Philadelphia basketball legend Hal Lear dies at 81

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Hal Lear, the sweet-shooting guard who starred for the Temple Owls in the 1950s and still holds the school record for points in a season, has died. He was 81.

Lear died at his home in White Plains, New York, on Saturday from a recurrence of prostate cancer and the effects of spinal stenosis, according to his wife, Maggie. He had been retired after a 30-year career at Albert Einstein School of Medicine as an executive administrator of the department of psychiatry.

Lear, who played prep ball at Philadelphia's Overbrook High School, scored a Temple-record 745 points as a senior in the 1955-56 season, and his scoring average of 24.0 that year ranks fourth in Temple history. Lear, Mark Macon and Guy Rodgers are the only Temple players to average 20 or more points in two seasons.

"Hal Lear was not only one of the greatest players, but one of the greatest people in Temple basketball history," Temple men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy said. "He personified class in every way. A great man has left us."

A first-team NABC All-District honoree as a senior, Lear helped lead the Owls to a 27-4 record and the program's first trip to the NCAA Final Four. He capped his college career with a pair of superlative performances, scoring 32 points in an 83-76 loss to Iowa in the national semifinals and a then-NCAA tournament record 48 points in a 90-81 win over SMU in the third-place game. Temple ended its season ranked 13th by the Associated Press, the first year the Owls appeared in the national rankings.

Lear was named Final Four Most Valuable Player, one of only five players to earn the honor without competing in the title game. The others are Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, 1957), Art Heyman (Duke, 1963), Bill Bradley (Princeton, 1965) and Jerry Chambers (Utah, 1966).

Lear, whose No. 6 at Temple was retired three years ago, also was part of arguably the biggest win in Temple history, a 73-61 victory at No. 2 Kentucky in December 1955. He had 19 points to help spoil Kentucky's home opener and hand the Wildcats just their second home loss in a dozen years.

For his career, Lear scored 1,472 points in 79 games, an 18.6 scoring average.

Lear was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1956 NBA draft. After a brief stint with the Warriors, he went on to a nine-year career in the Eastern League and was named to the league's All-Time team.

Lear is survived by his wife, Maggie O'Keefe Lear, nine children, 21 grandchildren and one great grandchild. No service is planned, the family said.