Sam Cozen

Sam Cozen became the varsity basketball coach at Overbrook High School in the fall of 1948. Overbrook had won the Public League basketball championship the previous year, but there was only one starter remaining from that team. Luckily it was Jackie Moore, the 6″5″ center, who later went on to become the first African-American to play for the Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA.

Led by Jackie Moore, Overbrook won the Public League basketball championship the first two years that Sam coached the team. The next two years did not produce a championship, but it did produce a high scoring guard, Hal Lear, who went on to become an All-American and team as a back court with Guy Rodgers while leading Temple to 3rd place in the Final Four (there was a 3rd place consolation game in that era, and Hal Lear scored a then tournament record of 48 – before there was a 3 point line).

The next year, 1952, was even more promising. A new 10th grader by the name of Wilt Chamberlain had arrived, and he was every bit as good as people expected. But that’s where the story takes a strange turn. In late November, shortly before the new season was to begin, the Drexel University basketball coach resigned, and the Drexel Athletic Director called Sam Cozen and offered him the job at Drexel. Sam said he would love to take the job, but he was already committed to Overbrook for this year. Sam suggested that in this year only he would coach both Overbrook and Drexel, and he could do that because Overbrook practices and games were in the afternoon and were over before 5, and Drexel practices started at 5:30 and the games were all in the evening or week ends. That’s exactly what happened and there was not a single conflict. In what would be his last season coaching at the school, Overbrook won the Public League Championship, and Sam went on to coach Drexel for the next 15 years and retired with more wins than any other basketball coach in Drexel history.