Holzman, Red : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Holzman, Red

William Holzman

A great coach who is revered in New York to this day, Holzman is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Red played for nine years in the NBA and NBL, but his greatest accomplishments came as Head Coach of the New York Knicks in the 1970s. Red guided teams that featured such Hall of Fame players as Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere and Earl Monroe. Red led the Knicks to their only two NBA championships, in 1970 and 1973. A master strategist who managed to keep the essence of the game simple, Holzman used to say: "If you play good, hard defense, the offense will take care of itself."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Aug 10, 1920 - d. Nov 13, 1998

Career Highlights:
Before becoming a Hall of Fame coach with the Knicks, Holzman was an outstanding player at CCNY under the great Nat Holman in the early 1940s. After a mediocre 1940 season when the Beavers finished 8-8, they improved to 17-5 the following season. In 1942, Red had his best season for City as he was named Converse third team All-America and was co-captain of the CCNY team that went 16-3. He was so good that he was selected as a member of NYU coach Howard Cann's All-Time New York College team in 1957.

After graduating from CCNY in 1942, Holzman served three years in the military before he joined the Les Harrison-coached (and owned) Rochester Royals of the National Basketball League. In 1945-46, the Royals won the NBL Championship in Holzman's first year with the team, and he was named NBL Rookie of the Year. Red was named to the NBL All-Star team in 1946 and 1948, and was a second-team All-Star in 1947. Holzman played in 138 career NBL games and scored 1,500 points (10.87), 16th all-time in NBL history. In 1948-49, the Royals and three other NBL teams jumped to the NBA (then called the Basketball Association of America). That year, they had the best record in the NBA (45-15) but lost to their nemesis, the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers (also an NBL transfer) in the Western Conference Finals, 2-0.

In 1950-51, Holzman played in all 68 regular season games, averaging 7.3 points and 2.2 assists per game as the Royals finished second in the Western Conference with a record of 41-27. The Royals again reached the Western Division Finals and faced the Lakers. This time, however, Mikan had a hairline fracture in his ankle, which slowed him down, although it did not completely sideline him. After the Lakers won the first game, Rochester coach Les Harrison placed Holzman into the starting lineup -- and the Royals took the next three games to win the series and a place in the NBA Finals.

In the Finals, they faced the New York Knicks in what would become the most entertaining Finals in the short history of the NBA. Even with both teams from New York State, basketball didn't replace baseball on the front page of the New York sports sections; but it was no longer relegated to one or two back-page paragraphs. Professional basketball, and especially the NBA, unquestionably gained legitimacy in the public eye when for the first time in league history, the Finals went to a full seven-game showdown. The Royals won the final game at home -- where they had posted a remarkable record of 92-16 in 3 NBA seasons -- 79-75, to win the NBA Championship. This was the only time the Minneapolis Lakers did not win the NBA title during the George Mikan era.

Holzman played two more seasons with the Royals before moving to the Milwaukee Hawks in 1953-54 to serve as player-coach. That season, the Hawks had a record of 21-51 and finished last in the Western Division. Red coached the Hawks, a last-place team in his first year, to a surprise appearance in the 1955-56 Western Conference Finals (where Milwaukee was edged out by the Fort Wayne Pistons, 3-2). Although he left the Hawks after the 1956-57 season with a coaching record of 83-120, Red is credited with nurturing future Hall of Famer Bob Pettit in the early years of Pettit's storied career. Holzman became a Knicks assistantcoach in 1957, and then the Head Coach of New York in 1967.

Holzman assured himself a beloved place in the hearts of New York's loyal, long-suffering basketball fans when he led the Knicks to the 1970 NBA Championship. In game 7 of the Finals -- a night that remains legendary to a legion of Knick followers -- team captain Willis Reed was doubtful against the Wilt Chamberlain-led Lakers. Just before tip-off, Reed hobbled onto the court; he scored the team's first two baskets (his only two of the game) and the inspired Knicks (led by Frazier's 35 points and 19 assists) defeated the Lakers to win the championship. That year, Red was named NBA Coach of the Year, and became one of only 10 players to win championships as both player and coach.

Holzman led New York back to the finals in 1972 and 1973, winning the title again in 1973. The Knicks teams of those years are still revered today for their unselfish team play and intelligent, fundamentally sound approach to the game. Holzman was named the NBA Coach of the Decade for the 1970s, and was the first recipient of the National Basketball Coaches Association Achievement Award in 1981. Red finished his career with an overall coaching record of 696-604, and a playoff record of 58-48.

Holzman retired in 1982, and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985. Three years later, he was elected to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. On March 10, 1990 the Knicks retired a jersey with the number 613 (the number of Red's wins as Knicks coach) in a ceremony at Madison Square Garden.

Red is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

New York City

Career Dates:
Red played forward at CCNY from 1940-1942. He served in the military from 1942-1945. He played for the Rochester Royals in the NBL from 1945-1948 and the NBA in 1948-1953, and acted as player/coach for the Milwaukee Hawks in the NBA in 1953-54. He coached in the NBA with the Milwaukee Hawks, 1954-1955 and St. Louis Hawks, 1955-57, and the New York Knicks, 1957-1982 (Head Coach from 1967-1982).

Physical description:
5'10", 175

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 358
Points: 2,166
Point Per Game: 6.1

Field Goals Made: 830
Field Goals Attempted: 2,622
Field Goal Percentage: .317

Free Throws Made: 506
Free Throws Attempted: 742
Free Throw Percentage: .682

Rebounds: 344 (incomplete record)
Rebounds Per Game: 1.5
Assists: 721
Assists Per Game: 2.0

Personal Fouls: 478
Disqualifications: 4 (incomplete record)

NBA playoffs:
Games: 28
Points: 143
Points Per Game: 5.1

Field Goals Made: 56
Field Goals Attempted: 145
Field Goal Percentage: .386

Free Throws Made: 31
Free Throws Attempted: 52
Free Throw Percentage: .596

Rebounds: 26 (incomplete record)
Assists: 36
Assists Per Game: 1.3

Personal Fouls: 114
Disqualifications: 0 (incomplete record)

In the NBL:
Games: 138
Points: 1,500
Point Per Game: 10.9

Field Goals Made: 616
Field Goals Attempted: not available

Free Throws Made: 268
Free Throws Attempted: 436
Free Throw Percentage: .615

Rebounds: not available
Assists: not available
Personal Fouls: 180

NBL playoffs:
Games: 28
Points: 267
Points Per Game: 9.5

Field Goals Made: 107
Field Goals Attempted: not available

Free Throws Made: 53
Free Throws Attempted: 73
Free Throw Percentage: .726

Rebounds: not available
Assists: not available
Personal Fouls: 39

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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)
Ronald Encyclopedia of Basketball, edited by William G. Mokray (Ronald Press: 1962)

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