Cecil Mosenson

I was coaching Overbrook High in 1954-55, Wilt Chamberlain’s senior year and perhaps the greatest high school basketball team in Philadelphia’s history, and there was one game that year against West Philly that remains with me all these years. West Philly was coached by Doug Connelly, and they always had an outstanding team, and the rivalry was always intense. In fact West Philly only lost 6 games in 3 years during the Wilt Chamberlain era (two each year to Overbrook).

In Wilt’s final year, the game was played at Sayre Junior High because that court had stands that could accommodate the very large crowds attracted by the super basketball players and the traditional school rivalry. West Philly had an outstanding guard by the name of Joey Goldenberg (an inductee in the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame) who later became West Philly’s all-time most winning basketball coach, and a 6’9″ center by the name of Ray “Chink” Scott who subsequently was the 4th pick in the first round of the NBA draft and starred as a professional for 12 years and then coached in the NBA for 4 more years.

Sometime near the end of the first half, some tempers got a little heated between two players and the rest of the players started to get involved. Suddenly many people in the stands saw this as an opportunity to get into the game and started to come down onto the court to join the fracas. I could see this turning very badly very quickly. Wilt was standing at mid-court and he raised his arms over his head and held up his open hands as a signal to stop and then moved his hands as if he were pushing back. As if by magic, all the fans stopped in their tracks, turned around, and started to move back into the stands.

It looked to me as if he were holding the Ten Commandments in one hand and his other hand was pointing upward to the heavens. There was a movie called “The Ten Commandments” in which Charlton Heston, the actor playing Moses, held up the tablets with the Ten Commandments and controlled an angry mob. This scene came to my mind, and I thought Wilt was the Charlton Heston of the basketball world. The game finished without further incident. By the way, I never saw Wilt raise a fist or ever get angry at any player during his basketball career no matter how physical they were to him.