Nat Hickey
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Nat Hickey
Nat Hickey
Personal information
Born(1902-01-30)January 30, 1902
Kor?ula, Dalmatia, Austro-Hungary
DiedSeptember 16, 1979(1979-09-16) (aged 77)
Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Listed height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Listed weight180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High schoolHoboken (Hoboken, New Jersey)
Playing career1921-1948
PositionGuard / Forward
Coaching career1944-1951
Career history
As player:
1921-1922Hoboken St. Joseph's
1922-1923Eddie Holly's Majors
1922-1923New York Crescents
1923-1925Eddie Holly's Majors
1925-1929Cleveland Rosenblums
1929-1931Chicago Bruins
1931-1934Original Celtics
1934-1935Boston Trojans
1935-1942Original Celtics
1944-1945Pittsburgh Raiders
1945-1946Indianapolis Kautskys
1946-1948Buffalo Braves / Tri-Cities Blackhawks
1948Providence Steamrollers
As coach:
1944-1945Pittsburgh Raiders
1945-1946Indianapolis Kautskys
1946-1948Tri-Cities Blackhawks
1948Providence Steamrollers (interim HC)
1950-1951Johnstown Clippers
Career highlights and awards
  • ABL champion (1926)
Stats at

Nicholas J. "Nat" Hickey (born Nicola Zarnecich; January 30, 1902 - September 16, 1979) was a Croatian-American professional basketball coach/player and baseball player. He turned to coaching basketball after his retirement from playing full-time in 1942 but occasionally activated himself as a player for the teams he was coaching. In 1948, at the age of 45, Hickey played two games with the Providence Steamrollers of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) while serving as the team's head coach, making him the oldest player in NBA history.

Early life

Hickey was born Nicola Zarnecich on the Croatian island of Kor?ula (then Kingdom of Dalmatia, Austro-Hungary).[1] He attended Hoboken High School in Hoboken, New Jersey.[2]


As a 5'11" guard/forward, Hickey played from the 1920s through 1940s with multiple early professional teams, including the Hoboken St. Joseph's, Eddie Holly's Majors, New York Crescents, Cleveland Rosenblums, the Chicago Bruins, Boston Trojans, Original Celtics of the American Basketball League and the Pittsburgh Raiders, Indianapolis Kautskys, and Tri-Cities Blackhawks of the National Basketball League.

In the second year after the formation of the Basketball Association of America (the forerunner to the NBA), Hickey served 29 games as head coach of the Providence Steamrollers during the 1947-48 season. Hickey's team posted a 4-25 record during his tenure. He activated himself as a player on January 27, 1948, three days before his 46th birthday, and appeared in two games. He attempted six field goals - making none - and committed five personal fouls. He scored two points off of foul shots.[3] All of the shots occurred in his debut game as a player against the St. Louis Bombers. While he also played a day later against the New York Knickerbockers, he didn't record anything in that game. As a result of these games, Hickey still holds the record for the oldest player in NBA history at 45 years and 363 days.[4]

Hickey became the coach of the Johnstown Clippers of the All-American Basketball League during the 1950-51 season. On January 11, 1951, Hickey was driving the team back to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, after a game in Wheeling, West Virginia, when he lost control of his car on the Lincoln Highway and crashed.[5] Clippers player George Karmarkovich, a 24-year-old who was considered the team's biggest star, was ejected from the car and killed.[5][6] The Clippers were disbanded the following day and Hickey did not return to coaching.[5] Hickey was found to not be responsible for Karmarkovich's death.[6]


Aside from basketball, Hickey enjoyed a lengthy career in baseball, playing 15 minor league seasons and managing two. Hickey managed and played several seasons of minor league baseball as an outfielder. Notably, he was baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial's first minor league manager with the Williamson Colts in 1938.[7]

Hickey was inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame in 1965 for his basketball and baseball achievements.[8]

Personal life

Hickey was a cousin of parachute jumper Nick Piantanida.[1]

Hickey died on September 16, 1979, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.[9][10]

BAA career statistics

Regular season

Year Team GP FG% FT% APG PPG
1947-48 Providence 2 .000 .667 .0 1.0
Career 2 .000 .667 .0 1.0

See also


  1. ^ a b Ryan, Craig. Magnificent Failure. Washington and London: Smithsonian Books. p. 12.
  2. ^ "Nat Hickey, Former Cage Ace, Back on Wood". Pottsville Republican. December 29, 1944. p. 4. Retrieved 2020.
  3. ^ Sachare, Alex (1994). The Official NBA basketball encyclopedia (1994 ed.). Villard Books. p. 577.
  4. ^ Boeck, Greg (April 2, 2007). "Mavericks make motivated Willis, 44, NBA's oldest player". USA Today. Retrieved 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "Johnstown Clippers Disbanded After Death of Karmarkovich; Joll Escapes Auto Injury". The Indiana Gazette. January 12, 1951. p. 15. Retrieved 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Drivers Exonerated In Highway Death of George Karmarkovich". The Cumberland News. March 9, 1951. Retrieved 2020.
  7. ^ Akin, William E. (2006). West Virginia Baseball: A History, 1865-2000. McFarland. p. 147. ISBN 9780786425709.
  8. ^ "Nicholas "Nat" Hickey". Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2020.
  9. ^ "Obituary Index" (PDF). Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.
  10. ^ "Nat Hickey BK". NJ Sports Heroes. Retrieved 2020.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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