TRAVELLING THROUGH HISTORY (I) MATT ZUNIC
Born: December 19, 1919
Death: December 15, 2006 (86 years old)
College: George Washington University (1939-1942)
Draft: Washington Capitols, 1947 BAA Draft
After his college career finished in 1942 it doesn’t seem to be register of any kind of him playing pro basketball. The only Major League at the time was the NBL but of course there was multiple local leagues and teams where to put your basketball skills to use. A few years later, in 1947, he was selected in the BAA draft but i am not really sure in what position.
Let me explain, in that season there were ten teams with a first round selection starting with the Pittsburgh Ironmen whom drafted Clifton McNeeley with the number one. He would never play a single game in the league. Anyway, after the tenth selection the data i have seen is all in alphabetic order making Zunic the last ever selection with the last team being the Washington Capitals.
In the same season 1947/48 he plays for Flint/Midland Dow AC’s of the NBL averaging 5.8 points per game. His team was not very good finishing with a record of only 8 wins in 60 games. To put it in perspective, the second worst record of the league was the Toledo Jeeps which finished with 22 wins.
Just a year later after being drafted, in 1948, Zunic will join the Capitals coached by the legendary (not yet) Red Auerbach. Since their debut in the league in 1946 where the Capitals had the best record of the competition with 49 wins the team had been a tittle contender.
As a 29 year old rookie Zunic would play 56 games averaging 4.9 points and almost an assist coming off the bench. The vets like Bob Feerick whom just had averaged 16 points two consecutive seasons was the team’s best scorer in 1948 with just over 13 a game, he was the extension of Auerbach on the floor. Bones McKinney was playing his best basketball averaging 12.7 points a night since he had been named to the BAA First Team in 1946.
Another player with a notable season was the rookie of Washington University Jack Nichols. He only played 34 games but almost shooting an extraordinary 40% on Field Goals scoring 11.7 per game. He would later be traded to the Tri-Cities Hakws where he played two seasons before joining the US Marines in 1951. After that he would play for the Milwaukee Hawks (now know as the Atlanta Hawks) and finally he would signed with Auerbach’s Boston Celtics winning the 1957 championship.
Anyway, going back to the Washington Capitals. They finished first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 38-22 making it to the playoffs one more time. In the first round they beat the Philadelphia Warriors (2-0). In the second round or Eastern Finals they would battle the New York Knicks coming victorious (2-1) thanks to a big game from Sonny Hertzberg (former Knick) in the decisive third match.
The Minneapolis Lakers were waiting in the Final. The Lakers had in their squad a former NBL champion with the Chicago American Gears in George Mikan. In his first final game, Mikan would score 43 points showing one more time he was unstoppable in the paint leading the Lakers to a 1-0 in the series. In the third game with the score in favour of the Lakers by 40-24 at halftime would be the chance of Zunic to play in the Finals. He would go on to score 12 points in that game!
Nevertheless to say the Capitals lost the championship in six games.
Matt Zunic will retired from pro basketball at the end of that season to then embark himself on a coaching career first in Boston from 1957 to 1959 and then the university of Massachussets until 1963 to finish with a record of 65 wins in 98 games.I know it is not much about Matt Zunic, but maybe you will read this and who knows, you will do a bit of research of your own and find out more about Zunic or other former players.