Friday, January 11, 2008


A 1960 graduate of NYU’s School of Commerce, Satch Sanders earned All America honors as a senior forward, when he led the Violets to a 22-5 record and an appearance in the NCAA Final Four.
He received the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association’s James Haggerty Award in 1960, which is awarded annually to the outstanding basketball player in the metropolitan area.
In three years of varsity basketball, Satch broke or tied eight University records. He still holds the NYU record for most rebounds in a season (411 in 1959-60). Sanders was selected with the eighth pick of the 1960 NBA draft and went on to play 13 seasons for the Boston Celtics. He was a member of eight NBA championship teams with the Celtics, and his uniform number 16 was retired by the franchise.
Celtics teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones are the only players in NBA history with more NBA championship rings than Satch. Sanders went on to coach at Harvard University from 1973-1977 and had a brief stint as head coach of the Celtics in 1978.
He recently retired as the NBA Vice President for Player Programs, a post he had held since 1987.
**************** ***************
He was born Tom Sanders and he grew up in an apartment on 116th Street between Fifth and Lenox, but everyone to this day knows him as Satch.
He got the nickname as a schoolboy, playing baseball on the creased concrete of Mount Morris Park in East Harlem. Everyone had a nickname, he remembers, great nicknames like "Jumpshot Billy" and "Bad Feet Earl," "California John." They were boys spending countless summers in upper Manhattan playing games, and Sanders' nickname happened to stick.
The name came from Satchel Paige, the great pitcher of the Negro Leagues, but it was basketball — and two friends who convinced him that he could do better than the vocational schools his junior high classmates were being shuffled into — that would take Satch from the rough corners of Harlem and into the hallowed rafters of the Boston Garden. Those friends from the neighborhood, Cecil and Crawford, told Satch he should go to their school, an academic school, Seward Park High in Lower Manhattan.
"You had a situation where they're telling 500 kids to consider a trade school or vocational school," says Satch. "I have tears for all the kids that never had the opportunity. Think about all those kids. I had Cecil and Crawford. They changed my life."
Satch Sanders started 13 seasons in the NBA, all with Red Auerbach's Celtics, winning eight titles, third-most in NBA history. He played with Bill Russell and Bob Cousy and John Havlicek. He averaged 9.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The Celtics even retired his number No. 16 in 1973. But none of these achievements are his most-prized.
"Just making the team," he says. "It was a championship team already. ... There were an awful lot of people who didn't think I could play at that level."
Sanders was one of thousands of kids playing ball on courts like Mount Morris or at tournaments like The Rucker. Like slapping down cards from a deck, he rifles off the names of guys he played with that the rest of the world never knew, names like Carl Greene, Sherman White, Chink Gaines, Jack Defares and Bobby Thompson.
All, he says, could have played in the NBA.
It was New York City in the 50s and anyone looking to make their way in the game made their way to Harlem. "Competition was so intense," says Satch. "That whole time there was so much talent." There were Harlem Globetrotters and Eastern League players and Harlem Rens, he remembers, great players never blessed by time or opportunity. "Racism is a monster," he says. "It steals your youth."
But it was those players who passed the game on to Satch. It was those players who helped teach a boy how to be a man. Holding court at Mount Morris were Rens like Tarzan Cooper, Charlie Isles and Pop Gates, and a host of other old-time players, verbally and physically beating up kids like Satch, taking the time to help them learn the game.

No comments: