Posted February 6, 2008

In Memoriam: John Noisette, professor and wheelchair basketball coach

John Noisette, professor and wheelchair basketball coach

John Noisette
Photo courtesy Temple University Libraries/Urban Archives
Former therapeutic recreation Professor John Noisette (right) with a member of Temple’s Rollin’ Owls wheelchair basketball team in the 1980s.

John Noisette may not have been the most famous coach at Temple University, but for his students and colleagues, he was an inspiration. Noisette passed away Dec. 4 at the age of 78 and left behind a powerful legacy of coaching and motivating athletes with disabilities.

While working as a professor of therapeutic recreation in Temple’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, in the former College of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (HPERD), John Noissette coached the “Rollin’ Owls” wheelchair basketball team from 1984 to 1988, a team founded by Noisette’s former student and current assistant director of Disability Resources and Services Renee Kirby. The team — the first of its kind to be organized at an East Coast university — was ranked No. 1 in the mid-Atlantic wheelchair basketball tournaments from 1985 to 1987, but Noisette’s impact extends far beyond Temple.

“He was a legend,” said John Shank, a former colleague of Noisette’s, and professor and chair of the Therapeutic and Recreation Department at Temple. “What he did here to bring attention to social and recreational needs and interests for athletes with disabilities was pretty remarkable.”


Before coaching the Rollin’ Owls, Noisette coached the Eastern Wheelchair Basketball Conference’s Philadelphia Paranauts and the Bordentown Elks, leading the Elks to two Final Four National Wheelchair Basketball Titles in 1976 and 1977. Noisette also served as the first commissioner for the Mid-Atlantic Conference from 1972 to 1977.

At Temple, Noisette emphasized community integration with athletes with disabilities and began arranging recreational activities at Temple’s facilities with group homes throughout Philadelphia, with therapeutic recreation students running the activities known as the TR Lab.

“On Tuesday nights … there would be close to 200 people in attendance, using the pool, bowling alley and gyms at Pearson Hall,” said Shank.

In 1988, Noisette’s final year at Temple, he was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s Hall of Fame and received a citation of recognition from Philadelphia’s then-Mayor Wilson Goode, commending Noisette for his achievements in working with athletes with disabilities.

In 1989, Temple University hosted the Central Collegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament for the first time in East Coast history, and although he had already left the university, “it would have never come to Temple without John,” Shank said.

Noisette was known as a quiet man; even the citation from Mayor Goode described him as “modest and unassuming in his professional life.” But underneath that modest exterior was a passion for enabling athletes with disabilities.

Shank said, “What impressed me most [about John] was his ability to encourage athletes with disabilities to believe in themselves and focus on what they could do, rather than what society tells them they can’t.”

— Written by Tom Rice

For the Office of News Communications