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Boys' basketball: Funeral is Thursday for ex-Fairfax coach Marty Biegel

March 15, 2012 |  7:56 am

Morris Julius Biegel, a fiery, colorful basketball coach at Fairfax High in the 1970s who taught history in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 31 years, died Tuesday at an assisted living home in Los Angeles. He was 90.

Born in 1922 in New York’s Lower East Side as the youngest of four children, Marty Biegel received a baseball scholarship to the University of Colorado, then left college before graduation to join the Marines during World War II.

"Marty always wanted to be different," said his sister, Ruth Herman, four years ago. "So he took his own course in life. He rooted for the Chicago Cubs while he lived in New York City. Who does that?"

Biegel moved to California with his high school sweetheart in 1955 and became a teacher.

He also coached basketball at the Westside Jewish Community Center and was a referee, working his way from high school to college to the NBA.

He took over as head coach at Fairfax in 1969, a time of racial tension in the city. He was able to unite players and students on campus both in the classroom and on the court. His teams won four East Valley League titles before he was replaced as coach in 1975 after berating officials.

He returned as coach at Fairfax in 1979-80 for two seasons, later coaching basketball at Malibu and Los Angeles Shalhevet in the 1990s and coaching baseball at North Hollywood.

He was the subject of a front-page Los Angeles Times article in 2008, "On court and off, he made them winners," when he gathered with a group of former players at Canter’s Delicatessen to discuss old times. He was 86 and feisty and proud as ever.

“Give him credit,” former UCLA Coach John Wooden once said. “He knew you don’t win games just with talent. You have to bring people together.”

Steve Miller, who succeeded Biegel as coach at Fairfax in 1976, remembers the first time he met Biegel. “He squeezed my cheek and said, ‘Bubala,’ like he knew me for 100 years,” Miller said. “He attended my wedding in 1970. He was a great man.”

Biegel was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. Among the students he taught at Fairfax was Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

A funeral is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Home of Peace Memorial Park, 4334 Whittier Blvd.

-- Eric Sondheimer