Former La Salle star, coach Tom Gola dies

Former La Salle basketball star, coach and Hall of Famer Tom Gola has died. He was 81.
January 27, 2014 3:49:34 PM PST
Former La Salle basketball star, coach and Hall of Famer Tom Gola died Sunday. He was 81.

In a basketball-crazed city with a deep history, Gola was as legendary as they come.

He was the man who led La Salle to the NIT Championship as a freshman, the 1954 NCAA Championship two years later, and then an NBA Championship with the Philadelphia Warriors two years after that.

"He took a small Catholic regional school and made it nationally known. He not only did it as a player but he did it as a coach," said Dr. John Gianinni.

Fran Dunphy knows a lot about that. He played for Gola when he returned to coach at La Salle from 1968-1970. Dunphy has considered Gola a mentor, ever since.

"He didn't let you come up for air. He knew what he wanted to get done and he was one of the simplest of guys that I ever met. He was truly a man's man," said Dunphy.

So much more than just the namesake of La Salle's arena, Gola went on to have a political career and ran various businesses.

However he always had time for the game he loved.

"I got to know him on that side as a human being. If this city could have a whole lot of Tom Golas then this city would be a lot better than it is today," said Sonny Hill.

Gola was a five time NBA All Star, the current NCAA record holder for career rebounds, and a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gola had a huge impact on basketball but an even greater impact, on people.

Dunphy is grateful he got to see him Friday to say goodbye.

"This indomitable spirit was not him. You just got a little chance to be with him, to touch his head, and tell him you love him. It's tough to see him like that," said Dunphy.

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