Nat Holman (1896-1995) was born Nathan Helmanowich on October 19th in New York City. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he was seventh of ten children. His parents fled to the United States after they were forced out of Germany in 1883. They settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where his father opened a grocery store. During Holman's adolescence, the closeness of his family and an involvement in sports kept him from the temptations of the streets. Life could have been different for Holman if it had not been for Jacob, his oldest brother. With his parents working long hours, Jacob assumed many of the parental duties in the Holman home. It was on Jacob's advice that the Holman family changed their name. Jacob had the goal for the family to raise itself out of poverty and into higher status through work hard and education. All seven of the Holman brothers attended college and the three girls completed high school.
Holman was the athlete in the family although Jacob was an outstanding soccer player and Morris, his younger brother, a former basketball captain at City College. Holman was an all around athlete, but basketball-a sport invented just five years prior to his birth- was his game. As early as eight, he was beginning to show a talent for basketball. Standing 4'11" by the age of ten he dominated his peers with his size and ball-handling ability. And by the age of twelve he was competing against grown men. His first real coach, James Ginnerty, a playground instructor provided Holman with organization and direction. But it was the social clubs and settlement houses-Educational Alliance and Henry Street Settlement-that helped Holman develop and refine his game. "The settlement houses played a significant role in the life of every Jewish youngster on the Lower East Side. They provided us with homes away from home. There were a variety of sports and cultural activities, plus functions." Holman played organized basketball for the first time with the Roosevelt Big Five-a team of Jews on the Lower East Side.
Holman entered Commerce High School in September of 1912 with an established reputation as a great athlete. His athletic accomplishments preceded him from P.S. 62 and P.S. 75 where he won championships in basketball and soccer and was a talented baseball pitcher. An all-around athlete, Holman won 12 letters in four different sports. In his freshman year he made varsity basketball, baseball and soccer. He was all-scholastic as a goalie for three years, until he was persuaded to try football in his senior year. In his second year Holman captained the basketball team that won the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) title and practically coached the team in his remaining three years. In his senior year while starring in soccer, basketball and baseball, he was the leading pitcher on the team, played halfback on the football team, and was president of the student council. Holman had the remarkable distinction of once playing basketball, football and baseball games all on the same day.
Turning down an offer from the Cincinnati Reds to pitch in their farm system, Holman entered the Savage School for Physical Education (1917-1918)-which later became a part of New York University-and continued his all-around athletic career. In his two seasons on the basketball team they went undefeated (30-0). After graduating he accepted a job at City College as a tutor in the Hygiene Department and varsity soccer coach and freshman basketball coach, while he continued to play professional basketball on weekends.