Obituary: Matt Zunic, former basketball coach and professor

Matthew Zunic, age 87, of Crystal River, Fla., a former basketball coach and professor of Physical Education, died Dec. 15, in Lecanto, Fla.

Born in Renton, Pa., he was a World War II Navy veteran.

He graduated from George Washington University, and was later honored by membership on their All Century Basketball Team. He went on to play professional basketball with the Washington Capitals and the Dow Chemical professional team.

After a few years in the business world, he returned to his first love of sports, when his head coach, Bill Reinhart, offered him the assistant coach position at GW. Later he was recommended by his former GW teammate, Red Auerbach, for the Boston University head coach position, for which he was hired.

At that time BU did not have its own gymnasium, and the team practiced at the YMCA. While Zunic coached at BU, the school built a new gym for home games, and his 1959 team made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA.

A son of immigrants who settled in the coal mining town of New Kensington, Pa., he had a keen interest in helping young men with talent attain an education. He often walked the streets of Harlem and Roxbury with a basketball under his arm to recruit promising players.

Once the students were enrolled in school, he worked to create a winning team and to help the students gain their degrees.

While coaching for BU, Matthew often scouted for the Boston Celtics.

As coach of the UMass men’s basketball team from 1959-63, he compiled a 57-41 record. In 1962, his team won the Yankee Conference and participated in the NCAA tournament. He was voted University Division New England Coach of the Year.

After stepping down as coach, he professor of Physical Education until retirement in 1990, when he moved Florida.

He leaves three daughters, Patricia Mancuso of Hortonville, N.Y., Katherine Leech of Floral City, Fla., and Barbara Cisek of Crystal River, Fla., and one sister.