It is with a heavy heart that we must report the passing of Howie Lassoff '74, a beloved member of the Lower Merion Basketball family who passed away this morning after a courageous battle with cancer. Howie, the starting center for the great Aces team of 1974, went on to become an international pro basketball star. He was truly one of the best guys you’ll ever meet -- warm and engaging, with humility and grace that is rare in today's world. His teammates and friends have more than once referred to him as a "gentle giant."
When Howie arrived at LM, he had never played organized basketball, but his height (6’10) and growing athletic ability eventually led him to the hardwood as a junior. With only one year of hoops under his belt, he helped lead the Aces to the Central League title game in his senior season, battling the likes of All-American Dave Batton (Springfield) and Nova-bound Reggie Robinson (Radnor). He continued his basketball career at American University, where he was a four-year letterman and three-year starting center for Philadelphia coaching legend Jim Lynam.
While at American, Howie was introduced to international basketball when he starred as a gold medal winner for the U.S. team in the 10th Maccabiah Games coached by Dolph Schayes. After graduation, he began a 15-year career in the European League where he was a six-time Israeli Basketball League Champion with Maccabi Tel Aviv. In 1981 and 1986, he lost in the championship finals to a Tracer Milan team that had Bob McAdoo and Mike DiAntoni as its star players.
Howie was the starting center for the Israeli National Team from 1982-91. He played over 100 international games against some of the finest European players including Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac, Rik Smits and Toni Kukoc. He was a household name and a national hero in Israel. During a return visit to watch the Maccabiah Games, he was stopped more than once for an autograph – nearly 20 years after the conclusion of his pro career. Howie remained close to the game following his pro career and was a fixture in basketball leagues around Philadelphia. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Howie maintained strong ties with the Lower Merion basketball program and had a number of close friends in the LM community. In recent years, he returned to his alma mater to participate in the Lower Merion Basketball alumni games and Hall of Fame reunions and to catch a few Aces games. He is a nominee for the 2014 LM Basketball Hall of Fame.
Howie is survived by a large family, including two sons Alex and Josh, his parents Irv and Hilda, brothers Barry ’78 and Louis ‘79, sister Debi ‘71 and grandson Avi. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and the many lives touched by this amazing man.
Howie’s kindness, commitment to team above self, and legacy of achievement will live on forever in Aces Nation. He will be greatly missed.
Services for Howie Lassoff will be held at Goldstein's Funeral Home on Sunday, February 10 at 11:00 AM. 6410 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19126.