James Colliflower (1885-1962)
Head Coach, 1911-14, 1921-22
In 1962, the Washington Post called James Colliflower "the fellow who has a hand in everything that goes on around Washington." A lifelong Washingtonian, Colliflower was a part of the Georgetown community for six decades and twice served as its head basketball coach.
Born and raised in the Georgetown area of Washington, Colliflower was the son of a local businessman, Charles Colliflower, who migrated to Washington from West Virginia and built a business transporting coal from the West Virginia hills, along a rail line which terminated at K Street in Georgetown. The company, named the "Commercial Coal Company" became a local fixture. From its terminus, the coal was distributed to heat numerous federal buildings for nearly a century--coal trains ran into to Georgetown as late as the 1980's. James followed his brother George onto campus at the preparatory school, graduating in 1902, then receiving his A.B. degree from the College in 1906.
While in law school, Colliflower joined the newly formed basketball team, serving as a three year letterman while attending law school. In the rough and tumble world of early college basketball, Colliflower could take it as good as he gave it. Write the Washington Post in 1909:
"From the time that the whistle blew announcing the opening or the game, until time was called at the end of the second half, the play was fast and furious, and at times very rough, so rough, in fact, that one Georgetown man, J. Colliflower was carried unconscious from the floor...in trying to receive a pass from a teammate [he] ran into the elbow of one of the Medicos who was trying to block the pass and in consequence was rendered unconscious...Colliflower, who regained consciousness before the end of the game, was easily the star for Georgetown, his shooting of baskets being of high-class order."
If Maurice Joyce built basketball at Georgetown, Colliflower gave it permanence. In 1989, school officials voted to end the sport, citing deficits by playing at expensive off-campus arenas. Colliflower, then the team captain, proposed keeping the team under the auspices of the law school which allowed it to survive in an era when law schools finances were largely separate from that of the College. Two years later, when Joyce stepped down as coach, Colliflower took over as coach during similarly lean years for the program financially and kept it in working order. In 1914, he turned over a solvent and stable program back to the College.
Colliflower took over the family business in the late 1910's, since renamed the Colliflower Coal Company. The work did not preclude him from additional sporting interests, however, earning a 37-4 record in three seasons coaching basketball at Navy and serving as a local basketball official. When John O'Reilly was sidelined for the 1921-22 Georgetown season, Colliflower stepped forward to coach the team, but did so without drawing a salary. In 1953, he was part of group of Georgetown alumni and local officials to select the first class of the Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame. Colliflower was elected in the inaugural class one vote short of a unanimous selection, as Colliflower would not cast a vote for himself.
Coal was a prosperous profession for Colliflower, who served as the president of the Washington Board of Trade, and was an investor in many local developments, among them Uline Arena. A 1935 retrospective noted: "In addition, Mr. Colliflower is the President of the Merchants and Manufacturing Association of the District of Columbia; is a member of the executive committee of the Greater National Capital Committee of the Washington Board of Trade...is a member of the Board and executive committee of the Washington Racquet Club; is the President of the Abbey Mausoleum Corporation; is the Vice-President and Treasurer of the Mount Vernon Floral Company located in Alexandria, Virginia; is the Vice-President of the R. B. Cummins and Company, dealing in Surety Bonds and General Insurance."
A loyal Georgetown alumnus, Colliflower served on the Alumni Association's Board of Governors and the President's Council (Board of Regents). In 1945, the University awarded him an honorary degree, noting that "Year after year as time went by this devoted son became more widely known among his associates for the skills he manifested in the business world and for the integrity and the perseverance of his devotion to duty, both in family and in public affairs. In the civic activities of this, his native city of Washington, he won a high place in the esteem of all by his constant sense of the commonweal."
A member of the inaugural class of the Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1953, James Colliflower died in 1962 at the age of 77.