Philadelphian Howard Lassoff, whose love of and expertise at playing basketball carried him from the courts of Lower Merion High School to the convention centers of Israel to the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, died Feb. 7 at the age of 57.
His dual affection for the sport and for Israel all started in 1977, when Lassoff, then a student/player at American University, put on a U.S. jersey and became a Gold Medal winner representing the United States in the 10th Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Earlier, as a student and player at Lower Merion High School, from which he graduated in 1974, he was the school’s starting center in the Central League First Half Championship. His team lost out in the title game — his last season — but he rebounded the following year by making points as a celebrated college player when he starred as center for American University in Washington, D.C., which he attended from 1974 to 1978.
Again, it all boiled down to a title game in his senior year when American lost to Temple University for the 1978 East Coast Conference title.
After graduating from American, he packed up his B.S. in criminal justice and made aliyah, playing for both the Israeli National Team and Maccabi Tel Aviv. He was the starting center for the Israeli National Team and played over 100 international games against some of the finest European players who ultimately became NBA players, including Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac, Rik Smits and Toni Kukoc.
As an Israeli resident, he helped Maccabi Tel Aviv take the country’s basketball title six times. He returned as a dual citizen to the Philadelphia area in 1993 when he became an auto glass salesman. He returned to Israel in 1997, as a member of the Masters team in the 20th Maccabiah Games. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
He is survived by his partner, Beth Bressler; his parents, Hilda and Irving Lassoff; two sons, Alex and Joshua; a sister, Deborah Greenberg; two brothers, Barry and Louis Lassoff; and a grandchild.