Gola in 1953
January 13, 1933|
|Died||January 26, 2014
|Listed height||6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)|
|Listed weight||205 lb (93 kg)|
|High school||La Salle (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)|
|College||La Salle (1951–1955)|
|NBA draft||1955 / Pick: Territorial|
|Selected by the Philadelphia Warriors|
|Position||Small forward / Guard|
|1955–1962||Philadelphia/Golden State Warriors|
|1962–1966||New York Knicks|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Points||7,871 (11.3 ppg)|
|Rebounds||5,417 (7.8 rpg)|
|Assists||2,962 (4.2 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
|Philadelphia City Controller|
January 5, 1970 – January 7, 1974
|Preceded by||Alexander Hemphill|
|Succeeded by||William Klenk|
|Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 170th district
January 7, 1969 – January 5, 1970
|Preceded by||District Created|
|Succeeded by||Alvin Katz|
Thomas Joseph "Tom" Gola (January 13, 1933 – January 26, 2014) was an American basketball player and politician. He is widely considered one of the greatest NCAA basketball players of all-time.
Gola was the oldest of seven children born to Ike and Helen Gola. Gola's father was a Philadelphia policeman of Polish descent who had shortened the family's surname from "Galinsky." Gola was praised as a great all-around player as a high school student at La Salle College High School, where he led the Explorers to a Philadelphia Catholic League Championship. He entered La Salle a year after another Philadelphia basketball Hall of Famer, Paul Arizin, graduated from Villanova.
Gola starred as a college freshman and led La Salle to the 1952 N.I.T. championship. Gola paced the Explorers to the NCAA basketball championship in 1954 and was named Tournament MVP. That same season he was selected as National Player of the Year. As a senior, Gola helped La Salle finish as the runner-up in the 1955 NCAA Tournament. He averaged 20.9 points and 19.0 rebounds during 115 games and holds the NCAA record with 2,201 career rebounds. At 6'6" (198 cm), Gola was clearly a forward who could shoot/score, rebound and defend, but he also had the ballhandling (dribbling, passing) skills of a guard, and with his shooting range and All-Pro defensive skills, could play just as well in the backcourt. He was inducted into the La Salle Hall of Athletes in 1961 and the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1977, Tom Gola was inducted into the National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame. Gola was listed on "ESPN's Countdown to the Greatest" College basketball players as #17.
After a phenomenal college career, Gola turned pro with the Philadelphia Warriors as a territorial draft pick. He teamed with All-Pros Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston to lead the Warriors to an NBA championship in 1956. He gained praise for concentrating on defense, passing and rebounding and allowing the other two to be the chief scorers during these years.
In 1959, Johnston temporarily retired due to a knee injury and the Warriors added seven-foot superstar Wilt Chamberlain. Again sacrificing himself for his team, Gola helped the Warriors back to the NBA Finals, but they could not beat the star-studded Boston Celtics during his seasons in the early 1960s even with Chamberlain.
Return to La Salle
In 1968, Gola returned to his alma mater as head coach, leading the Explorers to a 37-13 record during his two-year stay. He was named Coach of the Year by Philadelphia and New York journalists. He led the Explorers to a 23-1 record during the 1968-69 season, but La Salle had been barred from the NCAA Tournament before the season because an alumnus had offered some players "no-show" jobs. The school's Tom Gola Arena was named after him.
|La Salle Explorers (Middle Atlantic Conferences) (1968–1970)|
|La Salle:||37–13 (.740)||8–2 (.800)||
‡ Ineligible for any postseason tournaments
In 1968, Gola was elected to the Pennsylvania State House, as a Republican, representing the Northeast Philadelphia-based 170th District. A change to the State Constitution made earlier that year had reorganized State House seats into legislative districts, replacing the old system of allotting seats on an at-large, county-wide basis. This made Gola the first person to represent the newly created district. Ultimately, Gola would not finish-out his first term in the House, opting instead to seek the office of Philadelphia City Controller in 1969. He scored an 80,000 vote victory over Democrat Charles Peruto in the general election, and took office the following January. Gola was defeated, however, in his bid for a second term in 1973 by Democrat William Klenk. His defeat was part of a broader setback for Republicans in the city that year, as Arlen Specter lost his bid for a third term as District Attorney. Gola made his final attempt at elected office in 1983, when he sought the office of Mayor. He came in last in the three-man field Republican primary, behind Congressman Charlie Dougherty and the winner, John Egan, who went on to lose the fall general election to Wilson Goode.
Gola was married to Caroline in June 1955, and they had one son. Gola died on January 26, 2014 at the age of 81 in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania. A former US Army specialist, he was buried at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
College basketball achievements
- All-District player (four times, 1952–55)
- All-State player (four times, 1952–55)
- All-America selection (four times, 1952–55)
- Consensus All-American (three times, 1953–55)
- NIT Championship, NIT Co-MVP (1952)
- First alternate to US Olympic Basketball Team (1952)
- NCAA Championship, NCAA Tournament MVP (1954)
- College Basketball Player of the Year (1954)
- NCAA all-time rebounding leader (2,201)
- 2,462 points
- 102-19 (.843) won-lost record
- #15 retired by La Salle
Pro basketball achievements
- NBA championship (1956)
- All-NBA second team (1958)
- 5-time NBA all-star (1960–1964)
- One of only two players to win NCAA, NIT & NBA championships
- Elected to Basketball Hall of Fame (1976)
- Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball players with 2000 points and 1000 rebounds
- List of NCAA Division I men's basketball career rebounding leaders
- Fitzpatrick, Frank; Juliano, Joe (January 26, 2014). "Philadelphia basketball great Tom Gola dies". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
- Eskenazi, Gerald (January 27, 2014), "Tom Gola, a Philadelphia Hero, Dies at 81", The New York Times
- King, Wayne (November 8, 1973). "Democratic Victories in Philadelphia Rebuff to Rizzo, Who Backed G.O.P.". The New York Times. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
- "Gola, Thomas J.". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
- Tom Gola at Find a Grave
- NBA.com Bio at the Wayback Machine (archived September 15, 2000)
- Basketball Hall of Fame profile
- National Polish-American Sports HOF profile
|Pennsylvania House of Representatives|
|Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 170th District
|Philadelphia City Controller