wearing his famous sweater.
“Requiem for the Big East” was a 2014 documentary as part of the network’s “30 For 30” series. In its look at the glory days of the competitive conference, the sweater game was revisited.
“I didn’t mind him upstaging me with the sweater but when he beat me that really hurt,” Carnesecca said.
The lobby of Carnesecca Arena has displays for the men’s and women’s basketball teams, including a sweater.
“Here, I thought I was a great tactician,” Carnesecca said in ‘“From Redmen to Red Storm.” “A great strategist. The sweater won all the ballgames.”