Since 1961, the award has been presented to "the athlete, team or organization that has done the most to reflect credit upon Philadelphia and to the team or sport in which they excel." The award is presented by the Philadelphia Sports Congress, a division of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.
NBA first-round draft picks Jameer Nelson and Delonte West took time out of their busy schedules to join their teammates at the ceremony.
"It was important that we be here and we're honored. It was the last time that the both of us will be with our team and we are definitely still a part of this team," said Nelson, who ended up with the Orlando Magic after being drafted 20th overall by Denver. "We're honored and thrilled that we were able to bring a lot of attention to the city."
"It was truly a remarkable story and this was a team for the ages. It's special to know that Philadelphia supported us. What this team did was represent Philadelphia. The fans of this city demand that their athletes play with passion and pride and these men did that every day. It was an honor to be a part of that," said Hawk coach Phil Martelli.
The Hawks earned the admiration of the nation this season, as Martelli guided his team to a 30-2 record and an appearance in the NCAA Elite Eight. The team, which finished first in the Atlantic 10 East, was undefeated in regular season play. The last time a men's NCAA Division I college basketball team went undefeated through the regular season was over 13 years ago (UNLV) and there have only been 12 teams in NCAA major college basketball history to go through the regular season undefeated.
In addition, the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer of Philadelphia, of which Martelli is a key participant, will receive the Sports Congress Community Service Award for their work elevating cancer awareness and for raising funds for the American Cancer Society.
"From the excitement of the Hawks' run during March Madness to the commitment and community impact of the coaches involved in Coaches vs. Cancer, we are thrilled to have such impressive winners this year," said Philadelphia Sports Congress Chairman Robert P. Levy. "These are people and organizations that have an extremely positive impact on our community, and also represent Philadelphia so well to the nation."
The Wanamaker award ceremony and luncheon is presented by the Philadelphia Sports Congress, IPC/Amerimar Management Company, CBS-TV 3 and the Philadelphia Daily News. The public participated in the Wanamaker Award nomination process via ballots in the Philadelphia Daily News and on-line. The Wanamaker Award Committee then made the final selection.
Previous recipients of the Wanamaker Award include Donovan McNabb (2002), Curt Schilling (1998), Reggie White (1993), Charles Barkley (1992), Steve Carlton (1983) and Julius Erving (1978). The Villanova Women's Basketball Team captured the award last year.
2004 John Wanamaker Athletic Award The Saint Joseph's men's basketball team won the hearts of fans in the area and across the nation as they proved time and again that the little guy can overcome. The dream season ended when Oklahoma State beat Saint Joseph's by two points to win the East Rutherford Regional Finals, ending the dream just short of the Final Four.
Since the team returned to Hawk Hill, senior guard and Chester, PA native Jameer Nelson has won every major national Player of the Year award. He was named the national Player of the Year by the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA), the Naismith and Wooden Committees, Basketball Times, The Sporting News, CBS Sports/Chevrolet, and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Nelson is also the recipient of the inaugural Bob Cousy Award, presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to the country's best point guard; the Senior CLASS Award from the Kansas City Club; and the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, which goes to the best player under six-feet tall.
Martelli was also the consensus National Coach of the Year, winning awards from the Associated Press, USBWA, CBS Sports/Chevrolet, the Naismith Committee, and the NABC.
Sports Congress Community Service Award The American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer of Philadelphia (also known as the Philly Six) will receive the Philadelphia Sports Congress Community Service Award. The American Cancer Society, in partnership with the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, formed Coaches vs. Cancer in 1993. The program uses community leadership and the celebrity of the country's basketball coaches to provide educational programs and outreach to the local communities. Since its inception, the program has raised more than $22 million to benefit the American Cancer Society.
The Philly Six joined Coaches vs. Cancer in 1996 and are second in the entire country in terms of dollars raised by a program. Money is raised through the following events: The March Madness Tipoff Breakfast at the Palestra, the Jim Maloney Golf Tournament in September, and the High School Basketball Classic in December. The program also helps educate youth on the dangers of tobacco use through several Youth Tobacco-Free Leadership Institute programs. This year a new event was added, the Coaches vs. Cancer BasketBall. The Ball, held in May, raised an impressive $300,000, bringing the total raised to date by the program for 2004 to $500,000. It is especially impressive considering the total amount of money raised in the first year of the Coaches vs. Cancer program nationwide was $300,000.
The Philly Six coaches include: Temple University's John Chaney, Drexel University's James "Bruiser" Flint, La Salle University's Billy Hahn, Villanova University's Jay Wright, Phil Martelli, and University of Pennsylvania's Fran Dunphy. Dunphy is also a member of the National Council of Coaches vs. Cancer and was named the 2002 National Coaches vs. Cancer Coach of the Year.