When discussing some of the greatest players in the early years of Suffolk University men’s basketball, Arthur “Archie” Mellace has to be near the top of the list.
A 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound forward and captain, Mellace was an all-purpose player who could score with the best of them, filling the basket from both inside and outside (he was well known for his precise one-handed set shot.).
Mellace, who averaged 20.7 points per game as a sophomore, will accept the university’s highest athletic honor Saturday night when he is inducted into the Suffolk University Athletics Hall of Fame at a dinner at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge.
Mellace had arrived at Suffolk with much acclaim out of Revere High School (Class of 1954), where he was named Most Valuable Player of the Greater Boston League and scored a league-record 44 points in game versus Medford. A Boston Globe All-Scholastic, he also led the Patriots to their first Tech Tourney appearance in 32 years. He attended the University of Rhode Island for one semester before he transferred to Suffolk and became a starting player for coach Charlie Law as a sophomore. He also played one season of baseball.
“We had just started the basketball program and played Boston College, Boston University, MIT, Brandeis, and St. Anselm – Charlie Law had a vision of improving the Suffolk program,” recalled Mellace.
He began playing junior high basketball at the Lincoln School in Revere before joining the RHS varsity coached by Bernie Sochet in his sophomore year. He also played high school football for coach Silvio Cella and baseball for coach John Capone.
Mellace received his degree in Education from Suffolk and then entered the teaching profession in the Revere school system where he worked for 36 years, completing his career as the assistant principal at the high school in 1993.
He was also the head boys basketball coach at Revere High School but stepped down after three seasons.
“I found out that officiating was better suited for me,” said Mellace.
Mellace, 77, had a distinguished career as a basketball referee at the high school and college levels, receiving many awards and earning induction in to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. He served as the president of IAABO Board 130 on the North Shore and the national College Basketball Officials Association. He was awarded life membership to IAABO.
“I’m proud of my officiating career,” said Mellace, who was a referee in the NCAA Division 1 Basketball Tournament. “I refereed a game at UMass that had Julius Erving and Rick Pitino as players. I could see Dr. J’s greatness back then. I refereed a game with [7-feet, 4-inch] Virginia center Ralph Sampson. I’m still friendly with the guy (Jack Hannon) who got me into officiating. He convinced me to go into officiating and we refereed together for many years.”
As he prepares to receive induction into the Suffolk Hall of Fame, Mellace does so with fond memories of the university.
“Back then Suffolk was a small school known for being located behind the State House,” said Mellace. “The professors I had in class were great and the students and friends I met at the school were even greater. I had a great experience in college.”
Mellace’s wife of 54 years, Susan, will accompany him to the induction dinner. “We were high school sweethearts,” he said. “My wife’s been great. Let’s face it, in order to be successful being away from home, you had to have the backing of your family. Without them it’s not worth it.”
The Mellaces have two daughters, Gina, 53, who has degrees from Boston College and Northeastern University, and Michelle, 51, who has degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson and Rivier College. “They used to watch me referee and they were my biggest critics,” said Mellace with a smile.
They also have a grandson, David, 25, who has a degree in Engineering from Brown University and is a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania.
The biggest night of a legendary career in basketball arrives Saturday.
“I’m thankful for Suffolk University and Charlie Law for giving me the opportunity,” said Mellace.(Tony Ferullo of the Suffolk University communications office contributed to this story).