There was something poetic about Russ Bastin’s offense. Opponents knew what was coming and still couldn’t stop it. Bastin, a World War II veteran, English teacher, and longtime high school basketball coach who used to read poetry to his players before games, died on Sept. 13 at Nassau University Medical Center. He was 94.
“Against the zone defense, he’d put a high pass into the low post and if they collapsed on the low post, he’d throw it out to the corner,” longtime Uniondale track and field coach Dennis Kornfield of East Meadow said. “He’d always have a sharpshooter in the corner. He used to call [the sharpshooter] radar. He pretty much used the same offense throughout his career and they couldn’t beat it.”
Bastin, a Wantagh resident, started the basketball program at Uniondale High School, where he coached from 1956-1991 . His 35-year career yielded 479 varsity wins, which ranks him fourth in Long Island history. He won nine regular-season conference titles, three Nassau titles, and had four Nassau runner-up teams, according to Newsday records.
Bastin was inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.
“The tradition here has been outstanding,” current Uniondale basketball coach Tom Diana said. “It was something we hoped to emulate.”
Born on Sept. 17, 1922 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, Bastin enlisted in the Coast Guar in 1942 and served in the Pacific until March of 1946. After his service, Bastin attended St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, where he received a bachelors degree in English and received a graduate degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts.
In addition to basketball, Bastin was the junior varsity volleyball coach.
“He was one of the most dedicated coaches that I’ve ever seen,” Kornfield said. “He never missed a day.”
Bastin was a powerful speaker, using his sense of humor and public speaking poise to delight audiences whenever he was behind a microphone, Kornfield said.
“He was one of the greatest speakers you could ever find,” Korn field said. “He would MC at awards and was always the highlight. He was fabulous at that. He had a great personality and would always make you feel good.”
A funeral for Bastin was held at Calverton National Cemetery on Oct. 5.