Legends of Basketball
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Fond Farewell
January 2005

Robert Brannum, 78, passed away after a battle with cancer. Mr. Brannum began his basketball career at University of Kentucky, where he was an All-American. Unfortunately, World War II interrupted his playing career at KU when he enlisted in the Army for two years. After the war, he returned to Kentucky, but then transferred to Michigan State. He joined the Boston Celtics in 1951, where he came off the bench to average 6.2 points in his career. After his playing career with Boston, he coached Brandeis University basketball from 1970 to 1986, where he retired as the winningest coach in the school?s history.

Herm Gilliam, 58, passed away on April 16. Mr. Gilliam played eight seasons in the NBA with teams including the Cincinnati Royals, Buffalo Braves, Atlanta Hawks and Seattle Supersonics. His final stop was with the Portland Trailblazers, where he won an NBA Championship in his final season (1976-77). He was selected eighth overall in the first round of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals.

Larry McNeill, 54, passed away. Mr. McNeill attended Marquette University where he lettered in basketball in 1972 and 1973. Leaving at the end of his sophomore year, he was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Kansas City?Omaha Kings. Mr. McNeill enjoyed 6 seasons in the NBA with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, Kansas City Kings, New York Nets, Golden State Warriors, Buffalo Braves and Detroit Pistons. While playing in the 1975 playoff series for the Kings against the Chicago Bulls, he set a NBA playoff record for the most field goals made without a miss, shooting a perfect 12/12 from the field during that legendary night. His record still stands today.

Erwin Prasse, 87, a member of University of Iowa's legendary 1939 "Ironmen'' football team, passed away. He won nine varsity letters in an era in which freshmen could not compete. Mr. Prasse was an All-American in football, the starting second baseman on two Big Ten championship baseball teams and a two-year starter in basketball. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions of the NFL, signed to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and also played for Oshkosh of the National Basketball League, which, created in 1929, became one of the oldest, best-known and most successful teams during the pre-NBA years.

Coulby Gunther, 82, passed away on July 14 in Gulf Stream, FL. Born in New York City, he starred on his high school basketball team and was recruited by St. Johns University, where he set a freshman scoring record. In 1942, Mr. Gunther served as first lieutenant in the 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific theater, where he spent nine months in military hospitals and was awarded a Bronze Star. Upon leaving the Army, he joined the Pittsburgh Ironmen of the Basketball Association of America during its inaugural 1946-47 season. After his basketball career, Mr. Gunther operated insurance fraud and investigative services companies.

George Mikan, 80, passed away at a Scottsdale rehabilitation center following a long fight with diabetes and kidney ailments. As the first big man to dominate professional basketball, his agility, competitiveness and skill deemed him one of the game?s first superstars. Mr. Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to five league titles in the first six years of the franchise's history. He averaged 23.1 points in seven seasons with Minneapolis before retiring because of injuries in 1956. Mikan was the league's MVP in the 1948-49 season, when he averaged 28.3 points in leading the Lakers to the title.

For Mr. Mikan's complete obituary, log on to: Complete Obit.

Sidney "Sonny" Hertzberg, 82, an original member of the New York Knickerbockers and the leading scorer for the Boston Celtics in the 1949-50 season, passed away at his New York home on July 25. His daughter, Lois Nevitt, told the New York Daily News the cause was heart failure. Mr. Hertzberg enjoyed a stellar career at City College, where he was a teammate of longtime Knicks coach, Red Holzman. The 5?9? guard scored a team-high 14 points in the Knicks' first home game in 1946. He later played for the Washington Capitols and the Boston Celtics, and then served as a scout and assistant coach for the Knicks. Hertzberg went on to become managing director of Bear Sterns, an investment banking and brokerage firm.

Frank Mangiapane, 79, passed away on August 7 in the Long Beach Medical Center due to a ruptured abdominal aorta, according to his wife. Mr. Mangiapane was a long-time college basketball referee and also played briefly with the original New York Knicks in 1946. He was a teammate of Dolph Schayes, Ray Lumpp and Sid Tanenbaum on a New York University team that twice made the NCAA tournament. In 1946, he played six games with the Knicks, then in their first season of existence. Mr. Mangiapane was a college basketball referee in the New York area for more than 20 years.

Bobby Warlick, 64, passed away on September 6 in Long Beach, CA. A college All-American, Mr. Warlick spent two seasons with Pepperdine (1961-1963), where he led his team to the NCAA Tournament and was a 1980 inductee into the Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame. He then went on to play six seasons in the NBA with the Pistons, San Francisco Warriors, Bucks and Suns, as well as one season with the ABA?s Los Angeles Stars. After his playing days, Mr. Warlick went to work for Purex as Assistant to the President and was later elected Vice President, Civic and Government Relations, by the Board of Directors. He also took an active role in a variety of community-oriented ventures.

Tony Jackson, 65, passed away on October 28 in Brooklyn. According to a St. John’s spokesperson, the cause of death was cancer. Known for his jump shot, Mr. Jackson was a two-time All-American who led St. John’s University to the NIT Championships. He played his professional career with the ABA’s New Jersey Americans, which became the New York Nets, and then briefly with the Houston franchise. Upon retirement, Mr. Jackson went on to work in Brooklyn’s recreational programs.

Jack Burmaster, 78, passed away on September 27. An All-American at the University of Illinois, he was drafted by the BAA’s St. Louis Bombers. Playing one season with the NBL’s Oshkosh and another for the NBA’s Sheboygan Redskins, Mr. Burmaster is known for his coaching and director positions at Evanston Township High School. He also is known throughout Illinois for his work as an analyst on WGN-TV’s telecasts of the state basketball finals in the 1960s and 1970s.

Nathaniel "Nate" Hawthorne, 54, passed away on November 23, 2005 after suffering a heart attack outside of his home in Tempe, Arizona. Drafted by the Lakers in 1973, Mr. Hawthorne played for the New Orleans Jazz in its 1974 inaugural season and with the Phoenix Suns. He has deemed the highlight of his professional basketball career to be as a member of Phoenix's "Sunderella" team that won the 1976 NBA Championship. Mr. Hawthorne spent his college basketball days at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.

Willie Sojourner, 58, passed away in October of 2005, after an automobile wreck in Italy took his life. A former Weber State basketball star, he played for the Wildcats from 1967 - 1971, where he set several school basketball records that remain unbroken today. During his college career, his Wildcats won three straight Big Sky Conference titles and went to the NCAA Tournament each of those years. After Weber State, he was selected as a first-round draft pick by the ABA's Virginia Squires. Mr. Sojourner went on to play professional basketball in Italy and he returned there to coach around September 2005. In his Italian home 5,000 people turned out for a memorial service after learning of his death.

Paul Noel, 81, passed away on November 16, 2005. A resident of Woodford County in Kentucky, he was the first University of Kentucky player or Southeastern Conference player to make an NBA team. As a member of the 1950-51 Rochester Royals, Mr. Noel was also the first UK player on an NBA Championship team. He played three seasons with the Knicks and two with the Royals before he retired in 1952. Mr. Noel was a Kentucky native.

Frank Shannon, 88, passed away on December 20, 2005. One of the pioneers of professional basketball in the United States and longtime coach of the Ohio Wesleyan University's men' s basketball team, Mr. Shannon coached on the high school, college, military and professional levels and recorded more than 800 victories.  He began his coaching career in 1940, shortly after graduating from Wittenberg University. He was drafted in the Army and served as a major in Gen. Douglas McArthur's G-2 Staff in the South Pacific. When Mr. Shannon returned from the Army, he became the youngest player-coach for the Youngstown Bears of the National Basketball League in 1946-47.

Luther “Sally” Green, 59, passed away on January 25, 2006 from lung cancer. The former pro basketball forward, who played two seasons for the ABA’s New York Nets and one for the Philadelphia 76ers, also played for the Harlem Wizards from 1971-72 and in Argentina from 1978-82. Mr. Green was a star at DeWitt Clinton High School, then went to Long Island University, where he was selected a University Division All-Star by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association in 1968. He was inducted into LIU's Hall of Fame in 2003.