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

Category Archives: Basketball

Cliff Battles

Cliff Battles (College basketball.  Born, Akron, OH, May 1, 1910; died, Seminole, FL, Apr. 28, 1981.)  A superb football running back at West Virginia Wesleyan who twice led the N.F.L. in rushing (1932, 1937), Clifford Battles quit Washington in a salary dispute in 1938 and became an assistant football coach under Lou Little at Columbia.  Battles was on the Lions staff for five seasons (1938-42) and was the head basketball coach at Columbia in 1942-43 (8-8), but never played pro football again.

Butch Beard

Butch Beard (Pro basketball.  Born, Hardinburg, KY, May 4, 1947.)  A guard who played parts of four seasons (1975-79) with the Knicks, Alfred Beard was later a radio and television commentator, and head coach of the Nets.  Beard was released by the Knicks Oct. 30, 1978, seven games into the season, but became an assistant coach for three seasons (1979-82).  He then joined the Knicks broadcast crew for four seasons (1982-86) before becoming a Nets assistant coach (1988-90).  After four years as head coach at Howard U. (Washington, D.C.), Beard was named Nets head coach June 28, 1994.  In two seasons, he had identical 30-52 records and was dismissed in favor of John Calipari.  Beard played collegiately at Louisville and was with four other N.B.A. teams.

John Beckman

John Beckman (Pro basketball.  Born, New York, NY, Oct. 22, 1895; died, Miami Beach, FL, June 22, 1968.)  Among the stars of the legendary Original Celtics was John Beckman.  Though his 5’9” frame was above average for his time, Beckman was noted for his all-around game.  He first became a star in the original Eastern League with the suburban Philadelphia DeNeri and Jasper clubs (1915-18).  In 1919, Beckman was signed by the Celtics, along with Dutch Dehnert.  Their presence elevated the Celtics from a strong New York area team to a national phenomenon that began to draw 10,000 to Madison Square Garden, then located at Madison Square.  Their renown soon made them into a touring attraction.  In 1925, Beckman was cited as one of the two “best basketball players in the world” by the Reach Guide.  (The other was Nat Holman.)  In 1922-23, the Celtics, with Beckman as their captain, played 215 games and won 204.  When the first American Basketball League ordered the Celtics “broken up,” Beckman went to Brooklyn and then Cleveland, where he had his last great year in 1928-29.

Clair Bee

Clair Bee (College basketball. Born, March 2, 1896, Grafton, WV; died, May 20, 1983, Cleveland, OH)  After a multi-sport athletic career at Waynesburg (Penna.) College, Clair F. Bee was hired by the then-new Long Island University as virtually a one-man athletic department.  Without a staff, he coached and organized teams in all major sports.  But it was as a tactician and teacher in basketball that he earned his great renown.  In 18 seasons as basketball coach of the famed Blackbirds, Bee compiled the awesome record of 370-80 and produced such great players as Ben Kramer, Julie Bender, Irv Torgoff, Art Hillhouse, Ossie Schechtman, Dick Holub, Jack Goldsmith and Sherman White.  His 1935-36 team was unbeaten (27-0) in the midst of a 43-game winning streak finally broken by Hank Luisetti and Stanford in Madison Square Garden.  His 1938-39 team was 25-0 as part of a 36-game unbeaten streak.  Bee coached two National Invitation Tournament champions (1939 and 1941) when the N.I.T. was the major post-season show. He spent two years as coach of the N.B.A. Baltimore Bullets after L.I.U. dropped basketball in 1951.  From 1954-67 he was athletic director at the New York Military Academy.  Bee also authored a series of young readers’ books with Chip Hilton as the fictional hero.

Matty Begovich

Matty Begovich (Basketball.  Born, Hoboken, NJ, Oct. 2, 1910; died, Miami Beach, FL, Nov. 20, 1966.)  One of the best-known referees of his era, Matthew Begovich was also a star player and coach in the 1930s.  Begovich refereed for over 20 years before retiring in 1959 and officiated five N.I.T. finals from 1946-51.  He worked Garden games for 21 staroght years in an era when playing, coaching, and officiating at the same time were not uncommon.  Begovich did all three, coaching at John Marshall Law School in Jersey City (1935-40) while playing for the Brooklyn Jewels as a center for 10 years in the original A.B.L. and refereeing college games in the New York area.  Though highly thought of by his fellow coaches as an official, Begovich rarely worked more than 30 games a year, but was often assigned to major matchups.  He first came to prominence as a player on the St. John’s “Wonder Five” of 1928-29 (Mac Kinsbrunner, Max Posnak, Rip Gerson, and Allie Shuckman were the other four).  When the team was ruled ineligible for playing against professionals, the “Wonder Five” formed the Brooklyn Jewels in 1932.  Begovich joined the F.B.I. in 1940 and three years later became a sales executive for U.S. Steel, but continued to referee, working his only N.C.A.A. final in 1943.

Walt Bellamy

Walt Bellamy (Pro basketball.  Born, New Bern, NC, July 24, 1939.)  On Nov. 1, 1965, the Knocks sent Jim Barnes, Johnny Green, and Johnny Egan to Baltimore for former Indiana star Walt Bellamy, a 6’11” center the team had coveted for five years.  Bellamy played parts of four seasons (268 games) for the Knocks before being displaced by Willis Reed and traded to Detroit with Howard Komives for Dave DeBusschere.  Bellamy averaged 18.9 points and 13.3 rebounds per game for the Knicks.  He was the No. 1 draft pick for expansion Chicago in 1961, played for Baltimore (after Chicago moved there in 1963), Detroit (1968-70) and Atlanta (1970-71).

Lou Bender

Lou Bender (College basketball.  Born, New York, NY, Mar. 8, 1910; died, Longboat Key, FL, Sept. 10, 2009.)  In his three varsity years at Columbia, Louis Bender played on teams that were 55-13 overall, 27-4 in the E.I.B.L., and winners of league titles in 1930 (9-1) and 1931 (10-0).  Bender led the league in scoring both years (9.6 p.p.g. each year) and was an all-America choice in both 1930 and 1932.  He played briefly with the Original Celtics in 1933 and later with the Boston Trojans and the New York Whirlwinds pro clubs.  Bender was a prominent lawyer and an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1941-46) while playing pro ball.

Al Bianchi

Al Bianchi (Pro basketball.  Born, Long Island City, NY, Mar. 26, 1932.)  A veteran N.B.A. player, pro coach, and executive, Al Bianchi was general manager of the Knicks from July 8, 1987, to Mar. 1, 1991.  Although all of the teams during Bianchi’s tenure made the playoffs, none got out of the second round.  When he succeeded Scotty Stirling, he initiated a policy of packaging draft choices, most being used in trades.  Bianchi’s top pick was probably Rod Strickland (first round, 1988, No. 18 overall), who lasted over 15 seasons in the N.B.A.  The 1988-89 team finished first in the Atlantic Division.  Bianchi played at Long Island City H.S., Bowling Green U., and Syracuse (N.B.A., 1956-63), which became the Philadelphia 76ers (1963-66).  He was a head coach in both the N.B.A. (Seattle, 1967-69) and the A.B.A. (Washington-Virginia, 1969-70), and an assistant for 12 seasons (1976-87) before joining the Knicks.  In his first season, he revamped a team that had won no more than 25 games in each of the previous three seasons.  Bianchi traded center Bill Cartwright to Chicago for forward Charles Oakley June 27, 1988, and brought in Kiki Vandeweghe from Portland for a first-round draft pick.  Bianchi picked forward Johnny Newmann off the waiver wire.  Bianchi hired both Rick Pitino and Stu Jackson as head coaches.

Carol Blazejowski

Carol Blazejowski (College basketball.  Born, Cranford, NJ, Sept. 29, 1956.)  After a distinguished scholastic career, Carol Blazejowski was expected to be an impact player in women’s college basketball, but little did anyone know what an impact she would make.  Blazejowski became one of the truly great players in the history of her sport, racking up 3,199 career points and 1,001 rebounds, making her the first woman ever to score over 2,000 career points and have more than 1,000 rebounds.  Her performances so energized women’s basketball that her Montclair State College team was invited to play in Madison Square Garden, where her shooting and rebounding display in a 52-point effort set a Garden No. 4 collegiate record.  A two-time national scoring champion and three-time All-America, Blazejowski was the first athlete in Montclair State history to have a uniform number retired (No. 12).  She scored 47 points in St. John’s Alumni Hall on March 1, 1977, the most points in a game there by any player, male or female.  She set a women’s scoring record at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (41) and scored 54 points in a game against Queens College.  In 101 career games, Blazejowski averaged 31.7 points, still the highest career average in women’s collegiate competition. In her senior year, she scored 1,235 points and averaged 38.6 per game, another record.  She was named the Converse Women’s Player of the Year in 1977 and won the first Wade Trophy as player of the year in 1978.  She later became the first general manager of the Liberty, who reached the W.N.B.A. final four times in the league’s first six seasons.  She was promoted to president of the Liberty in 2008, but in 2010, her contract was not renewed.  She became an Associate Vice President at Montclair State (by then a university) in 2011.

Ernest Blood

Ernest Blood (Basketball.  Born, Manchester, NH, Oct. 4, 1872; died, New Smyrna Beach, FL, Feb. 5, 1955.)  A coach who won seven New Jersey state championships at Passaic H.S., Ernest Artel Blood gained national fame with a 159-game winning streak from Dec. 17, 1919, to Feb. 6, 1925.  This feat earned him the nickname, “the Professor.”

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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About Bill Shannon

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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