When Temple retires basketball great Hal Lear’s No. 6 jersey on Jan. 30, he will have a chance to join his backcourt mate Guy Rodgers who has jersey hanging in the rafters at the Liacouras Center. Lear will also have a chance to reflect on all the people who have helped him over the years.
“For me, it’s a way to celebrate all the people who put that jersey there,” Lear said. “The older you get. The more you find out that you didn’t do it yourself. So many people were helpful. I mean people like Al Shrier [retired Temple sports information director] my Uncle Charlie [Baker], Jay [Norman], Sonny [Hill], Jackie Moore and these were influences that helped me get there.”
This marks the first Temple men’s basketball number to be retired since Nov. 21, 1999 when Mark Macon’s No. 12 was retired in a ceremony at the Owls’ season opening game against Miami (Ohio) University.
Lear was a sensational basketball player at Overbrook High School. In 1952, he was named first-team All Public League. Lear averaged 17.9 points a game. He had a tremendous jumpshot with a soft touch from any place on the floor. Lear was a big star prior to his arrival on North Broad Street.
“In Philadelphia, we had some great players,” Lear said. “It was truly a golden era. Tom Gola was my hero. He was unbelievable. He would get 30 points and 20 rebounds and stop the opposing guy. I tell the kids today they think there were a lot of midgets playing. The prototype player of the mid-50s was 6-9 or 6-8 who could do everything like Maurice Stokes, Tom Gola and Dick Ricketts.”
Lear is one of only three Temple players to have averaged 20 or more points in two different seasons (Macon and Rodgers are the other two). After averaging 9.6 points per game (fourth on the team) in 1953-54, his first season as an Owl, he became just the second Temple player to average 20 or more points for a season in 1954-55 when he turned in a 22.2 points a game season.
As a senior, Lear and Rodgers played together for one season. They were both left handed. Moreover, they were the best backcourt in the history of college basketball. Lear and Rodgers guided the Owls to the 1956 Final Four. Rodgers averaged 18.5 points a game.
“I’ve seen no one with Guy’s speed, strength, mobility and sight ever,” Lear said. “Guy used to play one against five in the schoolyards. He could get by his man on every play.”
Lear set a still standing school-record of 745 points in a season and his 24.0 season scoring average ranks fourth in the Temple annals. Lear was a first-team All-District honoree that season, led the Owls to a 27-4 record. Nationally ranked for the first time in program history, Temple ended the season ranked 13th by the Associated Press.
Lear scored 32 points in an 83-76 loss to Iowa in the national semifinals. He followed that with a then NCAA record 48 points to lead Temple to a 90-81 win over SMU in the third place game. He was named MVP of the Final Four.
Lear, who served as co-captain of the 1955-56 team along with Hal Reinfeld, was also part of arguably the biggest victory in Temple history, a 73-61 win at No. 2 ranked Kentucky on December 10, 1955. Lear had 19 points in the game, the Owls’ third of the season, to help spoil Kentucky’s home opener and hand the Wildcats just their second home loss in a dozen years.
“That game was probably most fulfilling of my life to beat Adolph Rupp (head coach) at Kentucky,” he said. “That was a big win.”
For his career, Lear scored 1,472 points over 79 games for a 19.0 scoring average. His point total was second at the time of his graduation and currently ranks 17th in Temple history. The Owls shooting guard was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1956 NBA draft.
After a brief stint with the Warriors, Lear went on to a nine-year career in the Eastern League, and was named to the league’s all-time team during its 50th anniversary season.
Lear is retired now after a 30-year career at Albert Einstein School of Medicine as an executive administrator of the Department of Psychiatry.
“I received a good education at Temple,” Lear said. “I had a chance to work with OIC when Rev. Leon Sullivan was there. I worked six years for OIC before moving onto Albert Einstein. It was a good experience for me.”
Lear lives in Phoenix with his wife, Maggie O’Keefe Lear. The couple has nine children, 21 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
In addition to Lear and Rodgers, Mark Macon and Bill Mlkvy are the only players in the 115-year history of the men’s basketball program to have their jerseys retired.
NOTE: Lear will be making a guest appearance on the Sonny Hill Show on sports radio 94 WIP from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Jan. 27.