Robert Derderian of Manhasset passed away on January 13, 2022 at age 92. His life was defined by a deep passion for basketball and tennis, and an abiding love for and commitment to family, friends, and fellow veterans.
Bob was a resident of Manhasset for over 40 years and a proud member of the Manhasset VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 5063. He was also a previous member of the Strathmore Vanderbilt Country Club and a booster of Manhasset High School sports teams.
Bob was one of four brothers (George, Charles, John) who grew up during the Great Depression in South Ozone Park, Queens, raised by survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
He played basketball against Bob Cousy and beat John McEnroe in a tennis match.
He graduated from John Adams HS, where he was a standout basketball player. He joined his brother John at New York University, where he became the leading scorer of their top-ranked basketball team, which played all its home games to sold-out crowds at the old Madison Square Garden.
After NYU, Bob enlisted and served overseas in the Coast Guard during the Korean War. Upon returning home, Bob resumed playing competitive basketball for many years for the New York Athletic Club, while at the same time going into business with his brothers Charles and John, first starting a flooring company and eventually a real estate business.
A rolodex of stories and a fountain of memories from a bygone era, Bob would regale you over a long lunch at a local diner with his precise recollections of:
- The day that the dirt road in front of their childhood home in Queens was paved in the early 1930s and folks came from all over the neighborhood to roller skate.
- Marathon pickup games in Coney Island against Bob Cousy, Al McGuire, and other basketball legends.
- His teammates at NYU who engaged in point shaving and were sent to Sing Sing for their crimes (this broke Bob’s heart and cast NYU out of big-time college basketball forever).
- His bouts of seasickness aboard a Coast Guard meteorological ship in the North Atlantic during the Korean War.
- Being drafted into the NBA by the Sheboygan Red Skins but declining to join the team because the pay was less than what he could make as a physical education teacher.
- Meeting Fidel Castro on an athletics goodwill mission to Cuba in 1959 and playing exhibition games to packed crowds across the island.
- Beating a then 14-year-old John McEnroe at tennis in Key Biscayne, FL and consoling the crying McEnroe afterwards (just a few short years before John stormed Wimbledon).
It was a long and adventurous life for Bob. He did it his way. Graceful in movement, relaxed in manner, and curious of mind. Bob was a patient listener, always ready with an easy word of encouragement and a helping hand when you needed him.