Harvard’s NBA Postseason Return Took 65 Years

by Jason Epstein

The Thunder dispatched the Rockets in the first round of the NBA postseason earlier this month with not all that much drama, but journalist Hillel Kuttler discovered something significant when Houston point guard Jeremy Lin stepped onto the court for the opening-game tipoff. Writing in the New York Times, Kuttler notes that Lin, the phenom-out-of-nowhere story when his play in February 2012 sparked a late-season Knicks resurgence, was the first Harvard graduate to participate in a playoff game in 65 years.

Meet the late Saul Mariaschin, who wore No. 4 as a member of the Celtics:

A 5-foot-11 point guard, Mariaschin (pronounced mah-ree-ASH-in) ensured that his reputation was made on the court, if not on the loudspeakers. He led Harvard to a 19-1 regular-season record and an appearance in the 1946 N.C.A.A. tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Crimson were eliminated in the first round, a round of eight teams, by Ohio State. . . .

After graduating from Harvard in 1947, Mariaschin joined the Boston Celtics and led them to the Basketball Association of America playoffs as a rookie. (In 1949, the B.A.A. and the National Basketball League merged to form the N.B.A.) Mariaschin was third on the team in points scored during the regular season, averaged 9.7 points in the postseason and appeared on his way to a solid career. But the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs by losing two of three games to the Chicago Stags, and an 81-74 loss in the finale at Boston Garden turned out to be his last game.

Mariaschin was married that summer, shortened his surname to Marsch and moved to Los Angeles, where he went to work for his father-in-law’s fabric upholstery and design company.

One may reasonably conclude that NBA salaries of that era were often no match for the job offers that in-laws were dangling before the newest additions to the family.

Kuttler notes too that Saul was also a shortstop for the Harvard baseball team and played against a Yale team that included first baseman George H. W. Bush.

Dan Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice president (and my old boss), never was able to find out if his cousin regretted leaving the game — Saul died in a skiing accident in 1990 — but does think that he was no flash in the pan: “I’m certain that had he continued his playing career, he’d have rolled up impressive stats along the way.”

More here.

Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.