Legendary NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain has been dead for more than 17 years. His high school coach is still making the most of a limited stint as the tutor of one of the greatest basketball players who ever lived.
In the 1950s Cecil Mosenson became the head basketball coach at Overbrook High in Philadelphia as a 22-year-old Temple graduate. Practically as soon as he convened a practice, Mosenson learned he had a unique talent on his roster.
As reported by the Philadelphia Daily News, Mosenson coached Wilt Chamberlain during his high school senior season. The coach can reflect on high flying games, highwire plays and the time he threw Wilt off the team.
Wait, he did what?
Yes, Mosenson once expelled Wilt Chamberlain from the Overbrook basketball team because he felt the future legend wasn’t taking practice seriously enough. This was after Chamberlain had just scored 75 points in a victory against crosstown rival Roxborough.
Rather than stew about being removed from the team, Chamberlain just showed up at the team’s next practice, two days later. And his response spoke to his commitment to self-improvement.
“Practice started, and I see he shows up, has a ball in his hand,” Mosenson told the Daily News. “He’s coming over to me. I figure he’s going to throw the ball at me.
“He says, ‘Coach, will you teach me how to shoot a hook?’ I knew then we were OK. (The next game, again against Roxborough) he had 90 points. And I took him out the last three minutes.”
That hook shot would remain forever, and would be burned on the memory of so many later NBA defenders who tried and failed valiantly to defend against it.
Mosenson also confirmed another legendary piece of Chamberlain mythology, that fellow Eastern Pennsylvania school Germantown once attempted to defend Overbrook by having all five of its players focus specifically on defending Wilt.
Yes, Mosenson says it did happen. And yes, it failed spectacularly, because Overbrook just let the other four players take turns attacking the hoop for wide open shots and baskets.
“Shaquille (O’Neal) couldn’t come close to him,” Mosenson said.
Mosenson just might have a point.