Laska was a freshman guard on Holy Cross’ 1947 National Championship team. Coached by “Doggie” Julian, the 12-man roster also included future NBA stars Bob Cousy and George Kaftan.
Born in 1925, Laska was a World War II veteran and Holy Cross graduate when he was hired as the head basketball coach at Assumption College in the early 1950s. After several successful years, Laska went on to become the school’s athletic director in 1956, a job he held until his 1986 retirement.
In Laska’s 15 years as the Greyhounds’ head coach, he led his teams to a 225-96 overall record, 10 NCAA tournaments and was named New England Coach of the Year on two occasions. During this time, he oversaw Assumption’s transition into a becoming an NCAA Division II athletic program and was a founding father of the NE-10 Conference. He and good friend Dee Rowe, former head basketball coach and athletic director at the University of Connecticut, also ran a popular basketball camp in Worcester for more than a decade.
The awards that immortalize Laska’s career, including induction into several halls of fame, are too many to list. The greatest honor, however, came in 1975, when the gym at Assumption was renamed The Andrew Laska Gymnasium.
“Despite all of the honors along the way,” said Rowe, “Andy never changed. He is revered by all who were privileged to touch his life. Truly a legend.”
Laska’s thumbprint on collegiate basketball in New England is impossible to overlook, but his greatest influence isn’t in X’s and O’s. It has been his investment in the lives of those around him, including his wife, five kids, former teammates, players and assistant coaches.
“He was a hero, a mentor, a coaching genius,” said Rowe. “But he never had an ego or acted like a sports hero. He was always giving and thanking others. Always reaching out to others.”
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