The UNC athletics department honored former Tar Heel, All-American and NBA basketball player Lennie Rosenbluth ’57 during Carolina’s Nov. 11 home game.
Rosenbluth, a native New Yorker who died in June, is one of Carolina’s best ever hoops players. In his sophomore year, he led the Heels in scoring, averaging 26.7 points per game, and earned first-team All-America honors. In his senior season, Rosenbluth led Carolina with 27.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and was named the Helms Hall Collegiate Player of the Year. He holds UNC records for most points in a single season (895) and highest single season average (28.0).
In 1957 Rosenbluth led Carolina to a perfect season, which culminated with the Tar Heels defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 54–53 in triple overtime to capture the national championship. Dianne Littlefield Rosenbluth ’65 (’69 MEd) attended the tribute to her late husband. “It was beyond anything I would have ever imagined,” she said. “The video was something that Lennie would have no doubt appreciated.”
After two years in the NBA, Rosenbluth coached high school basketball and taught American history in Florida, before returning with his wife at the time, Helen “Pat” Oliver Rosenbluth ’56, to Chapel Hill so she could be treated at Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She died in 2010.
Rosenbluth and other members of the 1957 championship team are featured in a nearly three-hour documentary by Stephanie Pace ’76 (’85 MA) titled McGuire’s Miracle, released last March. The film chronicles the 1957 season and how then-coach Frank McGuire assembled a team of players from New York.
Pace earned her bachelor’s degree in radio, television and motion pictures and said the ’57 championship was a compelling story hiding in plain sight.
UNC was the underdog despite entering the contest 31–0, largely because of Kansas’ Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain, a dominating 7-foot-1-inch center. Chamberlain played in the NBA and for the Harlem Globetrotters and is considered one of the greatest players of all time. When he and his teammates stepped onto the court, virtually no one gave Carolina a shot.
Pace said the documentary, which includes ample basketball footage and interviews with Rosenbluth and other players, was her valentine to UNC.
“We had to really dig and go through the catacombs to get what we got. It is extremely comprehensive, and we left no stone unturned,” said Pace, who produced, directed, wrote and adapted the music for the film while raising money for its production.
She worked on the documentary for six years. Dayton Payne, a film studies graduate from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, assisted her part of that time. “He’s an old soul in filmmaking,” Pace said. “He has a terrific editor’s eye, which is quite an art in and of itself. It was a pleasure to edit the film with him.”
Pace knows some may consider the documentary a tad long but isn’t bothered by that. “We were very honored and blessed to be the stewards of the story, and we were not going to leave anything out,” she said, adding it’s a hybrid of a feature film and a documentary.
“We sent previews to some very notable sportscasters, and my first question to them was, ‘Was this what you expected?’ ” Pace said. “The response almost verbatim across the board was, ‘Oh, no, this was much more than what we expected.’ ”
— Laurie D. Willis ’86
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