Byline: Bill Doyle
WORCESTER -- Because of Parkinson's disease, Andy Laska needs a walker to get around so he hasn't attended any Assumption College basketball games the past two seasons at the gymnasium named after him.
The former Assumption coach and athletic director still watches the Hounds play, but on his iPad at the home he bought in the 1950s, adjacent to where the old Assumption campus used to be before the college moved to Salisbury Street.
Laska, who will turn 90 in July, also watches as many NBA and college basketball games as he can on television, staying up past midnight some evenings.
"I don't know how he does it,'' his former Holy Cross teammate and good friend Bob Cousy said. "I'm in bed by 9, for God's sake.''
"I can sleep all day,'' Laska explained.
While Laska was being interviewed by a reporter, a Celtics game aired in the background.
Laska sat in his recliner and wore a blue Assumption College golf shirt. The room was filled with photos of Laska with his wife Ruth, who died at age 75 in 2001, and their five children, Michael, Donna, Diane, Kim and Andrew, and other photos with such friends as Cousy, Dee Rowe, Bobby Curran, Buster Sheary, Tommy Heinsohn and Joe Mullaney.
Diane Laska-Nixon, Assumption's director of alumni relations, and her husband Paul live with Laska and have offered to buy him an HD flat screen, but Laska is perfectly content with his boxy, 12-year-old standard definition set.
"I love this one,'' he said. "It's really clear and everything.''
Laska also enjoys watching horse racing on television. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, Don Lemenager, who captained Laska's first Assumption team in the 1951-52 season, calls with the horses he likes, and a few minutes later, Laska's son Michael calls and asks which bets he wants to make. Michael places the bets at the track in Florida, and his father watches the races on television.
"It keeps him busy,'' Diane said.
Laska's speech has slowed a bit, but his mind remains sharp. He still remembers the score of HC's upset victory over Oklahoma in the 1947 NCAA championship game in which he and Cousy played as freshmen: 58-47.
"He can remember every score, every horse race, but he can't remember to take his pills,'' Diane said with a laugh.
So how is Laska feeling these days?
"Not bad,'' he said. "I'm hanging in there.''
Because Laska no longer attends Assumption games, many students probably don't even know who he is. That's unfortunate. Laska is a living legend...