I read the news last night that the father of a good childhood friend passed away early in the morning of December 6th. Ray Edelman, a WWII war veteran, lived a life filled with joy, love, and amazing experiences which were all shared with an incredible family that I am honored to know.
Ray Edelman was sports. Ray Edelman defined basketball and was one of the best, most sought after, and most decorated coaches in the country. He was a fountain of basketball fundamentals and he shared that wisdom with an immeasurable number of student athletes through the years.
Nobody understood Ray’s passion for basketball as well as his wife Millie and six children, Ray, Cindy, Jimmy, Linda, Mike, and Patty. The Edelman household was a who’s who of basketball for a couple of decades and at the heart of it all was Big Ray.
I grew up on Malvern Road in Ardmore Pennsylvania and the Edelman’s lived behind me on Georges Lane. From first through seventh grade I was close with Mike Edelman (the second youngest of the six kids if you are keeping score at home). A small group of us would roam from house to house and playground to playground looking for the next place to play a quick game of something. Sometimes it was touch football, sometimes it was “Kick the Can”, but we always had basketballs with us, so we often ended up at Elwell playground or my house and the game de jour usually ended up being hoops.
All the while, we had our eyes on what was happening in the rest of the Edelman household. My earliest memories are of Big Ray thriving as a coach at the University of Pennsylvania and attending those late 1960s and early 1970s Big 5 basketball games at the legendary Palestra. I learned what it meant to be a basketball fan in that old gym. Mike’s brothers and sisters were also making names for themselves both at Haverford High School and later at Kentucky. We had role models a block away and we looked up to all of them.
Ray’s coaching career took him to the University of Oregon when I was in eighth grade. It was rough having a good friend move across the country but two very meaningful things came out of that move. First, it was Mike who introduced me to the name of the legendary running phenomenon Steve Prefontaine who was on the cusp of becoming a household name. I had no idea who PRE was but Oregon sure did. PRE and his story would later become very influential to me. And second, the Edelman’s came back year or two later. So balance was restored in the universe.
Through the decades Big Ray Edelman coached at a number of schools and colleges and was a go to mentor for many coaches and basketball programs. While it’s true that he was a basketball genius, he also turned boys into men and coached the skills that don’t show up on the scoreboard, like integrity, sportsmanship, class, dignity, and grace. All of which are evident in the Edelman children and their families.
I’m saddened by the loss of Ray Edelman, but I am so blessed to have known him and fortunate to remain in touch with many of the kids. My thoughts and prayers go out to the extended Edelman clan in the loss of this great man, father, and legendary coach.