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

Joe Lapchick

Joe Lapchick (College and pro basketball. Born, Yonkers, NY, Apr. 12, 1900; died, New York, NY, Aug. 10, 1970.) Joseph Bonhomiel Lapchick had two distinct careers in professional basketball, and another in college basketball, and any one of them would have been sufficient to make him one of the sport’s most significant contributors. Although he never attended college, Lapchick learned the game in the gyms and Y.M.C.A.s of his native town. After World War I, he began playing professionally in the New England League. He refined his game with several Massachusetts teams, including Holyoke, Worcester and Pittsfield, before joining the Original Celtics in 1921. Lapchick, a strong 6’5”, was considered a very big man for his day and he supplanted Johnny Beckman as the Celtics center, helping the team become one of the strongest ever assembled. The Celtics dominated pro basketball and the American Basketball League in the 1920s due in no small measure to Lapchick’s rugged rebounding and smooth outlet passing. He retired in 1937 to become head coach at St. John’s, but ten years later became the second coach of the New York Knickerbockers. Under his direction, the Knicks made the N.B.A. final three straight seasons (1951-53). In the days before the 24-second clock, Lapchick’s Knicks were the finest passing and playmaking team in the league. During his nearly ten years as Knicks coach, his regular-season record was 326-247, including a then club-record 47-23 in 1952-53, and overall, including playoffs, Lapchick was 356-278. He then returned to St. John’s. During his two terms as head basketball coach of the Redmen, the names Lapchick and St. John’s became synonymous. Lapchick led the Redmen to a record four National Invitation Tournament titles in his 19 seasons, two during his first 10-year tenure and two more during his second stint (1956-65). Lapchick’s first N.I.T. win came in 1943, when his team finished 21-3. His second came the next year, when the Redmen were 18-5. In 1959, St. John’s was 20-6 and took its third crown in the Garden. The fourth N.I.T. title came in Lapchick’s final game as a head coach in Mar. 1965. He had six teams with 20 or more wins in a season and was 334-130 in 19 seasons at St. John’s.

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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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