Former Rutgers star Phil Sellers, who led program to only Final Four, dies at 69

Phil Sellers was first recruited to Rutgers by longtime coach and current ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale

Phil Sellers is still Rutgers’ leading scorer and leading rebounder after a dominant run in the 1970s.
Phil Sellers is still Rutgers’ leading scorer and leading rebounder after a dominant run in the 1970s. (Porter Binks/Getty Images)

Former Rutgers star Phil Sellers, who led the program to its only Final Four appearance in 1976, died Tuesday night, the school announced.

He was 69.

Sellers played at Rutgers from 1972-1976. He scored 2,399 points and had 1,115 rebounds while with the Scarlet Knights, and is still the program’s leading scorer and rebounder. He helped lead the team on its only Final Four run during the 1975-76 season, too, though the Scarlet Knights were knocked out in the semifinals by Michigan.

Sellers played under coach Richard Lloyd and Tom Young while at Rutgers, and was recruited by former coach and current ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale — who was an assistant at the school at the time.

“Phil was the catalyst in our great recruiting class that played a vital factor in Rutgers having fantastic success in the 1970s that led us all the way to the Final Four,” Vitale said in a statement. “Once we were able to get Phil, we were able to get the best player in New Jersey Mike Dabney. Phil was such a fierce competitor, and he was dominant inside and outside. I am so sad to learn of his passing. To me, he is the greatest player in Rutgers hoops history.”

Sellers, a New York City area native, averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds over his four seasons with the Scarlet Knights. He averaged 19.2 points and 10.2 rebounds during his senior season, which was Rutgers' final one as an independent school before it joined the Eastern Collegiate Basketball League. The Scarlet Knights went 31-2 that season, and finished ranked No. 4 in the country.

Sellers was then selected in the third round of the 1976 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He spent one year in the league in Detroit, where he averaged 4.5 points in 7.5 minutes per game.

“Phil Sellers is Rutgers royalty. He is the greatest player on the greatest team in our program’s history,” current Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said in a statement. “His jersey is one of three that hang up in the rafters at Jersey Mike’s Arena. He was the ultimate role model for our current Scarlet Knights. Rutgers men’s basketball sends our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. We love you Phil ‘The Thrill'!”