The Passing of Former Men's Basketball Coach and Athletic Director, Andy Laska
Longtime Assumption College Men’s Basketball Coach, and namesake of the College’s gymnasium, Andy Laska, 93, who passed away on February 2.
Laska served as head coach of the Assumption College Men’s Basketball team from 1951-67, compiling a 224-92 record. During his 15 years as head coach, he guided Assumption to be one of the elite basketball programs in New England. When he took over in the fall of 1951, the program had just one winning season over the previous 20 years. By his third season, the Greyhounds had improved to 11-8, and over Laska’s final 13 seasons at the helm of the program, the team would never lose more than seven games again. He won an NCAA Regional Championship, took his team to 10 NCAA tournaments and was named New England Coach of the Year twice.
“Assumption has been forever changed because of Andy Laska’s passion, dedication, and loyalty to the College,” said Assumption College President Francesco C. Cesareo. “His many contributions to Assumption and Worcester, as well as the impact he had on his hundreds of teammates, players, fellow coaches, and community members over the decades will ensure his legacy and memory live on. I have asked that prior to all home games this weekend that a moment of silence be observed in remembrance of Mr. Laska. ”
He also served as the College’s director of athletics from 1956 until his retirement in 1986, during which Laska was instrumental in adding numerous varsity sports to the College’s athletic program, oversaw Assumption’s transition to a NCAA Division II program, and helped create the Northeast-10 Conference (he was inducted into the NE-10 Hall of Fame in 2006 for his work as a “founding father”). Laska also coached golf at Assumption from 1969-86, during which he mentored Frank Vana Jr., ‘86, who became, and remains today, one of Massachusetts’s best amateur golfers.
In 1967, Laska became the first non-alumnus to be elected to the Assumption Athletics Hall of Fame, and in 1975, the Laska Gymnasium—in which the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams still compete today—was named in his honor.
A Worcester native, Laska starred on the North High School basketball team for four years, serving as captain his senior year; was named to the inter-high All-Star as well as the All-City teams each year from 1941-43; and was named an All-Massachusetts All-Star in 1941 and to the All New England team in 1943.
After high school, he proudly served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II for three years before attending Holy Cross in 1946. Laska was a guard on the 1947 NCAA Championship team that finished the season 27-3 (including a 23-game winning streak), on which he played with future NBA stars Bob Cousy and George Kaftan. During his junior year, the Crusaders compiled a 43-game home win streak, which remains a record today. During his four years at Holy Cross, the men’s team accumulated an overall record of 99-19. He was inducted into the Holy Cross Hall of Fame in 2001 and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
In addition to his many accomplishments in the arena of basketball, Laska was also well known throughout the city of Worcester for his involvement with a number of organizations, including the Worcester Chamber of Commerce and the Boys & Girls Club. For more than a decade, he and his longtime friend Dee Rowe ran a basketball camp at Worcester Academy and then at Assumption.
Laska - who was named an honorary alumnus in the late 1960’s - and his late wife, Ruth, had five children, Michael, Donna, former Alumni Director Diane ‘76, Kim ‘81 and Andrew and many grandchildren, including Jessie Nixon Weiss ’10.
“We extend our prayers and heartfelt condolences to his family during this time of loss and sorrow,” added President Cesareo. “May God give them comfort during these days of mourning. As a community of faith we pray that Mr. Laska now dwells in the loving presence of God. May his soul rest in peace.”
Calling hours are scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday at Athy Memorial Home, 111 Lancaster St. in Worcester. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary’s Albanian Orthodox Church at 11 a.m. on Saturday.