Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends": Harvard's Saul Mariaschin

February 22nd, 2012

In the most recent installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Dan Mariaschin, cousin of late Harvard great Saul Mariaschin. After beginning his career at Syracuse Mariaschin served in the Navy during World War II, enrolling at Harvard upon his return. Mariaschin would play a year in the BAA (now the NBA) for the Boston Celtics. 

Jon Teitel: Saul started his career as a guard at Syracuse but joined the Navy after his freshman year. Why did he decide to enlist? 

Dan Mariaschin: Saul was the youngest of three kids.  His brother Hank was captain of his Brooklyn College team and later played against Red Auerbach during his own days in the Navy, so basketball was definitely part of the family.  Saul attended Lafayette HS, which is also the alma mater of fellow star Jewish athlete Sandy Koufax.  He probably enlisted because most young men were joining the Navy at that time.  He played several varsity games despite being a freshman, so he was pretty good even back then. 

JT: After the war ended he decided to finish his college career at Harvard, where he played both baseball and basketball. Which sport was he best at? 

DM: He was a shortstop on the Harvard baseball team and was allegedly scouted by the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Harvard always played fellow Ivy rival Yale, so he would have played against former Yale baseball player/future US President George H.W. Bush. 

JT: He was captain of the team his senior season. Why do you think he was picked to be captain? 

DM: He was well-liked and a good leader, so I am not surprised.  Being named captain meant a lot more back then than it does now. 

JT: He was a two-time First Team All-Ivy performer. Did he realize at the time how prolific a player he was? 

DM: His brother Phil told me that Saul had to be good in order to play against the quality opponents he faced back then.  Even when accounting for certain variables (like the lack of minority players in the Ivy League), they still played a tough schedule so he must have been competitive. 

JT: He was selected by Washington in the first-ever BAA draft in 1947. Was he nervous about joining an unproven professional basketball league? 

DM: I still do not know exactly why Washington drafted him.  Many college seniors became "territorial picks" of the professional team in their area, so you would think that his Harvard career would lead to him being picked by the Celtics. 

JT: He played one year for the Celtics and finished eighth in the league in assists per game. Why did he leave after one year if he was one of the best point guards in the league? 

DM: Saul's father-in-law did not like him to be on the road so much, so at the end of his first season he offered Saul a job in the industrial textile business.  Since he only played for one year, we will never know exactly how good he could have been.  It also helped that he had a Harvard degree to fall back on.  He later moved to the West Coast and was rumored to have done some scouting for Harvard basketball.  I do not know if he would have even been the starting point guard the following season, as the Celtics brought in a 6'1" rookie named Bob Cousy!   

JT: He was an excellent piano player who also wrote music (including "The More I Do" in 1947). Was he prouder of his ability to play basketball or play music? 

DM: There was a great caricature of him in the Boston Herald in the 1970s that referred to both of these abilities.  He wrote most of his songs while riding around on the team bus/train during basketball road trips. 

JT: He passed away while skiing in Utah in 1991. How do you think he should be remembered the most? 

DM: I was very sad to learn of his passing, as I never got to talk to him.  I consider myself to be a knowledgeable sports fan, and to have a relative who played during the formative years of professional basketball in an era of legendary players is very special.  New York City has always been the hotbed of the "city game" of basketball, and he was a big part of it and belongs in the pantheon.  I have tried to get him elected to the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in the past. 
Saul is also on Jon's list of best pro players in Ivy League history.

Brown: Woody Grimshaw (1947)
Columbia: Jim McMillian (1971)
Cornell: Ed Peterson (1950)
Dartmouth: Rudy LaRusso (1960)
Harvard: Saul Mariaschin (1948)
Pennsylvania: Matt Maloney (1997)
Princeton: Geoff Petrie (1971)
Yale: Chris Dudley (1988)