By David Ertischek ’01
Bruce Seals was an assistant basketball coach for Emerson College from 1994 to 2011, and his impact on the many Lions he mentored continued long after their playing careers.
He was a legend across Boston, and his death on Tuesday, December 15, has brought many people and organizations to praise his years of being a leader and mentor.
“Bruce Seals gave his heart and soul to every men’s basketball student-athlete to help them develop on and off the court,” said Stanford Nance, senior associate director of athletics, who came to Emerson in 2003. “A master tactician, Bruce was also known to incorporate his life skills, which help them be successful after the ball stops bouncing.”
Originally from New Orleans, Seals was a dominant star at Xavier University, where he played two seasons and still holds team records. He went on to play professional basketball, with two seasons in the ABA and three seasons in the NBA. Coincidentally, before he ever coached at Emerson College, he played for an Italian team called Emerson Varese. He was inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, according to NOLA.com.
“We were saddened to hear of the loss of Bruce Seals. Bruce was a great coach for Emerson for 17 years, making an impact on countless student-athletes over his time here,” said Athletic Director Patricia Nicol. “His presence was felt in both the Emerson community and Boston community, and will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”
Former players shared their feelings about Seals.
“Coach Seals was a person of tremendous knowledge and humility. He had great impact and influence on all of the Emerson players that he mentored and coached throughout the years,” said Sam Presti ’00, general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We would often marvel about the fact that someone like Coach Seals, with his experience and resume, would be volunteering his time to help us. Coach had a true love of the game, but as one can see through his role with the Boys and Girls Club for all of those years, he had an equally deep love for supporting young, aspiring people. Coach Seals will be deeply missed and the condolences of all Emerson players and staff go out to his family at this time,” Presti said.
Deeply saddened to hear this news. I was fortunate to get to know “the big fella” during my time at @EmersonCollege.. Coach Seals brought that tough love approach as an assistant under Coach Smith. I’ll never forget his words of wisdom during rebounding drills.. #BphiB 💔 https://t.co/32x0Eij6Fa pic.twitter.com/IG7J7AUzcd— Chris Taylor (@ctaylor21) December 16, 2020
“He took his seat at the end of the bench each and every game, and was always teaching. Each and every play, he would get the attention on the guys sitting closest to him, and point out the right move, right action, etc,” said William O’Connell ’06. “He would make sure you heard his perspective after getting checked out of the game, and most often always uplifting and positive for when you would get checked back in. In fact the only time, he would get mad [was for] 1) lack of effort or 2) you better not dare ignore him!”
O’Connell said Seals was known for telling players he “forgot more basketball than you will ever know!”
“Through my four years, I took my place next to him during the National Anthem every game, at the end of the bench. He never let me get the end, as he always had to be an anchor for the team. It was an absolute pleasure to have him as a coach,” added O’Connell.
The GOLD lining of an injury-plagued college career was I got to spend the better part of four years sitting next to Coach Seals on the @EmersonCollege bench. His words still ring loudly within me to this day.— Alex J. Yoh (@alexjyoh) December 16, 2020
Many who he touched will miss this good man! #boxout #hitemwithajab https://t.co/tEW7SzRZXs
Seals had a great impact on the Emerson community, across Boston, and more. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the Boston Celtics, Xavier University, former professional players, and Lions honored him on social media. He also was lauded for his work as the athletic director of the Dorchester Boys & Girls Club.
The passing of Bruce Seals is a devastating loss for so many Bostonians and thousands of kids from the @BGCDorchester. Bruce was truly a legend on and off the court and he will be dearly missed. https://t.co/CfY93uSibi— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) December 16, 2020