The sport of basketball lost a great mind and a great friend the other day with the passing of Stan Albeck, who was approaching 90 years of age when a stroke finally took him. Our paths crossed often over the years. Like me, Stan was a native of Illinois, from Chenoa. He was recruited to play basketball at nearby Bradley University by Forddy Anderson. Stan was a backup guard on Forddy’s 1953-54 team which took 2nd in the NCAA Tournament, losing the final to La Salle. When Forddy left for Michigan State, Bob Vanatta took over and Bradley made the NCAA field in 1955 with a 7-19 record, then went 2-1 in the NCAAs to end the year at 7-20.
All that was interrupted by two years in the US Army during the Korean War, 1952-54. So, he played on Anderson’s No. 1 rated team of 1950-51, Anderson’s NCAA finalist of 1953-54 and Bob Vanatta’s surprise NCAA team of 1954-55. He worked at Forddy Anderson’s freshman coach one year at Michigan State, 1955-56, then as head coach at Adrian College, 1956-57, before heading up Northern Michigan for 11 seasons, 1957-68. He then coached the University of Denver for two years, 1968-70. After then, he began his career in the pros, first in the ABA, then in the NBA, going to the LA Lakers as an assistant coach under Jerry West, 1976-79.
After that, he was head coach of four different NBA teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (1979-80), San Antonio Spurs (1980-83), New Jersey Nets (1983-85) and Chicago Bulls (1985-86). He then went back to the NCAA level, taking over Bradley, his alma mater, 1986-91, taking them to the NCAA Tournament, thus becoming one of the few coaches to go to the NCAAs with his alma mater both as a player and as a coach. He wound up his coaching career as an assistant coach, with the New Jersey Nets, the Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors. He was regarded as an outstanding coach of team offense and the fast break.
I met Stan through Forddy Anderson when I was Forddy’s freshman coach (Stan’s old job) at Michigan State, 1963-65. That’s when Stan was at Northern Michigan. We bumped into each other often over the years. He coached the New Jersey Nets against my Olympia Milan team in an exhibition game in 1984-85, in the pre-season. Of course, they beat us but we played a pretty good game against them. I then had Stan at my NBA Basketball Camp in Salsomaggiore, Italy, in 1986. The coaches who attended the camp and his clinic were tremendously impressed with Stan as a great guy and for his incredible basketball knowledge.
One of the things he mentioned at the clinic was the effect of the ‘Snap-Back’ pass. That is, a guard would penetrate into the defense while a teammate would position himself behind the guard. The guard would then ‘snap’ a pass backwards to that teammate, who was often wide open. One of the coaches at that clinic was Sergio Scariolo, who became the youngest coach ever to win the Italian Series A title, in 1989-90, at the age of 29. His team used the snap-back pass with great effect, with Darwin Cook finding Darren Daye with that very pass, a technique teams use still today. Stan the Man, our State of Illinois is proud of you. Godspeed.