"Easy Ed" Macauley, one of the early stars of the NBA and, incidentally, the Saint Louis University Billikens, died yesterday here in St. Louis. He was 83 years old and six feet eight inches tall.
Macauley grew up in St. Louis, attended SLU High and went to SLU by default: His mother told him he could go to any college he wanted, as long as it was in St. Louis and Catholic. He allegedly earned the nickname "Easy Ed" in the fall of 1947, his sophomore year, during his first game as team captain.
"It was my role to lead the team from the basement locker room through the door," he recalled during his induction to the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2003. "But nobody followed me when I ran down the court and made a layup. Then I heard people shout, 'Take it easy, Ed.' I didn't realize it, but they were playing the national anthem."
Macauley never made that faux pas again, but he also never took it easy on the court. That season, he led the Billikens to the NIT title, scoring 24 points against NYU during the final game at Madison Square Garden and earning MVP honors. (The final score was 65-52.) All of St. Louis rejoiced: A crowd of 15,000 greeted the team at Union Station when it returned in triumph from New York.
After graduation (and 1,402 points), Macauley played a season for the St. Louis Bombers, then the city's NBA team, before the Boston Celtics picked him up in 1950 dispersal draft. He did well in Boston -- he played in the NBA all-star game every season he was there -- but his greatest contribution to the team may have been something in which he played an entirely passive role: Getting traded to the St. Louis Hawks in 1956 for the future superstar Bill Russell.
Macauley finished off his playing career with the Hawks, leading them to the NBA title in 1958 over Russell's Celtics, one of the few years that Celtics dynasty lost a championship. Upon his retirement in 1959, Macauley took over coaching duties for the Hawks, guiding them to the NBA Finals in 1960. (Three guesses who they lost to.)
Macauley retired in 1960 with a career average of 17.5 points per game. The Celtics retired his number, 22, and he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Post-basketball, Macauley worked as an investment banker and a sportscaster and remained active in the Catholic church. He raised money for charity, was ordained as a deacon in 1989 and co-wrote a book on homilies.
If he ever felt any bitterness about being overshadowed by Russell or reduced to a footnote in basketball history, he never said anything publicly. As he told the Post-Dispatch in 2002:
"I have the greatest life a person could have. I have a great wife, Jackie, and we have seven kids and 17 grandkids. I asked myself, 'Could I give something back to God?'"
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