Nat Holman was born on October 19, 1896, in New York City. Known as “Mr. Basketball,” Nat Holman was one of the great players, coaches, and innovators of the sport.
In 1919, at the age of 23, Holman became the youngest college coach in the United States, taking the basketball helm at City College of New York (CCNY), a job he held until 1960 (less three seasons in the 1950s). His CCNY teams boasted a remarkable 422-188 win-loss record. Holman's 1949-50 team was the first and last team to win the “grand slam” of American college basketball: championships of both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament and the National Invitational Tournament in the same season.
While coaching at CCNY, the 5'11'' Holman played professional basketball on weekends, at first with the New York Whirlwinds in 1920 and early 1921. He joined the legendary Original Celtics at the end of the 1921 season and continued to play for them until 1929. Holman was regarded as the finest ball handler, playmaker, and set-shot artist of his day—a player with undefinable court savvy that helped lead the Celtics to an incredible 531-28 win-loss record.
It was with the Celtics that Holman devised the “center pivot” play, an offensive concept that revolutionized basketball. Every Celtic game was a virtual basketball clinic, as college coaches flocked to watch Holman demonstrate his “cutting off the pivot” and execute the “give-and-go.”
The Celtics joined the American Basketball League in 1926, but the team’s lopsided winning ways continued. Having no reasonable competition to conquer, the team disbanded in 1929.
Holman was a member of the group that organized the American team for the first Maccabiah Games in Palestine in 1932. In 1949, under sponsorship of the U.S. State Department, he was the first American to coach in Israel, setting up clinics to develop the sport of basketball in the Holy Land.
Under State Department auspices, he also conducted basketball clinics in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Canada, and Turkey.
In 1973, Holman began an eight-year term as president of the United States Committee Sports for Israel, sponsors of the U.S. Maccabiah Games Team.
Nat Holman was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1965. In 1950, American sportswriters named him to the First Team of the Half-Century (1900-1950) and the third greatest player of that era.
Nat Holman died on February 12, 1995.
Sources: “Nat Holman .“ International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame; Picture courtesy of: International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame