Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.
BASKETBALL URBAN LEGEND: Red Holzman got his start in professional basketball due to the fact that he was Jewish.
William “Red” Holzman was one of the most successful coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He coached the New York Knickerbockers to their only two NBA championships in 1970 and 1973. He was the head coach of the Knicks from 1967-1982 (with a short break in the late 1970s when Willis Reed took over as coach) and retired with 613 victories. That was the same number the Knicks used when they retired his number in 1990 (as coaches don’t have numbers). The Knicks retiring his number came five years after he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Even to this day, over ten years since Holzman passed away in 1998, his legacy impacts the NBA with his former pupil, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson, continuing Holzman’s tradition of winning. Days before setting the new record for most titles won by an NBA coach, Jackson spoke of Holzman to the New York Daily News, “He is the reason why I am a coach.”
While Holzman is a legend in the NBA, he actually got his start in professional basketball in the National Basketball League (NBL), one of two precursors to the NBA (the other being the Basketball Association of America (BAA)) that merged together to form the NBA in 1949. And what’s amazing is that he got his start in the NBL due to one simple fact – he was Jewish!
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