Roy Rubin, the coach of one of the most memorable teams in NBA history, died of cancer on Aug. 5 at the age of 87.
Of course, the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers are memorable for all the wrong reasons — they finished an astonishingly bad 9-73. Rubin, at least, could claim he wasn’t entirely responsible for its ineptitude.
Rubin, a stellar college coach at Long Island University, was hired by Philadelphia prior to the beginning of the 1972-73 season — after the franchise literally put an ad in the paper.
Rubin saw the 76ers lose their first 15 games and enter the All-Star break at 4-47, at which point he was mercifully fired and replaced by player/coach Kevin Loughery, who finished up 5-26 that season.
"I don’t hold any grudges," Rubin once said, "but the day I came in, Billy Cunningham, the team’s best player, jumped to the ABA, and things went downhill from there."
The damage that was done to Rubin was harsh. Not only did he reportedly lose 45 pounds while coaching the 76ers (He once told the New York Times, “Some nights when we got beat and the losses mounted, my stomach became one big knot. I felt so humiliated.”) — he never returned to basketball after the experience. Instead, he headed to Florida, where he owned an International House of Pancakes franchise.
Fred Carter, a guard on that team who went on to a career as a TV analyst, summed the season up perfectly for Sports Illustrated years ago.
“It was clear we were the league’s universal health spa,” Carter said in 1998. “If teams had any ills, they got healthy when they played us.”
For nearly 40 years that .110 winning percentage of the 76ers stood as the measuring stick of futility in the NBA. But in the 2011-12 season, the Charlotte Bobcats "surpassed" that mark, going 7-59 in the lockout-shortened season, a .106 winning percentage.