Coach Nat Holman on Ball-Handling

For 40 years in the middle of the 20th Century Nat Holman was one of the best-recognized names in basketball.

A New Yorker through and through – born, educated, player and coach – Holman was a celebrity in what was generally considered the mecca of the sport – New York City.

Holman is remembered as a star on the original New York Celtics professional team in the 1920s and winner of over 400 games as coach of the City College of New York (CCNY) from 1919-1959. He wrote books on basketball and was inducted into a few halls of fame including the Naismith.

As a player Holman was especially noted for his ball-handling and passing skills. He was an exceptional playmaker.

Therefore, Holman had strong credentials for evaluating players in the 1940s when Kenny Sailors made numerous appearances in New York - as a collegian and professional. From his perch as CCNY coach Holman sooner or later saw the best players in the country as they appeared on the East coast and – more often than not – in Madison Square Garden. The Garden was the crown jewel of basketball arenas and was where discerning New York writers, coaches, players and fans could evaluate a team’s or player’s impact on the game.

Here in two pages of his 1950 book, “Holman on Basketball,” we read his evaluation of where Kenny Sailors fit among the best dribblers of that era, including a mention of his unique shot.

Holman’s endorsement is high praise. Also, you’ll note his willingness to concede there were great players whose roots were outside the East. In the 1940s this didn’t come easy from basketball authorities. However, players such as Hank Luisetti (Stanford), Kenny Sailors (Wyoming), and others named here began to persuade easterners that players and teams from coast to coast were of high standard and brought new skills and refined styles of play that were recognized as influential on the game.