This article by Peter Vecsey appeared in the New York Post this past Tuesday, January 27, 2009.



By Peter Vecsey

John Isaacs, 1915-2009

John Isaacs, 1915-2009.

PHONE conversations with Carl Green these days are dominated by discussions about dead people. A few weeks ago we discussed Hank DeZonie’s passing. Last week it was Alan Seiden’s. Yesterday it was John Isaacs’.

As usual, the former Globetrotter spoke in simple terms when I made the above observation: “Hey, none of us gettin’ outta here alive.”

Four years ago, I spent an afternoon at Green’s East 80’s apartment interviewing DeZonie and Isaacs, two of the three remaining players from the New York Renaissance. It’s weirdly unsettling to think they died within weeks of each other, leaving former major leaguer George Crowe as the team’s sole survivor.

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound, Bronx-born DeZonie, who played for Dayton in the NBL, the forerunner of the NBA, (averaging 12.3 points in 18 games Game reviews ) in 1948-49 and Tri-Cities in ’50-51 (3.4 in five), died Jan. 2. He would have been 87 Feb. 22.

“Hank was very good looking, stood tall and knew how to dress,” Green said. “He showed Ed Warner where to buy clothes, and Ed showed me and Jack DeFares. I’m tellin’ ya, when Hank walked into a room, everyone turned to look. He’d ease in without any noise or a whole lot of talkin’ to people. The man was a dignified, no-nonsense dude.”

Isaacs was born Sept. 15, 1915. After retiring from serious competition, he coached Tiny Archibald, Chris Mullin and a thousand others. Later, he became a counselor at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club in The Bronx.

Five days a week for over 50 years Isaacs put in eight hours at Hoe Avenue. Several days ago, he suffered a stroke at his desk. He died early yesterday morning.

“John gave his time to plenty of kids over the years. A whole lot of people looked up to him,” Green said.

Regrettably, very few of us ever saw Isaacs play, whereas loosely kept statistics mostly got passed down by word of mouth. But a few facts speak fluently. His all-black Rens rolled to ridiculous records of 122-19, 121-19, and 127-15, culminating with a 1939 title in the initial World’s Professional Basketball Tournament.

Isaacs took great pride in politely correcting those under the assumption the Knicks New York Knicks captured New York City’s first pro championship in 1969-70.

“Excuse me, but it was the Rens,” he said.