Roy Rubin, a top-notch college basketball coach improbably elevated to the NBA for one disastrous Philadelphia 76ers season in the 1970s, lived quietly thereafter in South Florida.
He owned an International House of Pancakes restaurant on Biscayne Boulevard at 24th Street and taught at-risk students at Nautilus Middle School, but aside from teaching at Five Star Basketball Camps, which he co-founded, he never participated again in the game he loved.
Rubin died at home in Miami Beach on Aug. 5 of liver cancer, according to Marsha Thiel Rubin, the decades-younger IHOP manager whom he married in 1981. He was a “confirmed bachelor’’ in his 50s at the time.
Born in the Bronx on Dec. 9, 1925, Rubin was 87 when he died.
Reporting his death, The New York Times noted that “Rubin is remembered for coaching the worst team, at least statistically, that the NBA had ever seen. His 76ers lost their first 15 games and had a record of 4-47 when he was fired at the All-Star break in January.’’
Player/coach Kevin Loughery, his replacement, did slightly better: 5-26. (Loughery later coached the Miami Heat.)
Rubin once told The Times: “Some nights when we got beat and the losses mounted, my stomach became one big knot. I felt so humiliated. But I never promised I would be God’s gift to basketball in Philadelphia. I made it clear to the owner that I was moving into a situation where the hope for the season would be zero,” due to bad trades and even worse draft choices.
Stars who’d played for the 76ers’ 1967 champion team — Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Chet Walker and Wali Jones — were gone. Only 36-year-old guard Hal Greer remained.
The team Rubin took over had just wrapped up a 30-52 season and was so desperate for a coach that it ran an ad in the newspaper.
A mutual friend, without telling Rubin, proposed him as a coaching prospect to team owner Irv Kosloff, who hired him. He arrived in Philadelphia with a three-year contract worth $300,000, an unprecedented fortune at the time.
Rubin played at Long Island University and the University of Louisville, then coached six borough championship teams at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx before becoming L.I.U.’s coach in 1961, and later athletic director.
In 1966, he coached the U.S.A. team at the Pan American Maccabiah Games in Brazil. Prentice-Hall had recently published his book, Attacking Basketball Pressure Defenses.
In 1968, his L.I.U. Blackbirds became the top-ranked national small college team, reaching the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. Head coach for 11 seasons, he was inducted into the L.I.U. Athletics Hall of Fame.
But he was doomed from the start in Philadelphia, said wife Marsha.
“The team was crappy,’’ she said. His predecessor, coach Jack Ramsay “didn’t want to spend money.’’
Rubin once told a reporter: “I don’t hold any grudges, but the day I came in, Billy Cunningham, the team’s best player, jumped to the ABA, and things went downhill from there.’’
Rubin is survived only by his wife, who requested memorial donations to the LIU Brooklyn athletic department. He’s buried in North Lauderdale.