Joe Lapchick

Joseph Bohomiel Lapchick (April 12, 1900 – August 10, 1970) was an American professional basketball player, mostly known for playing with the Original Celtics in the 1920s and 1930s. He is commonly regarded as the best center of his era, overshadowed (if anything) in his later years only by Tarzan Cooper. After ending his playing career in 1937, Lapchick became head coach at St. John's University, a position he held until 1947, when he took over the New York Knicks in the NBA. Lapchick coached the Knicks until 1957, leading them to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances (1951–53). He returned to St. John's, coaching them until 1965.

Joe Lapchick
Photograph of Joe Lapchick in Celtic uniform, 1922
Joe Lapchick in his first Celtic uniform
Biographical details
BornApril 12, 1900
Yonkers, New York
DiedAugust 10, 1970 (aged 70)
Monticello, New York
Playing career
1923–1928Original Celtics
1928–1931Cleveland Rosenblums
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1936–1947St. John's
1947–1956New York Knicks
1956–1965St. John's
Head coaching record
Overall334–130 (college)
326–247 (NBA)
Accomplishments and honors
As player:
  • ABL champion (1927–1930)

As head coach:

Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1966
Joe Lapchick's misspelled 1933 Goudey Sport Kings basketball card.

Full biography

From star player to successful coach to popular author to respected dignitary, Joe Lapchick played a variety of roles in his more than 50 years in the game of basketball. He was an eminently influential figure who helped nurture the sport from its crude beginnings into its modern form.

Born in Yonkers, New York to Czech immigrants, Lapchick as a boy helped his struggling family make ends meet by scrounging for coal near railroad tracks. At age 12 the youngster started playing basketball around his neighborhood, wearing a uniform his mother had made for him. Like many youngsters of the era, he stopped going to school after the eighth grade. While working as a caddie and in a factory, the 15-year-old found he could make $5 to $10 per night playing for local basketball teams. At age 19 he was suiting up for four different touring teams and pocketing up to $100 per game. Basketball became his life.

Lapchick was rangy at 6-foot-5, making him a valuable commodity at a time when a jump ball was held after every basket. "I played one manager against the other," he said years later. "I bargained with the managers for every game. When there was a clash of dates, I took the best offer."

In 1923 he joined the fabled Original Celtics (a team that was the second incarnation of the New York Celtics, which had disbanded during World War I). At first the team eschewed league play, choosing instead to barnstorm throughout the Northeast and wow crowds with its razzle-dazzle style of play. Conditions were spartan. When a large cut on Lapchick's wrist became infected with uniform dye, a teammate rubbed off the scab with a towel and doused the wound with whiskey. Luckily for Lapchick, the treatment worked.

The Celtics joined the American Basketball League in 1926 and won two straight titles. So dominant were Lapchick, Nat Holman, and the rest of the Celtics that the league insisted the team disband. It did, in 1928. Lapchick and two other former Celtics then joined the Cleveland Rosenblums, a team owned by a department store magnate who had named the team after himself. With Lapchick starring at the pivot, the "Rosenblum Celtics" won two straight ABL titles.

The Great Depression forced an end to the ABL in 1931. Still a young man, Lapchick re-formed the Celtics with Dutch Dehnert, Davey Banks, Nat Hickey, Johnny Beckman, Carl Husta and him. They hit the road for five years, with Lapchick handling driving duties, and Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" at games.

In 1936 Lapchick landed the coaching job at St. John's University, New York City. In 11 seasons he steered the Redmen to a 180-55 record and two consecutive National Invitation Tournament titles, in 1943 and 1944. Overwhelmed by stress, Lapchick fainted during the second half of the 1944 final game. In 1947 he passed up a then-astronomical offer of $12,000 per year to stay at St. John's, opting instead to accept a job as coach of the New York Knickerbockers of the fledgling Basketball Association of America. Landing Lapchick was a big boost to the league, which was in only its second year of operation. He signed Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton to the Knicks, one of the league's first African-American players.[1]

As a star center with the Original Celtics and other barnstorming teams, a college coach at St. John's, an NBA coach with the New York Knicks, and an ambassador of the sport, Lapchick cast a broad shadow across the game and its history.

Though a slick player and an admired coach, Lapchick was perhaps best known for his obsessive worrying and anxiety during games. He lived every second of every game as though it were the last tick of the clock. Stress related health problems ended his professional coaching career and caused an occasional on-court fainting spell and even a few heart attacks.

Lapchick was respected for his motivational coaching style, which focused less on mechanics than on eliciting peak performances from his players. Stressing a freewheeling offensive approach and smooth ballhandling, Lapchick built winners at both the college and pro levels. As a player, Lapchick had sharp passing and shooting skills that made him one of the first great pro centers and that helped his teams win several championships.

Continuing to emphasize his themes of personal achievement and responsibility, Lapchick led the Knicks to eight straight winning seasons and eight trips to the playoffs, including three straight NBA Finals from 1951 to 1953. The 1953–54 Knicks were more than just a team of talented players; eight of them went on to coach pro or college teams, a tribute to Lapchick's leadership. Though a great motivator, Lapchick was a wild man on the sidelines, stomping on his coat, smashing chairs, and tossing various objects into the air. Stress-related health problems forced him to quit near the end of the 1955–56 season. He left the Knicks with a 326-247 NBA coaching record.

Lapchick rested for only a month before returning to St. John's, where in nine more seasons he led the Redmen to two more NIT crowns, giving them a record four titles. Lapchick wasn't just his players’ basketball coach; he monitored their academic performance as well. The school's mandatory-retirement rules forced Lapchick, a two-time college Coach of the Year, to step down after the 1964–65 season at age 65. He had several heart attacks that year. The season ended with the Redmen upsetting Villanova, 55-51, in an emotional NIT Championship Game.

Describing his final season at St. John's, Lapchick told the Washington, D.C.–based Evening Star: "I used to double up with chest pains. Sometimes I couldn’t even talk to the team during halftime."

Lapchick turned to writing. In 1968 he wrote 50 Years of Basketball, a book that was both a compilation of stories from Lapchick's early days as a player and an explanation of his coaching philosophy. As one of basketball's most prominent elder statesmen, Lapchick also stayed active as a spokesman for the sport.

Lapchick headstone
The grave of Joe Lapchick in Oakland Cemetery in Yonkers, NY

He died of a heart attack in Monticello, New York, in 1970 at age 70.

Legacy and honors

  • In 1966, Lapchick was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • In his memory, St. John's created an annual preseason college basketball tournament entitled the Lapchick Memorial Tournament.


Lapchick married Elizabeth Sarubbi in 1931; they had one daughter and had two sons. Barbara Lapchick was one of the original Ford models and graduated from Barnard College. Dr. Richard Lapchick is a human rights activist working for racial equality, an internationally recognized expert on sports issues, a scholar and an author. Lapchick is the Endowed Chair and Director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the College of Business Administration, University of Central Florida. He is also President/CEO of the National Consortium for Academics and Sport (NCAS), a school outreach program which focuses on teaching youth how to improve race relations, and develop conflict resolution skills.[2] Joseph Lapchick graduated from the USMA and took a commission in the USAF. He earned a Ph D at Harvard. He was superintendent of schools in Aspen, Colorado, and later an area superintendent in Philadelphia.


  1. ^ St. John's University, The President's Newsletter, Vol. 3, Issue 2, February 2018, ""St. John's Unveils Statue Honoring Basketball Legend Joe Lapchick."
  2. ^ "TIDES". Archived from the original on 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2010-05-14.

External links

1943 National Invitation Tournament

The 1943 National Invitation Tournament was the 1943 edition of the annual NCAA college basketball competition.

1944 National Invitation Tournament

The 1944 National Invitation Tournament was the 1944 edition of the annual NCAA college basketball competition.

1947–48 New York Knicks season

The 1947–48 New York Knicks season was the second season for the team in the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which later became known as the National Basketball Association. The Knicks finished in second place in the Eastern Division with a 26–22 record and qualified for the BAA Playoffs. In the first round, New York was eliminated by the Baltimore Bullets in a best-of-three series, two games to one. Carl Braun was the team's scoring leader during the season.At the 1947 BAA draft, the Knicks selected Dick Holub in the first round, with the fifth overall pick. The 1947–48 season was the first as New York's head coach for Joe Lapchick, who had previously held the same position for college basketball's St. John's; he had been hired in March 1947. The Knicks had a 13–13 record in the first 26 games of the season before going on an eight-game winning streak from January 28 to February 11. However, New York won only four of its final 12 regular season contests.In game one of the first round of the playoffs, held in Baltimore, the Bullets defeated the Knicks 85–81 behind a 34-point performance by Connie Simmons. The Knicks evened the series at one victory apiece by winning the second game 79–69 in New York, as four players scored more than 10 points. The win forced a decisive third game back in Baltimore, which the Knicks lost 84–77. Simmons led the Bullets with 22 points, while Chick Reiser added 21. The Bullets went on to win the 1948 BAA Finals.

1954 NBA All-Star Game

The 1954 NBA All Star Game was the fourth NBA All-Star Game. It was held on January 21, 1954, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics was the game MVP. Joe Lapchick of the New York Knicks coached the Eastern Conference and John Kundla of the Minneapolis Lakers coached the Western Conference. The attendance was 16,487.

The Eastern Conference held an 84–82 edge with only seconds remaining in the game. Then, George Mikan of the Lakers was fouled. Mikan proceeded to make both foul shots, which sent the game into overtime.

In the extra period, Cousy scored 10 points to secure a 98–93 victory. The Western Conference's Jim Pollard, the game's high scorer with 23 points, had been named MVP in a vote taken before regulation time had run out. But another ballot was taken and Cousy became the MVP.

The 1954 All-Star Game was the last All-Star Game in which neither side reached 100 points.

1959 National Invitation Tournament

The 1959 National Invitation Tournament was the 1959 edition of the annual NCAA college basketball competition.

1995–96 UC Irvine Anteaters men's basketball team

The 1995–96 UC Irvine Anteaters men's basketball team represented the University of California, Irvine during the 1995–96 NCAA Division I men's basketball season. The Anteaters were led by fifth year head coach Rod Baker and played at the Bren Events Center and were members of the Big West Conference. They finished with their best record and only winning season under Rod Baker. Baker would win the Conference coach of the year.

Al Seiden

Alan Seiden (May 1, 1937 – May 3, 2008) was an American collegiate and professional basketball player. He led St. John's University to the 1959 National Invitation Tournament title and later played professionally with the Pittsburgh Rens of the American Basketball League.

Seiden was a New York City schoolboy star at Jamaica High School, leading his team to the PSAL title in 1955 as a senior. He chose to stay close to home for college, playing for Hall of Fame coach Joe Lapchick at St. John's University. Seiden became a star at St. John's, leading the Redmen to two straight National Invitation Tournaments in 1958 and 1959. Seiden averaged 20.4 and 21.9 points per game as a junior and senior and ended his Redmen career with 1,374 points. He served as team captain both seasonsIn 1959, Seiden led the Redmen to the NIT title as the unseeded 17–9 squad upset the field to win a tournament that was then seen as prestigious as the NCAA Tournament. Seiden capped his senior season by being named a consensus second team All-American and won the Haggerty Award as the top player in the New York City metro area.After his college career ended, Seiden was drafted in the second round of the 1959 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks. He failed to make the roster, and played for the next few years in the Eastern Professional Basketball League and in 1961 with the Pittsburgh Rens of the American Basketball League.Seiden died on May 3, 2008 of complications from stroke.In March 2011, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Brian Mahoney (basketball)

Brian Mahoney (born December 17, 1948) is an American retired college basketball coach and former professional player. He was head coach of the St. John's Red Storm team from 1992 to 1996, as well as the Manhattan Jaspers from 1978 to 1981.

Mahoney played collegiately at Manhattan College. A 6'3", 175-pound shooting guard, he was drafted in 1971 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fifth round of that year's NBA draft; however, he played instead in the rival American Basketball Association as a member of the New York Nets (now the NBA's Brooklyn team) for only 19 games in the 1972–73 season. That was the only time he played professionally. After that he went into coaching.

Claude Allen (athlete)

Claude Arthur Allen (April 29, 1885 in Olean, New York – January 18, 1979 in Roselle, New Jersey) was an American track and field athlete who competed in the 1904 Summer Olympics and a college basketball head coach. In 1904, Allen placed fifth in the pole vault competition.

Allen coached the Niagara basketball team for the 1909–10 season and the St. John's basketball team for the 1910–11 season. Allen's St. John's team finished the season with a 14–0 record and was retroactively named the national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.

Frank McGuire

Frank Joseph McGuire (November 8, 1913 – October 11, 1994) was an American basketball coach. At the collegiate level, he was head coach for three major programs: St. John's, North Carolina, and South Carolina, winning over a hundred games at each.

Jack Garfinkel

Jack "Dutch" Garfinkel (June 13, 1918 – August 14, 2013) was an American basketball player.

Garfinkel attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn and then nearby St. John's University to play for future Hall of Fame coach Joe Lapchick. In 1941, he won the Haggerty Award, given to the top player in the New York City metropolitan area.

After his college career was over, Garfinkel served in the United States Army during World War II. He then played for the Philadelphia Sphas of the American Basketball League, the Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League (NBL), and finally settled in with the Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America (BAA), where he was a member of the franchise's first team in 1946–47. Garfinkel lasted three seasons with the Celtics, but his career ended prior to the NBL/BAA merger that formed the National Basketball Association in 1949.After his playing days were over, Garfinkel became a basketball coach and official. He died on August 14, 2013.

List of NBA All-Star Game head coaches

This is a list of NBA All-Star Game head coaches.

List of New York Knicks head coaches

The New York Knickerbockers are an American professional basketball team based in New York City. They are a member of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). They play their home games at Madison Square Garden. The franchise's official name "Knickerbockers" came from the style of pants Dutch settlers wore when they came to America. Having joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA), the predecessor of the NBA, in 1946, the Knicks remain as one of the oldest teams in the NBA. During Red Holzman's tenure, the franchise won its only two NBA championships, the 1970 NBA Finals and the 1973 NBA Finals.

There have been 26 head coaches for the New York Knicks franchise. Holzman was the franchise's first Coach of the Year winner and is its all-time leader in regular-season games coached, regular-season games won, playoff games coached, and playoff games won. Holzman was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986 as a coach. Besides Holzman, Rick Pitino, Don Nelson, Pat Riley, Lenny Wilkens, and Larry Brown have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as coaches. Four coaches have been named to the list of the top 10 coaches in NBA history. Neil Cohalan, Joe Lapchick, Vince Boryla, Carl Braun, Eddie Donovan and Herb Williams have spent their entire coaching careers with the Knicks. Boryla, Braun, Harry Gallatin, Dick McGuire, Willis Reed and Williams formerly played for the Knicks.

List of New York Knicks seasons

The New York Knickerbockers, better known as the New York Knicks, are a professional basketball team based in New York City that competes in the National Basketball Association (NBA). An original member of the NBA, the Knicks play in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division. In its 73 seasons, the franchise has reached the NBA Finals eight times and won two championships. As of the end of the 2018–19 season, New York has won more than 2,700 regular season games, and the team has the fourth-highest victory total in NBA history. Since 1968, the Knicks have played home games at Madison Square Garden.One of the Basketball Association of America's (BAA) eleven teams during its inaugural season, the Knicks won the league's first game, defeating the Toronto Huskies 68–66 on November 1, 1946. The club qualified for the playoffs in the league's first three seasons before the BAA merged with the National Basketball League in 1949 to form the NBA. Following the merger, New York extended its streak of playoff appearances to nine consecutive years, and reached the NBA Finals each year from 1952 to 1954. The Knicks returned to the Finals in 1970 and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games for the team's first title. New York and Los Angeles faced each other again in the 1972 Finals, a series that the Lakers won four games to one. The Knicks earned their second NBA championship the following year, as they won a rematch with Los Angeles in five games.

From 1988 to 2001, the franchise reached the playoffs in fourteen consecutive seasons, but did not win an NBA title. The team reached its first NBA Finals in twenty-one seasons during the 1993–94 season, but lost to the Houston Rockets in seven games. Five years later, New York again lost in the NBA Finals, this time in a five-game series against the San Antonio Spurs. After the 2000–01 season, the Knicks had nine consecutive losing seasons between 2001–02 and 2009–10. The Knicks made the postseason in the next three seasons, but declined to their worst-ever record of 65 losses in 2014–15. In the most recent season, 2018–19, New York missed the playoffs with a 17–65 win–loss record, which matched the worst mark in team history.

NBA Conference Finals

The National Basketball Association Conference Finals are the Eastern and Western championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA), a major professional basketball league in North America. The NBA was founded in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The NBA adopted its current name at the start of the 1949–50 season when the BAA merged with the National Basketball League (NBL). The league currently consists of 30 teams, of which 29 are located in the United States and 1 in Canada. Each team plays 82 games in the regular season. After the regular season, eight teams from each of the league's two conferences qualify for the playoffs. At the end of the playoffs, the top two teams play each other in the Conference Finals, to determine the Conference Champions from each side, who then proceed to play in the NBA Finals.

Ray Kuka

Raphael Eugene "Ray" Kuka (February 17, 1922 – March 27, 1990) was an American professional basketball player. He played in the Basketball Association of America for the New York Knicks during the 1947–48 season and part of the 1948–49 season. Kuka also served briefly as the Knicks' interim head coach for a few games in February 1949. Joe Lapchick, the regular head coach, was hospitalized to treat a stomach disorder. Kuka had also previously served as a team scout.Kuka played in college for Notre Dame before being drafted into the United States Air Force for World War II. After World War II he returned home and played for Montana State, where he earned all-conference honors.

St. John's Red Storm men's basketball

The St. John's Red Storm men's basketball team represents the St. John's University in Queens, New York. The team participates in the Big East Conference. As of the end of the 2018-19 season, St. John's has 1,900 total wins, which put them at #6 on the List of teams with the most victories in NCAA Division I men's college basketball. Starting in the 2019-20 season, St. John's will be coached by Mike Anderson.

Tarzan Cooper

Charles "Tarzan" Cooper (August 30, 1907 – December 19, 1980) was an American professional basketball player. He is mostly known for his time with the New York Renaissance (1929–41).

Cooper was born in Newark, Delaware. After playing at Philadelphia Central High School, Cooper turned pro in 1925. He played for the Philadelphia Panthers and Philadelphia Saints until 1929 when he joined the New York Renaissance or Rens for eleven seasons. All were independent teams because the early professional leagues were all-white.

At 6 ft 4 in (193 cm), Cooper has been called the greatest center that ever played by Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick, center for the rival Original Celtics.

Cooper died at age 73 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Tony Jackson (basketball, born 1942)

Tony B. Jackson (November 7, 1942 – October 28, 2005) was an American professional basketball player.

Jackson was born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. A standout player under coach Joe Lapchick at St. John's University from 1958 to 1961, Jackson was six feet, four inches tall and played two seasons in the American Basketball League and two seasons in the American Basketball Association. Jackson scored 53 points (including 12 three-point baskets) while playing for the Chicago Majors of the ABL on March 14, 1962. He died of cancer in 2005 in Brooklyn.

Jackson, Connie Hawkins, Doug Moe, and Roger Brown were indicted in the 1962 NCAA basketball point shaving scandals involving Jack Molinas and banned from the NBA for life by then-NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy.

Jackson participated in the 1968 ABA All-Star Game and holds the ABA record for free throws in a single game with 24.


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