Before Holzman, There Was Holman
A first-person testimony of the Jewish basketball genius
In my article yesterday on the legendary New York Knicks coach Red Holzman, I mentioned that the coach’s coach—the man who coached Holzman back when he was a player for City College—was famous himself. Under Nat Holman, CCNY won both the NCAA and NIT championships in 1950, and generally was a dominant program (this, recall, was back when many of the great basketball players were Jews). Holman retired after 37 seasons with a 421-190 record and a reputation as one of the game’s most important early innovators.
But there’s more! Earlier today, I spoke with someone who directly benefited from Coach Holman’s basketball expertise. Col. Ellis Robinson (Ret.) is a loyal reader of The Scroll and, in this writer’s opinion, the world’s best grandfather. He reports that Holman would come down to Plainfield, New Jersey, once a week to offer pointers to the local YMHA squad.
Specifically: Holman taught the Jews of Plainfield how to play dirty.
“When you’re jumping against a man that’s much taller than you,” the colonel recalls Holman having taught him, “you step on his toe as you’re jumping, and of course he can’t get off his feet. And [Holman] taught us that if you’re up against a man, you put your hand on the bottom of his pants and hold his shorts down, and then he can’t jump.”
“There was a league in New Jersey,” the colonel continues. “The largest cities had YMHAs, and there was a league amongst those teams: Elizabeth, Perth Amboy, Trenton, Jersey City.” (Yes, this is basically something out of a 1990s Philip Roth novel.)
And then there is the hip-check: “When we both went for the ball off the backboard, I would give the other team’s center a hip, right after I jumped, and he would land on his ass.” Oh, grandpa.
Magic Number [Tablet Magazine]