In Memory: Jack Leaman, 1932-2004
For over 40 years, the names of Jack Leaman and UMass basketball have been synonymous. Ever since his appointment as assistant basketball coach in 1961, it has been hard to talk about UMass hoops without Leaman's name entering the conversation.
After five years as an assistant coach under Matt Zunic and Johnny Orr, Leaman took over as UMass' head coach prior to the 1966-1967 season. He would go on to lead the UMass basketball program for 13 seasons, compiling a career record of 217-126. The all-time winningest coach in school history, Leaman guided UMass to eight Yankee Conference titles in a nine-year span (1968-1971, 1973-1976), and six National Invitation Tournament appearances (1970-1971, 1973-1975, 1977). A two-time New England Coach of the Year, Leaman coached Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, Boston College head coach Al Skinner and UMass Athletic Hall of Famers Bill Tindall, Joe DiSarcina and Ray Ellerbrook. Leaman coached 22 All-Yankee Conference selections during his tenure at UMass.
Following his time as head coach, Leaman remained with the UMass athletic department in a variety of roles. He served as the athletic director of UMass' Stockbridge School of Agriculture, as well as the Stockbridge men's basketball and golf coach. Leaman also served as the UMass head women's basketball coach in 1986-1987, leading the team to a 14-12 record, the school's only winning mark from 1980-1995. In addition, he spent three seasons as an assistant women's basketball coach from 1991-1994.
Beginning with the 1994-1995 basketball season, Leaman took a role as a color commentator on radio broadcasts of all UMass men's games. Three times during those 10 seasons (1996, 2001 and 2003), Leaman teamed with announcers Bob Behler and Mark Vandermeer to earn Best Play-By-Play honors from the Associated Press.
A Boston native, Leaman graduated from Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School in 1951. Following a two-year stint in the United States Army, from which he was honorably discharged in 1955, Leaman went on to earn both a bachelor's degree (1959) and a master's degree (1960) from Boston University. As a basketball player, Leaman led the Terriers in both scoring and assists during each of his three seasons. As a senior captain in 1959, he guided the Terriers to an overall record of 20-7, and a trip to the NCAA East Regional final.
Leaman was inducted into the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977, the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Leaman passed away on March 6, 2004. The hearts and thoughts of those at the University of Massachusetts are with all of Leaman's family and friends, especially his wife, Rita, and his daughter, Laurie.
The Leaman family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be
made on Jack's behalf to the UMass Athletic Association, 308 Mullins
Center, Amherst, MA 01003. Rita and Laurie thank you for honoring this
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