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Published: Sunday, 8/1/2004

Basketball coach put UT program on winning track

Eddie Melvin brought basketball tactics to the University of Toledo that he developed while coaching at St. Bonaventure. In retirement, he scouted for college and professional teams. Eddie Melvin brought basketball tactics to the University of Toledo that he developed while coaching at St. Bonaventure. In retirement, he scouted for college and professional teams.
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Eddie Melvin, 88, whose 27-year career at the University of Toledo included 11 seasons as head men's basketball coach, the final years of which his teams had winning records, died Friday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue.

He was in ill health for nine years and had dementia and heart problems, his wife, Mary Jean, said.

Mr. Melvin, of West Toledo, retired in 1981 as UT director of intramurals, recreation, and club sports, a position that put him in close contact with university students, faculty, and staff for 16 years.

He was best known to the public for his 11 seasons in charge of the basketball program, beginning in 1954-55. When he was inducted into the Varsity "T" Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987, it was noted that UT's string of 26 consecutive winning seasons began in the 1959-60 season during his tenure.

"He laid a good foundation for them," his wife said. "He was smart and he had a basketball mind."

When he left coaching, he had the longest tenure of the 11 previous UT head basketball coaches. But his teams, despite their winning records, did not win a Mid-American Conference championship or play in post-season tournaments.

"It hurt when I gave up basketball," Mr. Melvin told The Blade in 1981. "But it was the old story. You have to win, have to win big."

Mr. Melvin arrived at UT from St. Bonaventure College, Olean, N.Y., where he compiled a 98-46 record over six seasons. St. Bonaventure, almost unknown in the basketball world when he began, was ranked one of the top college teams when he left and had played twice in the National Invitational Tournament.

He brought to UT a type of pattern offense, one of the few in collegiate basketball when he developed it at St. Bonaventure. And he was one of the first coaches in the Midwest to use a type of pressure defense - a strategy to put pressure on the player with the ball and on the player likely to get the pass.

"Everything about him was successful," his son Tom said. "He was a player's coach, somebody who would fight for you."

At the University of Toledo, he recruited and coached such All-MAC players as Bob Pawlak, Ray Wolford, John Papcun, Jim Cox, and Jerry Galicki.

Mr. Melvin grew up in Pittsburgh, where he played on South High School's state championship basketball team. He played point guard for the Duquesne University Iron Dukes and took an honorable mention as an All-America player.

He received a bachelor's degree in history from Duquesne and, afterward, he played with the then-New York Celtics. He served stateside in the Army during World War II. He then played professional basketball for the Pittsburgh Iron Men before he began his coaching career.

In retirement, he scouted for college and professional teams, including the Philadelphia 76ers.

Mr. Melvin during his years as UT recreation director developed a fondness for tennis and played regularly, and he enjoyed noontime basketball games with UT faculty and staff.

"It was a good life. It was good for me, and it was good for him," his wife said. For five years after retirement, as a professor emeritus, he taught tennis for a quarter every year.

"He was a family man. He was all for me, and that was it," his wife said. "I was very lucky."

Surviving are his wife, Mary Jean, whom he married June 5, 1950; sons, Ed and Tom Melvin, and sister, Dorothy Corbett.

The body will be in the Sujkowski Mortuary, Northpointe, after 2 p.m. tomorrow, with a recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Regina Coeli Church.

The family suggests tributes to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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