Molinas, Jack : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Molinas, Jack

Jacob L. Molinas

The story of Molinas is one of the most interesting, and disturbing, in the history of basketball. After an outstanding college career at Columbia University, Molinas was the fourth overall pick in the 1953 NBA Draft, selected by the Fort Wayne Pistons. Only two months into the season, however, Molinas was suspended indefinitely after being suspected of gambling on Fort Wayne games. Although he insisted he only bet on the Pistons (and that they would win), authorities were interested in a specific game against the Boston Celtics in which Molinas was benched in the first half and when he returned to the game with a minute remaining in the game, he committed two flagrant fouls against Bob Cousy. The NBA placed a lifetime ban on Molinas, and he never played again.

The saga of Jack Molinas, however does not end with his ban from the NBA. In 1961, scandal rocked college basketball as 37 players from 22 schools were arrested for their involvement in fixing games. Ten years earlier, another scandal shook college basketball to its core when dozens of athletes fixed games, including members of the great 1950 CCNY team that won both the NCAA and NIT postseason tournaments (the only time there was a single winner of both contests). Many hoped that following the scandals of the early 1950s, college basketball would avoid more shame, but Molinas and his accomplices had other ideas. Beginning around 1957, Molinas (who, ironically, would later become a lawyer), was the lead conspirator in a gambling operation that included 49 players and fixed approximately 67 games through the 1961 season. He was arrested and sentenced to 10-15 years, but served only five (in Attica from 1964-1969) before moving to Hollywood in 1970.

During his game-fixing days, Molinas became involved with mobsters Tommy "Ryan" Eboli, and Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. When he got to California in the early 1970s, Molinas maintained his mob ties as he entered new businesses, including trafficking in pornography and fur importing. In 1974, his partner Bernard Gusoff was beaten to death and Molinas collected the $500,000 life insurance policy (the two held insurance policies on each other). The following year, Molinas was arrested again for shipping pornography across state lines, but he never got to trial. On August 3, he was in his backyard when he was shot in the back of his head. Although the police never solved his murder, a mob hit was not ruled out. In November 2001, author Charley Rosen published a book about Molinas entitled The Wizard of Odds: How Jack Molinas Almost Destroyed the Game of Basketball.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Oct. 31, 1931 - d. Aug. 3, 1975

Career Highlights:
In the early 1950s, Molinas was a powerful 6'6" forward and center for the Columbia Lions, leading them to one of the most successful seasons in school history. In 1951, Jack led the Lions in scoring (331 points), and was named Converse All-America honorable mention. Columbia went 22-0 (including 12-0 in conference) and were ranked No. 3 in the nation entering the NCAA tournament. In the first round of the East Region though, they drew the No. 4 team in the country, Illinois. Molinas scored a team-high 20 points in the game for the Lions, but they lost the match, 79-71.

Over the next two years, Molinas was again named All-conference. The Lions played well but could not match the success of the 1951 team. After going 16-10 (7-5 in conference) in 1952, they went 17-6 (8-4 in conference) in Molinas's senior year of 1953. Jack finished with 1046 points in 59 career games for a 17.6 average; his is still among Columbia's top twenty scorers all-time.

After graduating, Molinas was selected in the first round (4th overall) of the 1953 NBA Draft by the Fort Wayne Pistons. After signing a $9,600 contract with a $500 signing bonus (a huge amount in those days), Jack played extremely well in the first months of the 1953-54 season and was considered one of the top rookies in the league, averaging 12.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.

On January 10, 1954, however, he was suspended indefinitely after admitting he placed bets on his Fort Wayne team. Some believed Molinas also bet against his team, although he told New York papers, "I only made wagers on my team -- and always that we'd win. I did not know there was anything wrong with that." Molinas applied for reinstatement in 1958, but his lifetime ban from the NBA was reaffirmed and he never played professional basketball again.

New York City

Career Dates:
Molinas played forward at Columbia University from 1950-53, and in the NBA with the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1953-54.

Physical description:
6'6", 200 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 29
Points: 350
Points Per Game: 12.1

Field Goals Made: 108
Field Goals Attempted: 278
Field Goal Percentage: .388

Free Throws Made: 134
Free Throws Attempted: 176
Free Throw Percentage: .761

Rebounds: 209
Rebounds Per Game: 7.2
Assists: 47
Assists Per Game: 1.6
Personal Fouls: 74
Disqualifications: 2

Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.

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The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)
Jewish Sports Review, September/October issue (Volume 3, No. 3, Issue 27
1951 Converse Basketball Yearbook, by the Converse Rubber Company (Malden, Massachusetts, 1951)