When you think of the greatest players to ever grace a Tar Heel basketball uniform, names like Michael Jordan, Tyler Hansbrough and Phil Ford. One name that doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much is Lennie Rosenbluth, the Tar Heel legend that helped manufacture an undefeated season, one of just two in program history, in 1956-57 with one of the most dominant single seasons in program history.
Rosenbluth had a tremendous first two seasons as a starter, earning All-ACC honors in each of those years. In 1954-55, Rosenbluth averaged 25.5 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game for a Tar Heel team that limped to a 10-11 season while struggling defensively as a team and didn’t provide much help around him. 1955-56 saw Rosenbluth improve his scoring output to 26.7 point per game and helped lead the Tar Heels to an ACC regular season title and an 18-5 record overall. They would unfortunately fall short of the NCAA Tournament after losing to Wake Forest in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
Everything would come together, though, in that 1956-57 season. Rosenbluth would lead the way, averaging 28.0 points per game, a single-season program record that no one has even come close to matching since Charlie Scott left campus. His run in the 1957 NCAA Tournament might be the best of any Tar Heel in program history, as he scored 20 or more points in every single game, including 39 against Canisius in the Second Round, a mark that still stands as a program tournament record that has only been matched by Al Wood. His 43 field goal attempts in the national semifinal against Michigan State is a program tournament record and the 31 that he scored is also top ten in program tournament history. The national final against Kansas was his lowest scoring game of the tournament, but he did score a team high 20 points in the game, a 54-53 triple overtime win over Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks. That season, he did something that very few have been named the NCAA National Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP, and NCAA regional MVP all in one season.
Following his career in Chapel Hill, Rosenbluth was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1957 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia Warriors. His NBA career was short-lived, however, as he played in just 82 games and never was able to establish a major role with the team. He would retire after just two seasons and return to Chapel Hill to become a high school teacher and coach which he would do for years. He would be inducted into the Helms College Basketball, the International Jewish Hall of Fame and the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame over the years, as well.
On Saturday morning, Rosenbluth passed away at the age of 89. The Tar Heel family has lost a legendary member and I think we speak for everyone when we say that we are wishing the best for Rosenbluth’s family and friends during this difficult time. RIP Lennie.