SARACHEK, BERNARD


SARACHEK, BERNARD ("Red"; 1912–2005), innovative U.S. basketball strategist, mentor to basketball greats, long-time Yeshiva College coach. Born in the Bronx, New York, Sarachek began his basketball career as a player at Stuyvesant High School. After playing for New York University, his first coaching job was as an assistant coach at his high school alma mater. He later moved on to a Workman's Circle team which included legendary New York Knicks coach Red *Holzman and prominent NBA referee Norm Drucker. During World War II, he coached in the military at Pearl Harbor, where his Schofield Barracks team won an armed forces title. After the war, he began coaching professionally, initially with the Scranton Miners of the American Basketball League (one of the predecessors of the National Basketball Association), where he made history by breaking the league's discriminatory practices by starting three Afro-Americans at the same time.

Sarachek achieved fame during his longtime tenure as basketball coach and athletic director at Yeshiva University. He began his career there in 1938 after he was approached by several students who sought to hire him privately to coach their team. Although plagued by the lack of a home court, no athletic scholarships, and the students' extremely demanding double schedule of Jewish and secular studies which often ended late at night, he invariably managed to field respectable, well-coached teams (nicknamed the "Mighty Mites") which enjoyed several winning seasons (the 1954–55 team went 16–2). In 39 seasons as coach at YU, his overall record was 202–263, which, given the limited talent available and the enormous problems facing the basketball program, was, to a large extent, a credit to Sarachek's coaching skills.

Despite the fact that Sarachek coached in NCAA Division III (or its equivalent) for most of his career, and his teams did not achieve outstanding success on the court, his knowledge of the game and his innovative offensive and defensive strategies were legendary, and he mentored such outstanding coaches as Lou Carnesecca (St. John's); Red Holzman (New York Knicks); and Jack Donohue (Power Memorial). He is credited with being among the first to emphasize the importance of movement on offense without the ball (going backdoor, "change of direction") and he created new alignments of the zone defense as well as innovative in-bounds plays. After coaching at Yeshiva, he worked as a scout for the Nets (ABA).

While not religiously observant, Sarachek was known for his strong sense of Jewish identity and his profound recognition of the important role sports could play in fostering Jewish pride and combating assimilation. This also explains his deep loyalty to Yeshiva or, in his words, "Yeshiva is special. It's a team for the Jewish people to be able to watch them play and be honored by them, to have pride. When you find a Jewish athlete doing something, you feel proud. That's more important to me than anything else."

Sarachek is a member of the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Commack, New York; the New York City Hall of Fame; and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1992, Yeshiva University named its annual high school invitational tournament the Red Sarachek Basketball Tournament.

[Efraim Zuroff (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.