Eph Hoops Coach Alex Shaw Dies at 102

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Alex J. Shaw
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College coaching legend Alex J. Shaw, of Baxter Road, died Sunday evening, Nov. 29, 2009, at the age of 102 at North Adams Regional Hospital, where he had been since suffering a stroke Wednesday.

Mr. Shaw coached Ephs basketball for 24 years and rang up a record 302-171, while taking three Eph teams to NCAA Tournaments, including his 1955 team that played Canisius in Madison Square Garden in the NCAA Tournament. In 2003, Coach Shaw and his '55 team were inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. One of his best players, Bob Mahland (1962), a sharp-shooting guard from Long Island was drafted by the NBA's Chicago Packers.

Mr. Shaw also coached for a year the man who would break his winning record by 324-104, Athletic Director Harry C. Sheehy III, as well as Harry's dad Harry C. Sheehy Jr. The men's and women's basketball coaches offices in the Chandler Athletic Center are named for Shaw.

"It was a thrill to play for Coach Shaw and I will never forget playing in his 300th win," said Sheehy in Williams article in 2003. "Coach Shaw embodies the word 'integrity.' He was always respectful of the game of basketball. Those were two valuable lessons I took with me into my coaching career."

Even while coaching the Ephs, early in his career coach Shaw, a native of Michigan, would hop a train and head to the Midwest to referee Big Ten games and as a collegiate player at Michigan he played against the famed John Wooden.

Mr. Shaw, who also spent may years as the assistant Williams football coach assigned to scout archrival Amherst, used the same scouting techniques gleaned in the fall as he traveled the snow-covered roads of New England as one of the first hoops coaches to see an opponent play before tipping off against them.

He fashioned a 19-game winning streak against Amherst among the 30-career wins he posted over the Lord Jeffs. He continued to attend games well into his 90s.

Born in Detroit on July 8, 1907, son of John and May Chapin Shaw, he graduated from Southeastern High School, where he was a member of two state championship basketball teams. He also played basketball at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1932 and later earning his master's degree there. He moved to Williamstown in 1949.

Courtesy Williams College
Harry Sheehy, Curtis Tong and Alex Shaw, right.
He was a Navy veteran of World War II.

Mr. Shaw also was an assistant coach in baseball and lacrosse and as assistant professor of physical education. During his first few years at Williams, he also was a referee in both the Big Ten and the National Professional Basketball league, which was the forerunner of the NBA. In 1970, he received the Merit Award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

He was a member and former deacon of First Congregational Church. He enjoyed collecting stamps.

He leaves his wife, the former Marion Davis, whom he married April 8, 1935, in Detroit; a son, John Davis Shaw of Stamford, Vt., and nieces and nephews. His siblings are deceased.

— A memorial service for coach Shaw will be held Thursday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. at First Congregational Church. A reception will follow in the church's Fellowship Hall. Burial will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to First Congregational Church in care of Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals, Central Chapels, 74 Marshall St., North Adams, MA 01247.

Dick Quinn's 2003 article on Mr. Shaw can be found here.

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