New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Basketball

Butch van Breda Kolff


Butch van Breda Kolff (College basketball.  Born, Montclair, NJ, Oct. 22, 1922; died, Spokane, WA, Aug. 22, 2007.)  A Princeton basketball captain and member of the Knicks, Butch van Breda Kolff became a legend in the ranks of basketball coaching with a career that began in 1951 and extended to 1994.  He coached at four colleges, two of them twice (Hofstra and Lafayette), six pro teams in three different leagues, and at a high school.  After he concluded his second tour at Hofstra (1989-94), he compiled 482 victories as a college coach. He also coached Lafayette twice (1951-55 and 1984-88), Princeton (1962-67) and the University of New Orleans (1977-79). All but 32 of those 482 came at the three schools in the New York region.  van Breda Kolff also coached the Lakers, Pistons, Suns and New Orleans Jazz of the N.B.A. and Memphis of the old American Basketball Association (A.B.A.).  In addition, he coached New Orleans in the Women’s Basketball League and Picayune (Miss.) High School.  In 1946-47, Willem van Breda Kolff was the captain at Princeton and for the next three seasons, he played for the Knicks.  In his first tour at Lafayette, he rebuilt a faltering program that by 1955 produced a 24-3 team that earned an N.I.T. bid.  Then, he moved to Hofstra for his first tour with the Flying Dutchmen (1955-62), starting with a 22-4 team in 1956 and compiling a 136-43 record by 1962 when he moved to Princeton.  There, he coached Bill Bradley, among others, winning three Ivy League championships.

Brian Taylor


Brian Taylor (College and pro basketball.  Born, Perth Amboy, NJ, June 9, 1951.)  A talented 6’3” backcourt star, Brian Taylor scored over 1,200 points in two seasons at Princeton and then helped the New York Nets win two A.B.A. championships.  Taylor averaged 23.5 points per game for the Tigers in 1970-71 as a sophomore and successor to Geoff Petrie (q.v.) as Princeton’s shooting guard.  The next season, he averaged 25.0 but then left school to join the Nets.  In his two Princeton seasons, Taylor had 1,239 points in just 51 games (24.3).  With the Nets, he played key roles for both the 1974 and 1976 A.B.A. titlists.  Shortly after the Nets joined the N.B.A., Taylor was traded to Kansas City (Sept. 10, 1976), in the deal that brought Nate (Tiny) Archibald to New York.  Taylor averaged 14.0 points in 271 career games with the Nets.

Sid Tanenbaum


Sid Tanenbaum (College Basketball.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Oct. 8, 1925; died, Far Rockaway, NY, Sept. 4, 1986.)  Even though not all of his games were against what would later be classified as collegiate opposition, Sidney Tanenbaum was the first player to score 1,000 points in his N.Y.U. basketball career (1,074).  As a sophomore, in 1944-45, he scored a then-record 302 points in 24 games (12.6 per game) and, in each of the next two years, was chosen the winner of the Haggerty Award as the best player in the metropolitan area.  In the 1947-48, Tanenbaum averaged 10.1 in 24 games for the Knicks but was traded to Baltimore in July 1949 after dropping to an 8.0 average in 32 games in 1948-49.

Mendy Rudolph


Mendy Rudolph (Pro basketball.  Born, Philadelphia, PA, Mar. 8, 1938; died, New York, NY, July 4, 1979.)  During most of his record 17 seasons in the league, Marvin Rudolph was the N.B.A.’s best-known referee.  Rudolph joined the league in 1958 and worked 2,113 games during his career, including appearances in 16 straight N.B.A. championship series in which he worked one or more games.  During most of his career, he was considered the league’s top official.  Rudolph matched a league record by officiating eight All-Star Games.  Sid Borgia (q.v.) also worked eight.  Rudolph was the chief of staff for N.B.A. officials during his final seven seasons (1968-75).  He also wrote a book that was the official guide for the league’s referees.  Rudolph’s father, Harry, was president of the minor Eastern Pro League for many years and the son began refereeing there.  He was the youngest N.B.A. referee ever, starting in the league at age 20.

Lou Rossini


Lou Rossini (Basketball.  Born, The Bronx, NY, Apr. 24, 1921; died, Sewell, NJ, Oct. 21, 2005.)  A career that was later to become very international began with a local bang for Lucio A. Rossini.  Just before the 1950-51 season was to start for the Columbia varsity, coach Gordon Ridings suffered a heart attack and Rossini, his assistant, stepped in to coach the Lions.  Rossini’s first team ran through an undefeated (22-0) regular season and into the N.C.A.A. tournament at the Garden (where they were beaten, 79-71, by Illinois in the first round).  Rossini remained at Columbia for eight seasons (1950-58) and compiled a 117-71 record.  Rossini then moved to N.Y.U., succeeding Violets legend Howard Cann.  His tenure (1958-71) included a 1960 Final Four team, a 20-5 season in 1962-63, four N.I.T. teams (finalist in 1966, third in 1959) and several all-America players (Tom Sanders and Barry Kramer) among them.  After N.Y.U. dropped basketball, Rossini began coaching internationally (Mexico and Puerto Rico) but returned to the New York college scene in 1975 at St. Francis.  In his four seasons (1975-79) the Terriers were 55-48, giving him a career 357-256 (.582) record.  Rossini was the coach of the Puerto Rican national team for 12 years (1959-71) with teams that finished second in the Pan American Games (1959) and fourth in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.  He also coached or advised teams in Brazil, Spain, Italy, and Qatar (1982-86).  His 1963 Brazilian team was third in the Pan Am Games.  Rossini played at Theodore Roosevelt H.S. in The Bronx (1937-40) and St. John’s (1941-43) before serving in the Army Air Force during World War II.  He enrolled at Columbia after the war, played for the 1946-47 varsity (averaging a solid 12.3 points per game) and became an assistant coach in 1947 while doing graduate work at Columbia’s Teachers College.  For more than a decade from 1986, Rossini was an adjunct professor at St. John’s.

Elmer Ripley


Elmer Ripley (College basketball.  Born, Staten Island, NY, July 21, 1891; died, Staten Island, NY, Apr. 29, 1982.)  Despite never having played a single college game, Elmer Horton Ripley coached basketball at six colleges for a total of 28 seasons.  Ripley coached Wagner, Yale, Columbia, and Army as well as Notre Dame (1945-46) and Georgetown (three times, for a total of 10 seasons).  He started at Wagner (1922-25); coached Yale from (1929-36, winning the E.I.BL. title in 1933); Columbia (1943-45); and Army (1951-53).  Ripley was 298-228 overall.  After graduating high school, the 5’8” guard turned professional in 1908.  He played with 11 pro teams in 17 seasons (including the Original Celtics) before his final season in 1930.  Among the college players he coached were N.F.L. coach Don Shula, Bill Shea (q.v.), and baseball executive John McHale.  Ripley coached both Israel (1956) and Canada (1960) in the Olympics and finished his coaching career at Englewood (N.J.) School for Boys (1962-73) after working with the Harlem Globetrotters for three years.

Richie Regan


Richie Regan (College basketball.  Born, Newark, NJ, Nov. 23, 1930; died, Neptune, NJ, Dec. 24, 2002.)  For nearly half a century, Richard Jean Regan was associated with Seton Hall as a basketball player, coach, athletic director, and fund-raiser.  Regan was an all-State basketball player at Newark’s West Side H.S., when he enrolled at Seton Hall in 1949.  He joined the varsity as a guard in 1950-51 and his teams won 80 of 92 games during his three-year career.  Regan scored 1,167 points (12.7 per game) in 92 games for teams that were 24-7, 25-3, and 31-2.  He averaged 14.2 for the 1952-53 team that won the N.I.T.  Following two years in the Marine Corps, Regan joined the N.B.A. Rochester Royals for the start of a three-year pro career.  He was Seton Hall’s head coach for 10 seasons (1960-70) with a 112-131 record.  In 1971, Regan became the school’s athletic director, a position he held until 1984.  During that period, he helped organize the Big East Conference with Seton Hall as one of the original seven member schools.  Regan headed up the Pirate Blue Athletic Fund for 13 years (1985-98), raising over $10 million, and then became special assistant to the University’s president.

Willis Reed


Willis Reed (Pro basketball.  Born, Hico, LA, June 25, 1942.)  Startlingly enough, Willis Reed was only a second-round draft pick by the New York Knicks, but he went on to stardom as the captain of the club’s first two N.B.A. championship teams.  The 6’10” Reed was the N.B.A. Rookie of the Year in 1965 and five years later, during the 1969-70 championship season, he became the first New York Knick ever to become the league’s Most Valuable Player. That year he was also M.V.P. of the All-Star Game and the playoffs, a First Team All-Star, and a member of the all-defensive team, the top N.B.A. big man.  In the seventh game of the final that year against Los Angeles at the Garden, Reed, hobbled by a hip injury incurred in the fifth game, scored New York’s first two baskets after a late, surprise entrance during warmups and inspired the Knicks to a 113-99 victory.  At the height of his career, Reed was a bulwark of strength in the middle for the Knicks, both as a scorer and rebounder.  He averaged 20 points or more per game for five straight years, from 1966-67 through 1970-71.  His career was then curtailed by injury, but he still finished with 12,183 points in 650 games, a solid 18.7 career average.  He was also the playoff M.V.P. again when the Knicks won their second championship in 1973.  Reed was distinguished not only by his skill and determination but also by his class, his courage and his dignity.  Many consider him the heart and soul of those championship seasons.  He also subsequently coached both the Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Cal Ramsey


Cal Ramsey (Basketball.  Born, Selma, AL, July 13, 1937.)  As a sophomore out of Commerce H.S., Calvin Ramsey had the third-best scoring season in N.Y.U. history up to that time (401 points) and went on to set new standards in almost every offensive category.  Ramsey had N.Y.U.’s first 40-point game (Feb. 7, 1959, vs. Hunter at Alumni Gym) and closed his three-year career with 1,295 points (20.2 per game), 476 field goals, 1,101 rebounds, all Violets records at the time.  He was captain of the 1958-59 team that finished third in the N.I.T., but N.Y.U. was only 33-32 overall in his three seasons.  After a short (seven games) tour with the Knicks and parts of two seasons with St. Louis and Syracuse, Ramsey became a television commentator (1972-82) for the Knicks.  In 1991, he became the Knicks’ director of community relations.

C. Vivian Stringer


C. Vivian Stringer  (College basketball.  Born, Edenborn, PA, Mar. 16, 1948.)  When Charlene Vivian Stringer coached Rutgers’ 2000 women’s basketball team to the Final Four, she became the first coach to lead three different schools into the women’s Final Four.  (The Lady Knights lost their semifinal game to Tennessee, 64-54).  Stringer had previously coached both Cheney (Penna.) and Iowa (1993) to the pinnacle of women’s college basketball.  Stringer’s Cheney team played in the first N.C.A.A. women’s championship game, losing to Louisiana Tech, 76-62, at Norfolk, Va., Mar. 28, 1982.  After 11 years there (251-51), she moved to Iowa, where her teams made nine trips to the N.C.A.A. tournament, losing the national semifinal to Ohio State in 1993, the year her husband died and she won national Coach of the Year honors.  Seeking a change of locale, Stringer took the Rutgers job when Theresa Grentz moved to Illinois in 1995.  She brought a stunning 520-134 record to the Lady Knights but faced a formidable rebuilding task.  Stringer’s first two Rutgers teams had losing records, but by 1998 (22-10), she had turned the program around.  Just a regional final loss to eventual national champion Duke prevented Rutgers (29-6) from making the Final Four in 1999.  Stringer guided the 2007 Ladt Knights to another Final Four appearance in 2007 and in Feb. 2008, she became only the fourth coach in women’s college history to win 800 games.  The following month, Rutgers lost to Connecticut in the national quarterfinals.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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