HARRISON, LESTER ("Les "; 1904–1997), U.S. basketball coach, owner, and organizer; member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, "Laizer" Harrison began a lifelong involvement with basketball as a player at East High School and in the inaugural New York State Section v Basketball tournament in 1922, Harrison scored 18 points in his team's 22–18 victory over West High. Harrison played, coached, organized, and promoted professional basketball in New York State for the Rochester Seagrams, Ebers, and Pros from the 1920s through the 1940s, before forming a semi-pro team, the Rochester Pros, with his brother Jack in 1944. The next year the team – renamed the Rochester Royals – began playing in the National Basketball League, where Harrison coached the team to a 99–39 record and three straight nbl finals, winning the championship as well as being named Coach of the Year in 1946. Harrison led the way for a merger of professional basketball leagues by joining the Basketball Association of America for the 1948–49 season, leading the Royals to a 45–15 record, going 33–1 at home and getting to the finals. After the season the nbl merged into the baa to form one league, the National Basketball Association. The Royals won the nba championship in 1951, making Harrison the first of five Jewish coaches to win the nba title. He stepped down as coach after the 1954–55 season, leaving with a six-season nba record of 250–166, and a 10-season coaching career record of 394–220, along with five divisional titles. Harrison moved the Royals to Cincinnati before the 1957–58 season and sold the team the following year. Harrison was a member of the nba's Rules Committee and Board of Directors, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.
[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]