Maccabi Tel Aviv Stars Boatwright, Lassoff Die

Jim Boatwright helped win historic Euroleague championship in 1977. Howie Lassoff died Thursday. Both succumbed to cancer.

Gil Ronen ,

'Jimbo' holds trophy, 1977.
'Jimbo' holds trophy, 1977.

Basketball player Jim Boatwright ("Jimbo"), who was on the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team that won Israel's first-ever Euroleague championship in 1977, died Monday of liver cancer.

Boatwright graduated from Minico High School in Idaho in 1970, and received a scholarship to play at Utah State University, where he was named top athlete in 1974, the same year he graduated with a degree in political science.

He joined the European Professional Basketball League and played eight years for Maccabi Tel Aviv. When Maccabi won the European Championship in 1977, Boatwright was the team's leading scorer, leading all scorers in the final game with 26 points. Maccabi with Boatwright reached the final in 1980 as well. He was also selected as a member of the Israeli Olympic basketball team for the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's 1977 victory (see video) was a euphoric moment for many Israelis, and a sign that the tiny, poor and embattled country, not yet 30 years old, could "play with the big boys" and win. Team captain Tal Brody summed up the national elation when he famously said after the victory, "We are on the map, and not just in sports, in everything."

In 1988, Boatwright began teaching and coaching at Star Valley, Wyo. He led his team to the state championship and was named Wyoming's "Coach of the Year." A father of four and married to Jennifer Magrane Boatwright, he ran Snowline Basketball Camp across the West for 24 years.

Boatwright's death followed by just a few days the death of another Maccabi Tel Aviv star, Howard Lassoff, who died Thursday at age 57, also of cancer.

Lassoff was born 1955, in Philadelphia and played for the American University Eagles. In 1977, he played for the U.S. team in the 10th Maccabiah Games. That team won the gold medal.

He went on to play in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Haifa in the European League. During his years with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team won the Israeli Basketball League Championship six times.

In 1985, he married Linda Glassman. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the couple had two sons and later divorced. He is survived by his companion, Beth Bressler; a son, Joshua; two brothers; a sister; and a grandson.