Ernie “Pop” Lewis, a former Providence Friars co-captain etched in history for the program’s 1987 Final Four run, has passed away at age 51.
Lewis, who played for Rick Pitino while with the Friars, hit one of the most iconic shots in the program’s history. His three-point bucket to beat nationally ranked Georgetown in a Big East game in January 1987 remains one of the most memorable shots in Friars history.
Current NBA coach Billy Donovan was Providence’s leading scorer for that historic team, averaging 20.6 points per game. As highlighted in a feature by SLAM, Lewis’ leadership was as important as the counting-stats:
During Pitino’s two seasons at Providence, he stressed basketball and academics; that was it. Graduate assistant Jeff Van Gundy was in charge of making sure the players attended class. “If you were one minute late, you ran at 5 the next morning,” Screen says. There was individual instruction, walk-throughs, film study and three-hour afternoon workouts. At night, Pitino and Lewis would challenge Donovan and Brooks. “I was in pretty good shape then,” Pitino says. “The games were pretty even.”
Former teammate Harold Starks shed some light on what kind of person Lewis was to the Providence Journal:
“Pop had a kind soul. Everybody loved Pop,” said Starks, who graduated from PC in 1986. “He was a quiet assassin for that `87 team with that 3-point shot. He played quiet and lived quietly. But he could shoot that 3-pointer.”
Lewis died Wednesday at his home in Philadelphia.