Hal Lear is one of the best basketball players to ever play for the Temple Owls. Lear will have his No. 6 jersey retired in a special ceremony at halftime of Temple’s game against Richmond on Jan. 30 at the Liacouras Center.
Jay Norman was a teammate of Lear during his playing career at Temple. Norman is excited about the Owls hanging Lear’s jersey in the rafters.
“It’s great that Temple is doing this,” said Norman, a Big 5 Hall of Famer who played for the Owls from 1955-58. “Hal was a tremendous player. He could really shoot the basketball. If the ball hit the rim while it was going in the basket, Hal didn’t want that to count. He was a great shooter.”
Lear joins his backcourt mate, Guy Rodgers, Mark Macon and Bill Mlkvy as the only players in the 115-year history of the men’s basketball program to be so honored. Marilyn Stephens is the only woman to have her basketball jersey retired at Temple.
Lear, former Overbrook High star, 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 a 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 tallied 22.2 points per game that year.
As a senior, Lear teamed with Rodgers to form the greatest backcourt in the history of college basketball. He set the still-standing school record of 745 points in a season and his 24.0 season scoring average ranks fourth in Temple basketball history. Lear, a first team All-District honoree that season, helped lead the Owls to a 27-4 record and the program’s first trip to the NCAA Final Four. Nationally-ranked for the first time in school history, Temple ended the season ranked 13th by the Associated Press.
“We were not a very explosive offensive team except when we were on the break,” Norman said. “When we were in the set offense, he had the ability to get his shot. He had a quick first step. He had the consummate point guard. He had the guy who could put the ball on him. The unique thing about it is they were both lefthanders. They both fed off each other. Guy and Hal knew what they were going to do. Guy could do things with the ball that no one else could do.”
Lear had some big time performances in his college career. He 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 Most Valuable Player of the 1956 Final Four. He was one of only five players to earn the honor without competing in the championship game. The others are Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, 1957), Art Heyman (Duke, 1963), Bill Bradley (Princeton, 1965) and Jerry Chambers (Utah, 1966).
Lear was co-captain of the 1955-56 team along with Hal Reinfeld. Moreover, he was a part of one of the biggest victories in Temple basketball history, a 73-61 victory 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 powerhouse Wildcats just their second home loss in 12 years.
“In 1955 you go into Kentucky and beat Kentucky there,” Norman said. “I think it’s a lot of years since any team during the (Adolph) Rupp (head coach) era and not one time did an out of conference team win in Kentucky.”
After that big win, Temple made its first appearance in the Associated Press Top 20 poll the following week, coming in at No. 11.
Lear scored 1,472 points over 79 games averaging 19 points a game for his career. His point total was second at the time of his graduation and currently ranks No. 17 in Temple history. He was a two-time NABC first team all-District honoree and was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1956 NBA draft. Following a brief stint with the Warriors, Lear played nine seasons in the Eastern League, and was named to the league’s all-time team during its 50th anniversary season.
Lear is retired now following a 30-year career at Albert Einstein School of Medicine as an executive administrator of the department of psychiatry. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Maggie O’Keefe Lear. They have nine children, 21 grandchildren and one great grandchild.