The Philly Fifty, #24: Tom Gola, LaSalle/Warriors

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

Longevity – 4

Gola is one of a couple athletes on here who had stints in Philly with multiple teams. Gola spent 10 years playing in Philly, 4 with LaSalle (’51-’54) and 6 with the Warriors (’55-’61).

Peak – 4

In the college game, Gola was arguably the best player in the country over a period of several years. In 1953-54,  he led LaSalle to the title game and won the Final Four’s most outstanding player. In 1955 he was the UPI Player of the Year. In the NBA, he was a high level all-star, best suited as the 2nd or 3rd best option on a championship caliber team.

Popularity – 2

Big-5 fans and older fans will likely know Gola, but I’d wager many casual fans couldn’t tell you who he is. He does have a court named after him at LaSalle though.

Team Success – 5

Let’s start with LaSalle. In his 4 seasons, the Explorers went 98-22. They won the NIT tournament in 1952 and then the NCAA title in 1955. In addition to bringing an NCAA title to the city, Gola was a vital cog in bringing an NBA championship as well when the Warriors won it all in all in 1956. So in the span of two seasons he won an NCAA and NBA title in the same city. I wonder if that has been done before or since… During his full stint with the Warriors, they went 295-227 and also made the Finals in 1959.

Awards – 4

Once again we’ll start with college, where Gola was a first-team AA for three straight seasons. The year LaSalle won it all he swept the awards, winning National POY and tournament POY. He was a little less decorated in the NBA, but still went to 5 all-star games, and was named 2nd-team all NBA once.

Stats – 4

Gola holds one big college record that has stood since he graduated and will probably stand for a long, long time. 2,201 rebounds. The closest anyone has got recently is Kenneth Faried, who is 12th all time, and only stands at 1,673, and played in 18 fewer games. For his career, Gola averaged 18.6 boards per game. He wasn’t a one-trick pony though, averaging 20.9 points per game as well.

In the NBA, he didn’t fill the stat sheet quite as much, but was a very solid contributor. He averaged a double-double in 3 of his first 4 seasons while also dishing out 4-5 assists and playing great defense. For his career in Philly (400 games) he averaged 13.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 5 assists per game.

Historical Standing – 3

Gola is in the Naismith HOF primary for his college accomplishments.

Excitement – 2

Gola was a guy you absolutely wanted on your team, but rebounding and defense isn’t always sexy.

Total: 28

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

5 thoughts on “The Philly Fifty, #24: Tom Gola, LaSalle/Warriors”

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  4. Tom Gola is one of Philadelphia’s greatest – – top ten material in my opinion from the standpoint of measurable impact on his sport and his city.  He was a versatile hardwood pillar who exhibited all-around skill, strength, great reflexes/nose for the ball and poise during his playing career; carried himself with class and a certain reserve.  LaSalle High School, LaSalle College, Philadelphia/SF Warriors, New York Knicks; effective head coach of this city’s greatest ever college team (the 23-1 ’69-’70 #2 ranked LaSalle Explorers); eventual State Rep and City Controller (and Mayoral candidate).  A ’52 NIT Champion, ’54 NCAA Champion, (’55 team lost by 3 in NCAA Final to San Francisco College & 2 fellows named Bill Russell & K.C. Jones), ’56 NBA Champion; 4X All-American, 5X NBA All-Star; college and pro Hall Of Famer; a consummate competitor and a gentleman.  I give him a long standing ovation.   

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