Marvin “Marv” Kessler was never a star at NC State, scoring only 12 points in his two years as a little-used guard for the Wolfpack basketball team in the late 1950s. But few Wolfpackers have done more than Kessler did to grow the game of basketball — and help others become stars.
Kessler, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., returned home after graduating from NC State in 1958 to to become a successful high school and college coach, an NBA scout and — perhaps most famously — a longtime instructor at a well-known basketball camp in Pennsylvania where elite high school players went to learn how to take their game to the next level. He was credited, according to The New York Times, with helping future NBA stars such as Patrick Ewing and Stephon Marbury.
Kessler died last week in Manhattan at the age of 80.
Kessler, a forward for Boys High School in Brooklyn, transferred into NC State from Potomac Junior College. He was listed on the roster for the 1955-56 Wolfpack team as a 5-foot-11 guard. The team was filled with players from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and was lead by Ronnie Shavlik, a senior from Denver, Co., who had been one of Everett Case’s first big recruits. The team went 24-4 that year and then won the ACC Tournament before losing to Canisius in four overtimes in the NCAA Tournament.
Kessler was not a big contributor that year, playing in only half of the 28 games. He scored six points, missing all three of his free-throw attempts, according to North Carolina State Men’s Basketball Games: A Complete Record, Fall 1953 through Spring 2006, by Michael E. O’Hara. Kessler must have been a tenacious player for his size, though, getting seven rebounds in his limited minutes.
The next year was no different, with Kessler appearing in only five games, again scoring a total of six points.
But if he did not leave much of a mark on the court, Kessler certainly made a name for himself off the court. He was a head coach at a high school in Queens, N.Y., and then at Adelphi University on Long Island. He also worked as a scout for several teams in the NBA, and coached in Israel, Egypt and Venezuela, according to The New York Times.
But the Times says Kessler made his greatest mark at a at the Five-Star Basketball Camp, where he was known as an acerbic instructor who preached the value of fundamentals to some of the game’s most talented players. Kessler’s work as an instructor was captured in a 2007 video, “Marv: The Soul of Five-Star Basketball.”
“Kessler was known to most in the basketball world as an instructor, from the mid-1960s to the 1990s, at the prominent Five-Star Basketball Camp in Honesdale, Pa., where many high school players who would go on to the N.B.A. honed their skills,” the Times said in its story about Kessler’s death.
“In addition to working with Ewing and Marbury, he instructed the future Knick Tim Thomas at Five-Star, along with Metta World Peace, known then as Ron Artest, who went on to the N.B.A. from St. John’s. He was part of a coaching roster in the camp’s early years that included Hubie Brown and Bob Knight.”
The story notes that Jim Calhoun, who recently retired as the longtime coach at the University of Connecticut, once described Kessler as “an old-school New York basketball guy.”