Lenny Rosenbluth, the All-American hitter who led the New Yorkers-starting North Carolina team to an unbeaten season and a thrilling win over Kansas’s Wilt Chamberlain in the 1957 NCAA basketball tournament championship game, died Saturday. He was 89.
His death was reported by the North Carolina Athletic Authority, which did not give a cause or state where he died. He lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where the university’s main campus is located.
The 6-foot-5 Rosenbluth averaged 28 points per game in 1956-57 and beat Chamberlain for the Helms Foundation College Basketball Player of the Year. His Tar Heels went 32-0 and ended the season with a 54-53 win over Kansas in triple overtime, with Rosenbluth scoring 20 points before fouling at the end of regulation. Chamberlain, who would go on to become one of the most dominant players in the National Basketball Association, scored 23 points after averaging 30 points in the regular season.
In the semifinals, Rosenbluth hit two jump shots in the third overtime after North Carolina’s 74–70 victory over Michigan State to score 31 points.
A native of the Bronx, he rarely played on the basketball team at James Monroe High School in the area, but he had an impressive record playing basketball in the hotels of the Catskill summer resort, which attracted top players in the New York metropolitan area. He caught the attention of Frank McGuire, who was named coach of North Carolina in 1953 after winning in St. Louis. John’s, then in Brooklyn, for the NCAA title game.
Rosenbluth was at the forefront of McGuire’s pipeline of players from New York to North Carolina.
“Basketball was not yet a truly national sport, and the game was still most often an urban game that was thought to be best played in New York,” wrote David Halberstam in The New York Times in 1999. year. “But it was a bad time for college sports in New York. The eyewear scandals of the early 50s ruined the sport locally.”
McGuire created a North Carolina team that thrived in a predominantly Protestant area, with a roster that included Rosenbluth, who was Jewish, and four teammates: Tommy Kearns, who played school ball in St. Louis. Ann Academy in Manhattan; Pete Brennan from St. Augustine in Brooklyn; Joe Quigg of St. Francis Prep in Queens; and Bobby Cunningham of All Hallows in the Bronx.
Rosenbluth averaged 28 points and 8.6 rebounds per game during the 1956-57 Tar Heels regular season. His 2,047 career points is the most for a North Carolina player who appeared in just three seasons.
The Associated Press and United Press International named him to the All-American Second Team in the 1955–56 season when he was a junior, and the “consensus” All-American in the 1956–57 championship season, meaning that multiple media outlets agreed that he was in the top five top college basketball players.
He was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors as the sixth pick in the 1957 NBA draft. But the Warriors already had performance. Paul Arizin on a small forward. Rosenbluth, his understudy, averaged just 4.2 points per game over two pro seasons.
Leonard Robert Rosenbluth was born January 1, 2010, 22, 1933, the son of Jack and Rose Rosenbluth. His father worked in the TV industry.
After graduating from North Carolina and playing for the Warriors, Rosenbluth taught American history and coached high school basketball in Wilson, North Carolina, east of Raleigh. Comparing Kindred to his Tar Heel National Championship team, he once joked that “In my first year, we had a perfect season again, except we lost every game.”
Rosenbluth again taught history and coached high school basketball in Florida for about 35 years. When his first wife, Helen (Oliver) Rosenbluth, known as Pat, was diagnosed with cancer, they returned to Chapel Hill so she could be treated in the University of North Carolina hospital system. She died in 2010. In 2011, he married Diane Stabler.
Rosenbluth had a daughter, Elisabeth; son Stephen and grandchildren from his first marriage. The list of survivors was not immediately available.
He was introduced into International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel, and at the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Commack, NY on Long Island.
In 2002, the Atlantic Coast Conference selected Rosenbluth to be on their 50th anniversary basketball team and named him one of the 50 greatest athletes in conference history. North Carolina retired their first number. ten.
During the 2006–2007 basketball season, Michael Jordan and James Worthy, who played on the 1982 Tar Heel Championship team, attended an event for the North Carolina title teams. They thanked the players who brought North Carolina to prominence in national basketball in 1957.
As Rosenbluth told The New York Times, “They were like, ‘You guys did it.’