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Former Olympic Track Coach Dies

November 5, 1998

Larry Ellis, the coach for the 1984 U.S. Olympic men’s track team and a past president of USA Track & Field, died at his home in Skillman, N.J. on Wednesday afternoon, his wife said. He was 70.

The high school coach of 1968 Olympic long jump gold medalist Bob Beamon, Ellis also was track coach at Princeton for 22 years.

Ellis made a trip to Virginia over the weekend and didn’t feel well after returning home on Monday, his wife, Shirley, said.

Ellis, who had a heart transplant in 1995, was examined at a hospital on Monday and sent home, but he continued to feel ill on Tuesday and Wednesday, his wife said.

Sitting in his kitchen around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday with his daughter, Lesley Smalls, ``he just put his head on the table and passed away,″ Shirley Ellis said in an interview with The Associated Press.

``He was a warm person, an intelligent person and he really, really cared for people,″ said Ollan Cassell, vice president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, track’s world governing body, and a former executive director of USATF when Ellis was president.

``He loved athletes and coaching and teaching and his family,″ he added.

A middle distance runner at NYU, Ellis came from a running background. He was a cousin of track hall of famer Stan Wright, who also was an assistant Olympic track coach in 1968 and ’72.

Ellis coached Beamon at Jamaica High School in New York City. Beamon set an Olympic record with a memorable leap of 29 feet, 2 1/2 inches in the 1968 Games at Mexico City.

Ellis was one of the most successful Ivy League coaches during his days at Princeton from 1970-92.

Among his athletes at Princeton was Craig Masback, the chief executive of USATF. Masback was the 1980 U.S. indoor mile champion.

The 1984 Olympic team he coached was by led by Carl Lewis, who won four gold medals at Los Angeles. He also led a U.S. team in the memorable USA-USSR dual meet at Berkeley, Calif., in 1978.

Ellis, who celebrated his birthday on Oct. 29, was president of USATF from 1992-96. His last coaching assignment for the organization was just two months ago, leading the U.S. men’s track team in the World Cup in South Africa.

``He was extraordinarily well liked throughout track and field,″ USATF spokesman Pete Cava said in a telephone interview from Indianapolis. ``He was a dedicated worker and a good family man.″

Besides his wife and daughter, Ellis is survived by two other daughters, Robin Williams and Joanne Glenn and a son, Lawrence.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete.

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