Lennie Rosenbluth, who led UNC to 1957 basketball title, dies at 89

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Lenny Rosenbluth, who led North Carolina to its first NBA title in 1957 by defeating Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in the championship game, died on June 18. He was 89 years old.

The university announced the death, but gave no further details. In recent years he has lived near Chapel Hill, where the school is located, and often attends basketball games.

North Carolina coach Frank McGuire recruited Mr. Rosenbluth, who was from the Bronx, without watching him play. Rosenbluth is best known for playing in the summer tournaments for the Catskill Mountains and was among the first in a pipeline of New Yorkers who traveled south to play college basketball in North Carolina and other schools.

In the undefeated Tar Heels championship season in 1956-57, all five starters – Mr. Rosenbluth, Tom Kearns, Bob Cunningham, Pete Brennan and Joe Quigg – were from New York. A 6-foot-5 striker, Mr. Rosenbluth was an all-Atlantic Coast player in each of his three seasons at UNC and unanimously an all-American in his first season. (New students were ineligible to play college in those days.)

He averaged 28.0 points per game as a lead and 26.9 points in his career. Both are still North Carolina state records.

The 1957 team went 32-0 and won three consecutive extras in overtime over Michigan State and Kansas to win the National Championship. Mr. Rosenbluth scored two majors in the Tar Heels’ 74-70 win over Michigan State and scored 20 points against Kansas before spoiling late in the regulation.

Without Mr. Rosenbluth, North Carolina held on to defeat Kansas, 54-53, despite the towering presence of 7-foot-tall Jayhawks center, Wilt Chamberlain.

“It was really nice that we won, with Lenny Rosenbluth on the bench, because he’s been our main player all season,” McGuire said after the game.

The national championship, which was the first for a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference, helped make North Carolina a college basketball powerhouse.

Mr. Rosenbluth won the Helms Foundation Player of the Year award over Chamberlain and is arguably the most famous Jewish athlete in the country. His number 10 was Tar Heel’s first retired basketball player.

Leonard Robert Rosenbluth was born on January 22, 1933 in the Bronx. His father worked in an electronic equipment manufacturing company. His mother was a housewife.

After graduating from North Carolina in 1957, Mr. Rosenbluth spent two years with the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA but didn’t see much time playing. He then trained and taught in high schools in North Carolina and Florida for over 35 years.

His first wife, Helen “Pat” Oliver, died in 2010. Among the survivors are his wife since 2011, Diane Stabler; two children from his first marriage; And many grandchildren.

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