According to police, Casablanca Hotel staff found the 65-year-old Meminger unconscious. The cause of death has not yet been determined and no signs of trauma were reported by the police.
“We want to thank everyone for their prayers and condolences during this difficult time for our family,” Meminger’s family said in a statement. “Dean ‘The Dream’ Meminger touched the hearts of so many on and off the basketball court. Through basketball and education, he helped countless people around the country receive scholarships, high school and college admissions, and even employment.”
After growing up a legend of the Harlem playgrounds, Meminger played three years for Marquette. He averaged 18.8 points per game as a junior in 1970 and claimed NIT MVP honors, leading the Warriors to a 65-53 title game victory over St. John’s. He averaged 21.2 points per game the next season as Marquette finished 26-0 during the regular season.
Meminger’s speed on the court was one of his greatest attributes as a player, with former Marquette coach Al McGuire once describing him as “quicker than 11:15 Mass at a seaside resort.”
Marquette deputy athletic director Mike Broeker expressed the Marquette community’s sorrow in a statement Friday.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dean Meminger, one of the greatest players in the storied history of Marquette University basketball,” Broeker said. “Dean will always be remembered by MU fans for leading the program to the 1970 National Invitation Tournament title and being a consensus All-America selection the following year. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dean’s family during this difficult time.”
Drafted sixteenth overall in the first round of the 1971 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, Meminger played an integral role in New York’s 1973 NBA title run.
A key moment for Meminger came in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Knicks coach Red Holzman played him in place of Hall-of-Famer Earl Monroe. For his situational defense on Celtics star JoJo White, Meminger won the acclaim of Finals MVP Willis Reed.
“I credit Dean with getting us that championship,” Reed said at the time. “He’s the reason we won. If he hadn’t stopped JoJo, we never even play the Lakers (in the Finals).”
Meminger played the next season with the Knicks, then spent two years in Atlanta before returning to New York for his final season in 1977. After retirement, Meminger achieved more success as a coach for the New York Stars of the now-defunct Women’s Professional Basketball League. He oversaw the Stars to the league championship in 1980 and was named coach of the year.
In a 2003 interview with the New York Times, Meminger said he had a long battle with substance abuse stemming back to his NBA days and that he was drug free since 2001. Meminger was rescued from a fire in the Bronx in 2009, where he suffered smoke inhalation but made a full recovery.
Meminger was inducted into the Marquette Hall of Fame in 1998. His retired No. 14 currently hangs in the rafters of the Bradley Center.