There was a mutual love between famed South Carolina author, Pat Conroy, and his college alma mater, The Citadel.
But it wasn't always this way. His many works directly about or based on The Citadel weren’t always well received by those at the Military College of South Carolina. For decades, he wasn’t welcome on the campus, and his name there was mud to many.
But while sometimes a stark critic, Conroy never wavered in his love for and pride in The Citadel. Eventually the relationship was mended, and the school embraced Conroy again in 2001 when it gave him an honorary degree, and invited him to deliver its commencement address.
In later years, Conroy’s cousin, Ed, helped further heal time’s wounds. Ed Conroy, himself a Citadel grad who would go on to coach the college’s men’s basketball team, helped Pat reconnect with the game and team he loved so well.
Pat Conroy played basketball for The Citadel, earning team MVP honors for the 1966-67 season. One of Conroy’s best-loved works, My Losing Season, chronicled that year with the Bulldogs basketball team, which only won 8 games. The memoir reached the New York Times best-seller list.
“He kept that (MVP) trophy on his writing desk,” says Cassandra King Conroy, the author’s widow. “He was so proud of his accomplishments as a cadet-athlete at the Citadel. … He always said he didn't excel as a cadet, but he did OK as a basketball player.”
Prior to his death in 2016 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, Conroy in 2014 was inducted into the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame.
Saturday night, The Citadel bestowed upon Conroy another honor, fittingly the same night the Bulldogs’ came from behind to beat age-old rival, Furman, 100-92, in overtime, continuing a surge through the Southern Conference standings.
Conroy, became the fourth person to have his jersey number hung from the rafters on a banner at The Citadel’s McAlister Field House.
“Having the banner would mean more to Pat than anything imaginable,” Conroy’s wife said.
“It's clear Pat Conroy loved the Citadel. Today we show it back,” Citadel associate athletics director Andy Solomon said at Saturday’s ceremony. “Pat was a dear friend to The Citadel, a dear friend of mine and to his teammates. What an honor to have your jersey honored in McAlister Field House.”
Along with the banner, The Citadel also announced the Pat Conroy Memorial Scholarship. It will be given to a Bulldogs basketball player each season beginning next year.
(ABC News 4's Drew Tripp compiled additional information for this report).