A knee implant has robbed Mel Brodsky of his speed, stolen his crossover dribble. But it has not damaged his shooting touch. Especially from a distance. “No kid beats me beyond the three-point line,” the owner of Camp Green Lane boasts. “I wish they had a three-point line when I played.”
Brodsky had an eventful career, even without the three-point arc. He was captain of the 1954 Overbrook High School team that went undefeated. Tall, gangly fellow named Wilt Chamberlain was the center. “I taught Wilt everything he knew,” Brodsky said facetiously. “He was terrific, unselfish, just wanted to win. We tried to get him the ball more than he asked for it. We didn’t feel any pressure ’til we got to the championships.”The year before we lost to West Catholic in the championship game. This time, we played South Catholic, and they used the same defense, five guys surrounding Wilt. I had 17 points in the first quarter. All of a sudden, college teams were interested.”
Brodsky chose Temple, to be close to his mom, who was ill at the time. A wise choice, that meant making all Big Five and two trips to the Final Four under the legendary Harry Litwack. The second trip ended with a nightmare loss to Kentucky. “What stands out in my mind,” Brodsky recalled, “is that the night before, Harry had been named coach of the year. We’re in Louisville, playing Kentucky, and during a time out, Harry, who never squawked, grabbed one of the officials and said, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ “The guy said, ‘You coach, I’ll officiate.’ And Harry said, ‘three thousand coaches can’t be wrong.'” Brodsky didn’t play much his sophomore year. “I sat behind Guy Rodgers and Hal Lear and nobody was going to replace them. I learned and I learned and I learned. Junior year, I became a starter. “I was lucky, playing for two great coaches, Sam Cozen and Harry Litwack.
Sam was a motivator, Harry was a technician. You played his way, or you sat on the bench.” Years later, as an assistant coach to Jack Kraft at Villanova, there was one luckless trip to the Final Four. “I’m the answer to a trivia question,” the good-natured Brodsky said. “Who made three Final Fours and lost ’em all.” He had spurned an offer from the Minneapolis Lakers to stay close to home, and then tore up his knee, playing for Chester in the Eastern League. He still wanted to work with kids, so he switched to education after a brief flirtation with law school.
He coached, taught and worked his way up to school principal in a 35 year career. He bought Camp Green Lane 10 years ago, a sleepover camp that attracts 400 campers. “I’ve spent 54 summers here,” he says. “I got lucky, being able to buy the camp I went to my whole life.”