Hailed as one of the finest collegiate venues for spectator involvement and enthusiasm, the Reilly Center has provided St. Bonaventure basketball with a tremendous home court advantage.
Since its doors opened in 1966, the Reilly Center has served as the focal point for the St. Bonaventure spirit. It's the "place to be" on game nights, not only for the campus community but throughout the region. Students regularly stand in line for hours prior to tip-off in order to gain the best seats. Season ticket holders pass on their seats through generations. Bonnies fans are just as passionate as they are loyal and they pack the Reilly Center to cheer their beloved Brown and White.
College basketball experts and coaches throughout the country have departed the Reilly Center with appreciation for its character and atmosphere. ESPN's Jay Bilas ranked the Reilly Center as one of his "Top 5 Hostile Homes" in 2001. In January 2015, the Buffalo News listed a visit to the Reilly Center for a basketball game one of its "50 Things Every Western New Yorker Should Do Once."
Originally named the University Center, the building was dedicated to the memory of Carroll "Mike" Reilly '25 on June 1, 1974. Reilly was a Bona student-athlete, faculty member, football-basketball coach and athletic director. He is also a member of the St. Bonaventure Athletic Hall of Fame.
The men's basketball team opened the Reilly Center on December 2, 1966 with a victory over Quincy College for the RC's first win. In the 1997-98 campaign, the Bonnies tallied their 300th triumph at home against Big 4 rival Canisius. After the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, the men have posted an overall home record of 427-199 for a .682 winning percentage, including 10 victories over nationally-ranked clubs.
The RC has seen a multitude of great games and great players that live on in fans' memories and whose stories are told and re-told. The Bonnies men's team has hosted 25 teams that were nationally ranked at the time, including the No. 1 team twice. They have defeated 10 of those Top 25 opponents.
The arena and entire building has been improved dramatically over the past years. Chairback seats have replaced the bleachers on the lower levels. In December of 1998, the St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame opened at the south end of the RC. This 4,200-square foot addition features theater-style seating, display areas for plaques, awards, trophies, uniforms and a pair of LeRoy Neiman original paintings. Such Bona notables as the 1970 Final Four trophy, the 1977 NIT Championship trophy and baseball Hall of Famer John McGraw's baseball jersey are on display.
A brand new center-hung state-of-the-art video board was installed prior to the 2016-17 season. The court surface was also re-designed to give the arena a new look.
In the summer of 2007, a state-of-the-art wood floor was installed and officially named "Bob Lanier Court" in honor of the 1970 St. Bonaventure graduate, All-American and Basketball Hall of Famer. In addition to the new playing surface, improvements were made to the Reilly Center's sound system, scoreboards and goals. The improvements were made possible thanks to the generosity of a group of alumni, spearheaded by a $200,000 gift from Lisa and Samuel Molinaro, Bonaventure alumni from the classes of 1981 and 1980, respectively. Barb '81 and Tom Fleming '80 also made a $50,000 donation to the project.
In the summer of 2012, new banners commemorating Bonnies basketball achievements were hung in the rafters and on the walls. This project also was funded through the generosity of alumni and fans.
Even as changes and upgrades are made, the atmosphere and enthusiasm for Bona basketball on game days never changes. The Reilly Center will always be an intimidating and often overwhelming stop for opponents. With capacity crowds of Bona fanatics, the Reilly Center gives St. Bonaventure teams one of the greatest home court advantages in the nation. The fan base consists of fiercely loyal students, local residents, alumni, faculty and staff. The Reilly Center is one of the few on-campus athletic facilities in the nation that can seat nearly twice the student population.
The Reilly Center has many purposes other than simply a basketball facility. It is the campus center, the social hub of the campus, a place where the Franciscan values of mutual respect and cooperation can be readily seen. Concerts, educational conferences, workshops and assorted performances are all held in the RC, as are the University commencement ceremonies. Other facilities in the building include the bookstore, swimming pool, cafeteria, campus radio station, post office and offices for athletics and student life.
There have been many memorable games at the Reilly Center over the years. Among them:
- In the first game ever held at the RC, St. Bonaventure defeated Quincy College, 100-64, before a crowd of 4,276. Jeff Hazard led the way for the Bonnies with 29 points.
- In 1969, Bob Lanier was stepping on every college team that dared cross his path. Not only did he already hold the Reilly Center record for rebounds in a game with 27, but against Seton Hall on Feb. 24, Lanier scored a school and RC record 51 points in a 97-79 win.
- On Dec. 21, 1969, the largest crowd ever to witness a game at the Reilly Center saw the Bonnies defeat Duquesne University 77-58. The standing room only crowd of 6,291 flooded the aisles and any available spots on the floor.
- On Jan. 10, 1995, Bona hosted the No. 1 ranked team in the country, Massachusetts, for the first time at the Reilly Center. The Bonnies controlled the tempo throughout the game, and when senior David Vanterpool hit an off balance shot late in regulation to tie the score, the game went into overtime. After leading by four points with two minutes to play in overtime, St. Bonaventure bowed 81-76.
- Win number 1,000 in St. Bonaventure basketball history came to be in a 69-66 Atlantic 10 victory over Rhode Island on Feb. 4, 1995.
- St. Bonaventure played its first-ever home postseason game during the 1995 NIT when they hosted Southern Mississippi in round one. Tickets to the game sold out in a mere four hours. More than 6,000 fans watched as the Bonnies prevailed 75-70.
- During the 1997-98 season, St. Bonaventure defeated three Top 20 teams at the RC. Thirteenth-ranked Xavier (80-77), 20th-ranked Rhode Island (86-81) and 20th-ranked Massachusetts (72-70, 2OT) fell, much to the delight of the Bona faithful.
- January 15, 2000, in a game many fans described as the best they had ever seen in the RC, J.R. Bremer's three-pointer with 2.8 seconds left gave the Bonnies a 57-56 win over 13th-ranked Temple.
- February 9, 2002, the Bonnies snapped Xavier's 12-game winning streak - which was at the time the longest in the nation -- with an 80-79 decision.
- Jan. 29, 2014, 19th-ranked UMass fell to the Bonnies 85-73.
- Marcus Posley played the hero on Feb. 7, 2015, when he drove and scored on an off-balance shot as time expired to give St. Bonaventure a 73-71 win over No. 18 VCU. Posley's shot not only touched off a court-storm by the Wolfpack, it also landed on ESPN's SportsCenter.
What They Say About the Reilly Center
"The place is always rockin' and rollin' - it was showtime! The emotion, the spirit, the noise and the enthusiasm was something to see. The RC is one of the great home court advantages in college basketball."
- Dick Vitale, ESPN College Basketball Analyst
"When we say the Reilly Center is rabid, we're not doing it justice. The Bona partisans are incredibly friendly, but they know you hate being there. And they responded by making the place about as inhospitable for the opposition as you can imagine. The students are close enough to the court to touch the officials and visiting players, the sidelines are as narrow as any in Division I and the court sits below ground level with seemingly no exit in sight. The fans - young and old - blend seamlessly in an unconditional love affair with their team. They pack the place virtually regardless of record-there are no 'wine and cheese' fans. And the team never dogs it."
- Joe Lunardi, ESPN.com
"The Reilly Center has enjoyed multiple stretches as one of the game's most hostile venues. Fans arrive early and don't wait until tipoff to start cheering. In good years, you don't want to play at the Reilly Center ... this is one of America's more underrated venues."
- ESPN.com, July 2016
"I've been a lot of places over my 24 years as a player and a coach, and this crowd was unbelievable. It felt like, sometimes, that I was back in the ACC with that atmosphere."
- Dereck Whittenburg, former Fordham Head Coach / Guard on 1983 N.C. State national champions
"Coming into the Reilly Center is a whole lot different - I don't want to come back soon. The best part of the trip is seeing the campus in the rearview mirror of our bus."
- Howie Dickenmann, former Central Conn. State Head Coach