NEW YORK (AP) — Marv Kessler, a wisecracking basketball guru who preached the fundamentals of the game in a half-century career that spanned high school, college and the NBA, has died. He was 82.
He had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago and died Wednesday at NYU Medical Center, according to longtime friends.
Kessler graduated from North Carolina State in 1958 after playing on the basketball team for three seasons. He coached at Martin Van Buren High School in his home borough of Queens before leaving to become head coach at Adelphi University on Long Island in 1972. He compiled an 88-60 record in six seasons with the Panthers.
He was an assistant coach at Davidson from 1979-81 and then began his association with the NBA, serving as an advance scout for Detroit, Washington, Portland and Sacramento. For a short time he was head coach of Hapoel Holon of the Israeli Professional League.
His reputation as a speaker at clinics, where he used humor and fundamentals to get his point across, extended nationwide. His days at the famed Five-Star Basketball Camp are legendary for his work with individual players and the full-camp lectures that informed and entertained.
Kessler was strictly from basketball’s old-school. He stressed preparation and discipline, looking for an opponent’s weakness, goading his players to be better, berating them when he thought that might do the trick. And he did it with a standup comic’s touch — a Catskill mountain schtick melding John Wooden with Jackie Mason.
“I’ve known Marv for 40 years, since I was 14,” Fordham coach Tom Pecora said Saturday. “His creative thinking and sense of humor when it came to basketball were what made him so special to me and so many others. What he was able to do is unparalleled.”
Kessler created a new career for himself over the last two decades. He was hired by many college and NBA coaches to attend their practices and suggest ways to become more effective.
Kessler, who received a master’s degree from Columbia in 1960, was inducted into Adelphi’s Hall of Fame in 1997.
He is survived by his wife, Irene, and daughters Andrea and Gayle.
Services are Sunday at 10 a.m. at Sinai Chapel in Flushing.
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