Dan Issel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Dan Issel
Dan Issel (1).jpeg
Issel, circa 1970–75
Personal information
Born (1948-10-25) October 25, 1948 (age 71)
Batavia, Illinois
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High schoolBatavia (Batavia, Illinois)
CollegeKentucky (1967–1970)
NBA draft1970 / Round: 8 / Pick: 122nd overall
Selected by the Detroit Pistons
Playing career1970–1985
PositionCenter / Power forward
Number44, 25
Coaching career1988–2002
Career history
As player:
19701975Kentucky Colonels
19751985Denver Nuggets
As coach:
Denver Nuggets
Career highlights and awards
Career ABA and NBA statistics
Points27,482 (22.6 ppg)
Rebounds11,133 (9.1 rpg)
Assists2,907 (2.4 apg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Daniel Paul Issel (born October 25, 1948) is an American retired Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame professional basketball player and coach. An outstanding collegian at the University of Kentucky, he was twice named an All-American en route to a still school record 25.7 points per game. The American Basketball Association Rookie of the Year in 1971, he was a six-time ABA All-Star and one-time NBA All-Star.

A prolific scorer, Issel remains the all-time leading scorer at the University of Kentucky and second all-time for the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the American Basketball Association itself. Upon his retirement from the NBA in 1985, only Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Julius Erving had scored more professional points.[1]

Early life[edit]

Issel was born in Batavia, Illinois, son of Robert and Elanor Issel, and grew up with sister Kathi and brother Greg. Robert Issel owned and operated Issel Painting & Decorating.[2] Issel attended Batavia High School, graduating in 1967 as an All-American playing for Coach Don Vandersnick.[3] Issel led Batavia to its first Sectional title as a senior, hitting the game-winning shot against Naperville Central High School to win the title. As a senior, Issel averaged 25.8 points on Batavia's 26-3 team.[1]

Growing up in Batavia, Issel's backyard met up with his friend Ken Anderson’s back yard. Anderson's father was a janitor at Batavia High School, and the Issel property on Harrison Street backed onto that of the Andersons' on Republic Road.[4] Growing up together, Issel and Anderson rode in Issel's red Ford convertible and frequented the Twin Elms restaurant. Later, Anderson and Issel would co-own a 782 farm in Kentucky.[4] Anderson became a National Football League quarterback with the Cincinnati Bengals and the 1981 NFL Most Valuable Player.[5] Another neighbor and teammate, Byron Von Hoff, played basketball and other sports at Batavia with Anderson and Issel. Von Hoff was the 21st pick of the New York Mets in the 1966 amateur baseball draft and pitched successfully in the minor leagues before an injury ended his career.[6][1] Another teammate at Batavia was future sports announcer Craig Sager, who was a freshman when Issel was a senior.[7][4] Said Issel of his Batavia teammates: “What Batavia instilled in all three of us –– myself, Kenny, and Craig –– was a solid work ethic."[5]

According to Sports Illustrated: Don VanDersnick showed Issel how to dunk by training him with a volleyball and had Issel jump up and grab the rim 50 times each day at practice. Issel did not start for Batavia High's basketball team until he was a junior and considered himself fortunate that he had Don Vandersnick as his coach, saying, "If he'd told us that if we dove off a water tower it would make us better basketball players, there would have been a line waiting to do it."[4]

Collegiate playing career[edit]

A jersey honoring Issel hangs in Rupp Arena

Issel was recruited by Northwestern, Illinois and Wisconsin, but he chose Kentucky.[4] Issel then played college basketball at the University of Kentucky under legendary coach Adolph Rupp.

As a senior at Kentucky, Issel averaged 33.9 points per game (36.0 in the NCAA Tournament) to help Kentucky reach the Elite Eight.[8]

Issel was at UK 1966–1970 and scored 2,138 points (an average of 25.7 per game) and had 1078 rebounds, while being named an All American for two of the three seasons he was eligible for the award. His career points total remains the highest among UK men's players.

According to Sports Illustrated Magazine: In a game early in Issel's Kentucky career, teammates were neglecting to give him the ball, so Rupp called a timeout, and said, "This guy is going to be Kentucky's all-time leading scorer by the time he's through here. I thought you might like to meet him."[9]

On February 7, 1970, Issel scored 53 points in a 120–85 victory over Ole Miss, breaking Cliff Hagan's single-game record of 51. Issel's mark held for almost four decades, until Jodie Meeks scored 54 points against Tennessee on January 13, 2009.[10] Issel also scored 51 at Louisiana State University on February 21, 1970, currently the third-best mark in school history.[11]

A three-year starter for Kentucky, Issel led his team to three Southeastern Conference titles and set 23 school records in his career.[12]

Professional playing career[edit]

In his rookie season, Dan Issel led the ABA in scoring with 29.9 points per game, and also averaged 13.2 rebounds per game.

Kentucky Colonels (1970-1975)[edit]

Upon Issel's graduation in 1970 he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons (8th round) of the National Basketball Association and the Kentucky Colonels (1st round) of the American Basketball Association. Issel signed to play basketball for the Colonels and the ABA.

In his first season, Issel led the ABA in scoring with an average of 29.9 points per game, and pulled down 13.2 rebounds per game. He played in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game and was selected to the All-ABA Second Team. Issel shared ABA Rookie of the Year honors with Charlie Scott of the Virginia Squires.

The following season, Issel played in 83 of 84 games and raised his scoring average to 30.6 points per game. He was named the MVP of his second All-Star Game for scoring 21 points and collaring nine rebounds. Issel made the All-ABA First Team of that season.

Led by dominating 7'2" center Artis Gilmore, the 1974–75 Kentucky Colonels won the 1975 ABA championship, with key support from Issel and sharp-shooting guard (and fellow ex-Kentucky Wildcat) Louie Dampier. In six seasons, Issel led the league in total points three times (including a record 2,538 in 1971–72) and was an All-Star each year.

Denver Nuggets (1975-1985)[edit]

Prior to the 1975–76 season, the Colonels traded Issel to the Baltimore Claws (formerly the Memphis Hustlers) for Tom Owens and cash. With Claws folding before the season's start, Issel was subsequently traded to the Denver Nuggets for Dave Robisch and cash.

For his ABA career, Issel was a 6-Time ABA All-Star, 5-Time Member of ABA All-Pro Team, the ABA's 2nd All-Time Scorer (behind Louie Dampier, was the 1972 ABA All-Star Game MVP, 1971 ABA Co-Rookie of the Year, Led ABA in scoring in 70-71 with 29.4 ppg and holds the ABA Record for most points in a season with 2,538 in 71-72.[13]

Issel remained with the Nuggets following the ABA–NBA merger in June 1976, and represented Denver in the 1977 NBA All-Star Game. He remained productive, topping 20 points per game five of his remaining eight years. Retiring following the 1984–1985 season, he received the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1985 for his outstanding service to the community.

In nine seasons and 718 NBA games with Denver, Issel averaged 20.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.[14] Wearing number 44, Issel is the Nuggets' second all-time leading scorer. He accumulated over 27,000 points in his combined ABA and NBA career, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving upon his retirement. Issel currently ranks #11 on the all time combined ABA/NBA scoring list. He missed only 24 games in 15 seasons, earning him the moniker, "the Horse". He was part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 1993.

Coaching career[edit]

After his playing career Issel retired to his Courtland horse farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. He spent a year doing color commentary for Kentucky basketball games then became a Nuggets broadcaster from 1988 to 1992.

Even with no coaching experience, Bernie Bickerstaff recruited him as Nuggets head coach in 1992. In 1994, Issel led his team to the playoffs with their first winning record in four years, after only winning 44 games in the previous two years. That year, the Nuggets pulled off the biggest upset to that date in National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff history, knocking off the Seattle SuperSonics in five games (the first ever 8th seed to beat a 1st seed in the first round). He resigned 34 games into the 1994–95 season after facing criticism for his coaching style, saying he didn't like the person he'd become.

He returned in 1998 as president and general manager, naming himself head coach again in December 1999, yielding his general manager's title to Kiki Vandeweghe. His second tenure was far less successful; the Nuggets did not post a winning season during this time. He was hampered in part by a drawn-out effort to find a new owner; two deals to sell the team collapsed at the last minute. Just before the start of the 1999–2000 season, he told reporters that there were several decisions he simply couldn't make due to the unstable ownership situation.[15]

In 2000, Issel faced a team mutiny after angering his team for criticizing them after a winless four-game Eastern road trip. The Nuggets' team captains called a boycott of their next practice, prompting interest from CNN and other news outlets. The team saw some improvement later in the season, but missed the playoffs with a 40–42 record.[16]

His tenure ended on a rather sour note in December 2001. On December 11, after a close loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Issel heard a fan taunting him as he walked off the court at the Pepsi Center. Issel taunted back, "Go drink another beer, you Mexican piece of shit."[17] The incident was captured on Denver's NBC affiliate, KUSA-TV. Issel was suspended four games by the team. Issel publicly apologized the next day, and on Friday met with Hispanic chamber representatives, who accepted his apology.[18] However, several members of Denver's Hispanic community thought the suspension was insufficient punishment, and called for him to be fired. Hours before he was due to return, Issel took a leave of absence to decide whether he wanted to return. Issel decided to resign on December 26.

Personal life[edit]

Issel's wife Cheri, whom he met at the University of Kentucky, is an accomplished artist. Cheri was a cheerleader at Kentucky, They have two children, Sheridan and Scott.[19][20] Greg Issel, Dan's younger brother, was a star forward on Batavia teams in 1968 and 1969, following Dan. Greg Issel died suddenly of heart failure in 1998 at the age of 46.[21]

Issel filed for bankruptcy in 2009, claiming a $4.5 million debt to at least 34 creditors. To defray his debts, he sold off his 1969 Look All-America Kentucky All-Star ring, 1970 Kentucky class ring, a 1975 25th anniversary ABA All-Star ring, and a 1989 NBA All-Star ring.[citation needed]

In 2011, Issel lived in Los Angeles where he was executive director at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church.[22] As of 2014, he lives in Windsor, Colorado, employed in the oil and gas business.[23]

In 2017, Issel served as speaker at Batavia High School's gymnasium to honor a family friend, fellow Batavia classmate and national sportscaster Craig Sager after Sager's death. Sager and Issel were basketball teammates at Batavia High School, when Sager was a freshman and Issel a senior.[5][7]

In February 2018, Issel's ties to the Kentucky Colonels home of Louisville, Kentucky, led him to become President of the Louisville Basketball Investment and Support Group, a Kentucky-based limited liability company founded in 2016 to pursue an NBA franchise.[24]


  • Issel was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1973.[3]
  • In 1985, Issel received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.[25]
  • In 1993, Issel was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[25]
  • Issel was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.[11]
  • Issel was inducted into the Batavia High School Hall of Honor in 2015.[29]
  • In 2018, Issel was inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.[30]

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Bio of Issel reads:

Daniel P. "Dan" Issel One of the hardest working players in basketball history, Dan Issel played in more than 1,200 games in his professional career and in fact missed only 24 games in his pro career. Nicknamed "The Horse," Issel was the model of durability and consistency. His success was based largely on an old-fashioned, blue-collar work ethic. He had a rugged offensive game that featured strong, decisive moves in the paint and a reliable jump shot from 15 feet. A star at the University of Kentucky under Hall of Fame coach Adolph Rupp, Issel set 23 school records, including most points and rebounds, and led the Wildcats to three Southeastern Conference titles. In his senior year, Issel averaged 33.9 points per game and upped that average to 36 in the postseason to help Kentucky reach the Elite Eight. He enjoyed a 15-year ABA/NBA career with the Kentucky Colonels and the Denver Nuggets and concluded his Denver career as the franchise leader in rebounds.[31]

ABA/NBA career statistics[edit]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes seasons in which Issel won an ABA championship
* Led the league

Regular season[edit]

1970–71 Kentucky(ABA) 83 39.4 .485 .000 .807 13.2 2.0 29.9*
1971–72 Kentucky(ABA) 83 43.0 .486 .273 .785 11.2 2.3 30.6
1972–73 Kentucky(ABA) 84* 42.0 .513 .200 .764 11.0 2.6 27.3
1973–74 Kentucky(ABA) 83 40.3 .480 .176 .787 10.2 1.7 .8 .4 25.5
1974–75 Kentucky(ABA) 83 34.5 .471 .000 .738 8.6 2.3 .9 .6 17.7
1975–76 Denver(ABA) 84 34.0 .511 .250 .816 11.0 2.4 1.2 .7 23.0
1976–77 Denver 79 31.7 .515 .797 8.8 2.2 1.2 .4 22.3
1977–78 Denver 82 34.8 .512 .782 10.1 3.7 1.2 .5 21.3
1978–79 Denver 81 33.9 .517 .754 9.1 3.1 .8 .6 17.0
1979–80 Denver 82 35.8 .505 .333 .775 8.8 2.4 1.1 .7 23.8
1980–81 Denver 80 33.0 .503 .167 .759 8.5 2.0 1.0 .7 21.9
1981–82 Denver 81 81 30.5 .527 .667 .834 7.5 2.2 .8 .7 22.9
1982–83 Denver 80 80 30.4 .510 .211 .835 7.5 2.8 1.0 .5 21.6
1983–84 Denver 76 66 27.3 .493 .211 .850 6.8 2.3 .8 .6 19.8
1984–85 Denver 77 9 21.9 .459 .143 .806 4.3 1.8 .8 .4 12.8
Career 1,218 236 34.3 .499 .204 .793 9.1 2.4 1.0 .5 22.6
All-Star 7 1 24.7 .512 .731 6.9 2.3 .1 .1 14.7


1971 Kentucky(ABA) 19 35.3 .505 .878 11.6 1.5 28.1
1972 Kentucky(ABA) 6 44.8 .412 .000 .760 9.0 .8 22.0
1973 Kentucky(ABA) 19 43.4 .497 .167 .795 11.8 1.5 27.4
1974 Kentucky(ABA) 8 38.9 .444 .848 10.9 1.8 .5 .8 18.5
1975 Kentucky(ABA) 15 38.5 .467 .811 7.9 1.9 1.1 .8 20.3
1976 Denver(ABA) 13 36.2 .489 .000 .786 12.0 2.5 1.0 .6 20.5
1977 Denver 6 37.0 .510 .756 9.7 2.8 .8 .7 22.0
1978 Denver 13 35.4 .486 .862 10.3 4.1 .5 .2 20.2
1979 Denver 3 36.3 .533 .806 9.3 3.3 .0 .0 24.3
1982 Denver 3 34.3 .533 1.000* 7.0 1.7 1.0 .3 25.3
1983 Denver 8 28.4 .507 .000 .862 7.3 3.1 1.1 .6 20.4
1984 Denver 5 30.6 .510 .500 .821 8.0 1.6 1.2 1.2 27.4
1985 Denver 15 4 21.7 .459 1.000 .813 3.6 1.8 .8 .3 12.4
Career 133 4 35.5 .487 .250 .822 9.4 2.1 .8 .6 22.1

Head coaching record[edit]


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Denver 1992–93 82 36 46 .439 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Denver 1993–94 82 42 40 .512 4th in Midwest 12 6 6 .500 Lost in Conf. Semi-finals
Denver 1994–95 34 18 16 .529 (Resigned)
Denver 1999–2000 82 35 47 .427 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Denver 2000–01 82 40 42 .488 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Denver 2001–02 26 9 17 .346 (fired)
Career 388 180 208 .464 12 6 6 .500

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "PressReader.com - Connecting People Through News". www.pressreader.com.
  2. ^ "Batavia Funeral Set for Father of NBA Great Dan Issel". Geneva, IL Patch. November 28, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Illinois Basketball Coaches Association". www.ibcaillinois.org.
  4. ^ a b c d e Looney, Douglas S. "King Of The Rocky Mountains". Vault.
  5. ^ a b c G, Linda (July 5, 2017). "Henricksen: Batavia basketball, community to celebrate the life of its native son, Craig Sager".
  6. ^ "Byron Von Hoff - BR Bullpen". www.baseball-reference.com.
  7. ^ a b "Q&A with Craig Sager - West Suburban Living - September 2016 - Elmhurst, IL". www.westsuburbanliving.net.
  8. ^ "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame :: Dan Issel". www.hoophall.com.
  9. ^ Staff, NBA com. "Legends profile: Dan Issel". NBA.com.
  10. ^ Kentucky downs Tennessee behind Meeks' 54 points ESPN. Retrieved on January 13, 2009.
  11. ^ a b "Dan Issel (2005) - UK Athletics Hall of Fame". University of Kentucky Athletics.
  12. ^ <https://admin.ukathletics.com/hof.aspx?hof=114
  13. ^ "Remember the ABA: Dan Issel". remembertheaba.com.
  14. ^ "NBA Players: Dan Issel Profile and Basic Stats". www.landofbasketball.com.
  15. ^ Nuggets roster moves put on hold. ESPN, November 11, 1999.
  16. ^ https://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=mc-afterthebuzzer030411
  17. ^ Roberts, Michael (December 20, 2001). "He Got Blame". Westword.
  18. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/basketball/news/2001/12/19/issel_apology_ap/
  19. ^ "Cheri Issel found love on the basketball court, now she's found passion on an artist's canvas". February 14, 2015.
  20. ^ says, Jeff Pendleton (November 8, 2018). "Jamie Vaught: Many years later, Dan Issel still an all-time favorite among Kentucky basketball fans".
  21. ^ Tribune, Deborah Kadin Special to the. "GREGORY ISSEL, 46, OF BASKETBALL FAMILY". chicagotribune.com.
  22. ^ Spears, Mark (March 4, 2011). "Issel finds peace after turmoil of NBA". Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  23. ^ Moss, Irv (February 3, 2014). "Colorado Classics: Dan Issel, former Denver Nuggets player, coach". Denver Post. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  24. ^ https://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/news/2018/02/15/nba-to-lousville-initiative-names-basketball-hall.html
  25. ^ a b "NBA.com: Dan Issel Bio". www.nba.com.
  26. ^ https://www.nba.com/nuggets/the-golden-age-issel-dempsey-080717#
  27. ^ "Dan Issel". Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
  28. ^ https://collegebasketballexperience.com/player-listing/
  29. ^ "2015 Inductees - BPS101". www.bps101.net.
  30. ^ Contributor, Tops Louisville. "Louisville, KY". www.topslouisville.com.
  31. ^ "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame :: Artis Gilmore". www.hoophall.com.

External links[edit]