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Already ensconced in Chapel Hill, a year ahead of the other New Yorkers, was Lennie Rosenbluth, from the Bronx, a somewhat mysterious, wraithlike figure, 6'5" and maybe 170, a Jew who didn't arrive at college until he was almost 20, after a high school career that consisted of seven games, total. Rosenbluth had played at playgrounds, Y's, parks, church halls, "the mountains" (i.e., the Catskills, a/k/a the Jewish Alps) and, finally, a military prep school in Virginia. McGuire had never even seen Rosenbluth play; he'd taken him blind on the recommendation of Uncle Harry, who was Harry Gotkin, his main talent scout back in the city.
McGuire had implicit faith in Uncle Harry's basketball judgment, doubting it perhaps only once, in Rosenbluth's sophomore year, when Uncle Harry called up and told McGuire he had a hot prospect named Lotz. "Dammit, Harry, all you get me is Jews and Catholics; can't you ever get me a Protestant?" McGuire snapped. He was thinking of lox and bagels. In fact, as Uncle Harry then tried to explain, Danny Lotz's father was a Baptist minister. They had really struck it rich, Protestant-wise. Later on, even, Danny Lotz married Billy Graham's daughter.
But getting back to Rosenbluth. In his junior year at Carolina he was joined on the varsity by the four Catholic boys, and the team began to shake out. The Tar Heels went 18-5 in 1955-56, and the next season they were a set piece from the first victory, in Asheboro, over a semipro club known as the McCrary Eagles. About then, the jokes began about "the four Catholics chasing the Jew up-court" and other hilarious variations on this theme.
And a true story. Waning seconds, close game, Rosenbluth at the line, McGuire: "Say a Hail Mary, Lennie, and make the shot."
Lennie: "But I don't know how to say Hail Mary."
Brennan: "We'll say a Hail Mary. You make the shot."
And so forth and so on.
Hopes were high that the Tar Heels would win the Atlantic Coast Conference, because that would have redounded not only to the glory of the university but also to the repute of what all the principals still pronounce as "Noo Yawk" basketball. While the college game was almost exclusively sectional then, the four major teams in North Carolina constituted an exception. For years N.C. State, perennially the team to beat, was stocked with Hoosier sharpshooters that Coach Everett Case, the Old Gray Fox, imported from Indiana. Duke featured Philadelphia players—good ball handling was their trademark—just as Carolina now had its Noo Yawkers and Wake its Southern Baptists and a Methodist ringer or two.
To win the ACC was the Tar Heels' great goal that year. That would make a grand double victory, for school and style alike. The latter was known as give-and-go.