'The last of an era:' Former Detroit Mumford coach, athletic director Sam Taub dies at 89

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News
Sam Taub, center, led Detroit Mumford to a Detroit Public School league title in 1969.

Sam "Sonny" Taub was Steve Fishman's high school basketball coach for only a few months.

But he was his friend for more than 50 years.

Like many others who played for Taub, Fishman will remember the former Detroit Mumford basketball coach and athletic director, who died Saturday in Boynton Beach, Fla., at the age of 89, as a demanding leader on the bench and a close confidant everywhere else.

"Somebody said it to me in the gym this morning, that he was the last of an era," Fishman said.

During his seven-year tenure as basketball coach, Taub led Mumford to its only Detroit Public School League championship and a state semifinal appearance in 1969. Mumford also captured the PSL East Side championship in 1966, Taub's first year on the job.

Taub was a decorated athlete, earning all-city honors in basketball in baseball at Central High School and playing both sports at the varsity level at University of Detroit from 1949-1954. He was inducted into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.

Taub also worked as an NCAA basketball official in the Big Ten and Mid-American conferences for 15 years.

Fishman, a senior on Mumford's 1966 team who would go on to play at the University of Michigan, praised Taub for the quick turnaround of what he described as a "mediocre program" at the time of his arrival.

"There was no comparison. This was by far the greatest season in the history of Mumford basketball," Fishman said. "It became an elite program between 1966, our year, until he quit coaching in the 70s."

The interest that Taub took in his players' lives beyond the court and desire to "maintain relationships throughout their lifetimes" is what Fishman believes has made a permanent impact.

"The lasting legacy of Sam Taub is that he is an old-school player, coach, athletic director, mentor and friend," Fishman said. "If you had a problem, or something you wanted to talk about completely unrelated to sports, we could go talk to him."

Taub also was known to go above and beyond to help his players continue their basketball careers after high school.

"It's absolutely safe to say that many of his players, me included, would have never been college athletes had it not been for him," Fishman said. "If he had a guy people weren't looking at ... he would contact coaches he knew. Even at the junior college level, or (Division III) level, he'd call and say, 'Hey, I got a guard for you,' or 'Hey, I got a forward for you.'"

Taub is survived by his wife, Marilyn, stepchildren Eric Shaw and Karen Shulman and several nieces and nephews. A funeral service for Taub will be held on Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Ira Kaufman chapel in Southfield, with religious ceremonies taking place a 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. 

Fishman said he was told by Larry Moore, a fellow senior on Taub's 1966 team, that several players from the PSL, including those who "didn't even play for Sam," plan on attending Tuesday's service.

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.