The Tommies, who started playing an official varsity intercollegiate basketball schedule in 1904, rank third among NCAA Division III schools in all-time victories with 1,632 in 107 seasons.
St. Thomas won its first national championship in March 2011 and accomplished the rare feat again in 2016. In fact, St. Thomas is the lone NCAA institution – in D-I, II or III -- to win a team national championship in each of the sports of men’s and women’s basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball.
The Toms have made 16 NCAA playoff trips over the past 26 seasons, including Division III Final Four trips in 1994, 2011, 2013, and 2016. The Toms are 20-6 in NCAA playoffs over the last eight seasons, including a 9-0 home record. The program’s all-time NCAA playoff record is 29-16.
St. Thomas also took eight trips to Kansas City for the NAIA National Tournament from 1949-1974, with a 5-8 record.
St. Thomas has won an unprecedented 11 consecutive solo or shared conference regular-season championships.
In all, St. Thomas has won 31 conference regular-season and 13 conference playoff titles. St. Thomas has reached the MIAC playoffs 28 times in the 31-year history of the format, and its all-time record in the event is 36-16, including a 33-8 on-campus record. UST has a league-best 13 playoff crowns, including titles in eight of the last 11 years, and has a record streak of consecutive MIAC playoff berths now at 17.
The program’s first national championship came during 2010-11. Those Tommies capped off a 30-3 season and a Division III championship with a record 24-point victory over Wooster (Ohio) in the national final. Former coach Steve Fritz was three weeks shy of his 62nd birthday when he guided the Tommies to the championship and became the oldest coach to win a Division III men's basketball crown. Fritz swept the three Division III National Coach of the Year awards for 2010-11.
After the season, Coach Fritz announced his plans to retire from coaching after 40 seasons, including his last 31 as the University of St. Thomas men's basketball head coach.
In 31 years as head coach, Fritz’ compiled a career record of 594-246 (.707 win%). In January 2004, he became the school's all-time leader in basketball coaching wins. He ranks third all-time among MIAC coaches in victories, and at retirement was in the top 10 among active Division III mentors.
Under Fritz, St. Thomas had been the most consistently successful team in the MIAC with just one losing season in 31 years.
John Tauer was named interim head coach in 2011 after 11 years as an assistant coach at UST. Tauer was an All-MIAC and Academic All-America Tommie player under Fritz in the 1990s, and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. He led UST to a share of the MIAC championship and a 22-7 record in 2011 to capture the job on a full-time basis.
Twice named a Division III National Coach of the Year -- in 2013 by Basketball Times, and in 2016 by the National Basketball Coaches' Association and by D3 News -- Tauer also has received three West Region and three MIAC Coach of the Year Awards.
Among Division III men's coaches, he was the second fastest in history to 100 victories and is believed to have won more games in his first five seasons than any coach in Division III history.
Tauer’s first five teams compiled a 128-22 overall mark (85-percent win clip). Tauer is one of only six current NCAA coaches out of more than 1,000 at any level (5-year minimum) to have a win percentage higher than 80%, and his win clip is second highest among coaches across all divisions of NCAA men’s basketball. That includes a 95-13 record against conference opponents, a 5-for-5 run in MIAC regular-season championships, and an 18-6 postseason record.
He’s the first MIAC coach to sweep conference and playoff championships in each of his first two seasons as head coach. He’s also the lone conference individual -- and one of a small number of coaches nationally -- to have played in, been an assistant coach, and been a head coach in the Division III Final Four. In addition, he is the first MIAC coach to win regular-season titles in each of his first five seasons.
Tauer is just the third head coach for St. Thomas men’s basketball since 1954. He’s continued an impressive tradition that has the Tommies ranked No. 3 among all 400-plus Division III programs in all-time victories. Coming into 2016-17, the top three D-III programs for all-time victories are Wittenberg (Ohio) (1,716), Wooster (Ohio) (1,674) and St. Thomas (1,632).
In the last 10 seasons alone, St. Thomas has won two national title (2011, 2016) and had two other top-five NCAA finishes (2009, 2013); won an unprecedented 11 consecutive MIAC championships, made 11 consecutive NCAA appearances, has an overall record of 281-45 (.862 win %) and a conference regular-season record of 196-24 (.891 win %).
Over the past eight years, St. Thomas has the highest winning percentage in Division III, with a 211-30 record (.870 win %), including a 156-19 slate against conference opposition.
Tauer has spent 20 seasons with Tommie basketball, including the last 16 as a coach. During that time, he has directed the Tommies' offense which has consistently ranked among the best in NCAA basketball in field-goal percentage, 3-point proficiency, fewest turnovers, assist-to-turnover ratio, and offensive efficiency.
Tauer was a player on the 1994-95 Tommie squad that made MIAC history as the first 20-0 conference finisher. That team started the season with a conference-record 27-game win streak and finished 27-1.
More Recent Highlights
The 2004-05 Tommies played an exhibition game at Williams Arena against the Division I Minnesota Gophers.
In both 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08, the Tommies won both the MIAC regular-season and postseason crowns and advanced to the NCAA playoffs. Center Isaac Rosefelt became the first MIAC player to become a two-time first-team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Rosefelt has gone on to a long professional basketball career in Israel, where he has dual citizenship.
The 2007-08 Tommies stunned Division II power Winona State in overtime in perhaps the biggest upset by an MIAC team in the last 40 seasons. St. Thomas returned its top 10 players from that team which finished 23-5 and swept the conference regular-season and playoff titles.
The 2008-09 Tommies finished a game short of reaching the Division III Final Four while compiling a school-record best 30 wins and No. 1 national ranking. Fritz was named the Region Coach of the Year by D3hoops.com.
In 2010-11, the Tommies defeated defending national champions UW Stevens Point in the Sweet 16 and Augustana (Ill.) to advance to the Final Four for the first time since Tauer was a junior in college. The Tommies beat Middlebury and Wooster to cap off an amazing run defeating four top 10 ranked teams in the process.
In 2013, the Tommies returned to the Division III Final Four as the No. 1 ranked team in the country but fell in the semifinal round to Mary-Hardin Baylor. It marked the third time in five years the Tommies (30-2) finished with a 30-win season.
In 2015, UST won a record 10th consecutive MIAC title before losing on a buzzer-beating 3-point shot in the NCAA tournament.
In 2016, UST traversed one of the toughest roads possible to the title, defeating four top 10 ranked teams, including No. 1-ranked Augustana, No. 4-ranked Christopher Newport, and No. 2-ranked Benedictine, three teams with a combined 90-2 record during the season. UST was able to win its 11th consecutive MIAC title and its second national championship in six years.
The Tommies have about 30 players on their varsity and junior-varsity teams. They play games in the 2,000-seat Schoenecker Arena in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex on campus. Their challengers include a special rivalry with St. John’s University. They also regularly travel out west or out east for a November tournament.
UST’s home victory streak peaked at 31 before a Feb. 22, 2015 defeat. The current streak surpassed the previous Schoenecker Arena record of 20 set in 1993-95 when John Tauer was an undergrad player. The men’s hoops on-campus record win streak is 34 set between 1965 and 1968 in the old upstairs OSH gym.
The Tommies are 137-12 in home games over the last 12 seasons. They went 17-0 at home in 2012-13, 10-2 at home in 2011-12, 11-2 at home in 2013-14, and 14-1 at home in 2014-15. They are 62-6 in the new Schoenecker Arena in the five seasons since the AARC opened in August 2010.