MHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts is pleased to announce that the basketball court at the William D. Mullins Memorial Center will be named in honor of the man most synonymous with UMass basketball, Jack Leaman. The official court-naming ceremony will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006 at halftime of the UMass-Dayton game which tips off at Noon.
The announcement of the naming was made during the UMass-Boston University game this evening. The declaration comes at the game between the two schools Jack Leaman was most involved with: Boston University and the University of Massachusetts. He graduated from BU in 1959 and earned a master's degree in 1960 in addition to being a star basketball player for the Terriers. At UMass, he worked for more than 40 years. He coached the men's basketball team from 1966-79, the women's basketball team in 1986-87 and following that stint, he served the athletics department in a variety of roles as an assistant coach and radio broadcaster until his untimely death on March 6, 2004.
In conjunction with the dedication of Jack Leaman Court, the University will be recognizing the significant growth of the Leaman Legacy Fund, an endowment that Coach Leaman was instrumental in starting. The Leaman Legacy fund will provide ongoing financial support for men's and women's basketball scholarships in perpetuity. Many of Coach Leaman's former players and friends have been instrumental in building the endowment to a significant level. John Calipari, Julius Erving, James "Bruiser" Flint, Rick Pitino and Al Skinner are among those who have shown outstanding leadership and commitment in establishing the Leaman Legacy Fund. Anyone interested in becoming part of this effort can contact Athletic Advancement at (413) 545-4290 or by visiting www.UMassAthletics.com For over 40 years, the names of Jack Leaman and UMass basketball have been synonymous. Ever since his appointment as assistant basketball coach in 1961, it has been hard to talk about UMass hoops without Leaman's name entering the conversation.
After five years as an assistant coach under Matt Zunic and Johnny Orr, Leaman took over as UMass' head coach prior to the 1966-1967 season. He would go on to lead the UMass basketball program for 13 seasons, compiling a career record of 217-126. The all-time winningest coach in school history, Leaman guided UMass to eight Yankee Conference titles in a nine-year span (1968-71, 1973-76), and six National Invitation Tournament appearances (1970-71, 1973-75, 1977). A two-time New England Coach of the Year, Leaman coached Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, Boston College head coach Al Skinner and UMass Athletic Hall of Famers Bill Tindall, Joe DiSarcina and Ray Ellerbrook. Leaman coached 22 All-Yankee Conference selections during his tenure at UMass.
Following his time as head coach, Leaman remained with the UMass athletic department in a variety of roles. He served as the athletic director of UMass' Stockbridge School of Agriculture, as well as the Stockbridge men's basketball and golf coach. Leaman also served as the UMass head women's basketball coach in 1986-87, leading the team to a 14-12 record, the school's only winning mark from 1980-95. In addition, he spent three seasons as an assistant women's basketball coach from 1991-94.
Beginning with the 1994-95 basketball season, Leaman took a role as a color commentator on radio broadcasts of all UMass men's games. Three times during those 10 seasons (1996, 2001 and 2003), Leaman teamed with announcers Bob Behler and Mark Vandermeer to earn Best Play-By-Play honors from the Associated Press.
A Boston native, Leaman graduated from Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School in 1951. Following a two-year stint in the United States Army, from which he was honorably discharged in 1955, Leaman went on to earn both a bachelor's degree (1959) and a master's degree (1960) from Boston University. As a basketball player, Leaman led the Terriers in both scoring and assists during each of his three seasons. As a senior captain in 1959, he guided the Terriers to an overall record of 20-7, and a trip to the NCAA East Regional final.
MHERST - During a break in Monday's 64-45 win over Boston University, the University of Massachusetts announced that the floor of the Mullins Center will be named 'Jack Leaman Court' to honor the beloved former coach and radio broadcaster who died in March 2004.
Rita Leaman, Jack's wife, and their daughter Laurie couldn't suppress their pride at the announcement.
'He'd be overwhelmed,' Rita Leaman said. 'He'd never figure this kind of tribute would be paid to him. I think it's well deserved. The best thing about it is that it's a lasting memory. Ten years from now when athletes or fans who never heard of Jack Leaman walk in, they'll ask 'Who was that guy whose name is on the court?' Maybe somebody will tell them. It's a wonderful tribute to him.'
The official dedication will come on Feb. 25 at halftime of the game against Dayton. A banner will be unveiled that day and there will be a logo added to the court in front of the UMass bench for next season.
At that game, UMass will announce considerable donations to the Leaman Legacy Fund, which endows scholarships for the men's and women's basketball program.
'We'll announce the exact figure at the dedication night, but it's a substantial number that will provide a lasting benefit to both programs,' UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said.
NO WORSE FOR THE WEAR - Freshman point guard Chris Lowe had a grueling day long before he arrived at the Mullins Center.
A toothache woke Lowe at 4 a.m., setting off a chain of doctor visits that eventually led to oral surgery.
Despite still having a Novocain-numb face that resulted in slightly slurred speech after the game, Lowe had a career-best seven assists.
'I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn't move. I started crying ... They had to take my tooth out,' said Lowe, who made it sound more like 'toof out.' He wore a mouthpiece and took medication before the game. 'My mouth was sore the whole day. I was comfortable (playing) out there though.'
Junior swingman Brandon Thomas, who hadn't practiced in two days with a hip injury, played 30 minutes.
MILESTONES - The 45 points allowed were the fewest since the Minutemen gave up 44 to Rhode Island on Feb. 9. The Terriers' 16 points in the second half were the fewest UMass allowed in one half since that game when the Rams had 14 in the first half.
James Life's six 3-pointers were the most since Anthony Anderson had seven against Vermont on Dec. 2, 2003.
UMass didn't attempt a free throw until the second half and shot just six in the game.
The Minutemen has won eight straight games against BU and leads the overall series 39-29.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.