Tom Gola

Last updated

Tom Gola
Tom Gola 1953.JPG
Gola in 1953
Personal information
Born(1933-01-13)January 13, 1933
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedJanuary 26, 2014(2014-01-26) (aged 81)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Listed height6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school La Salle College HS
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
College La Salle (1951–1955)
NBA draft 1955 / Pick: Territorial
Selected by the Philadelphia Warriors
Playing career1955–1966
Position Small forward / Shooting guard
Number15, 6
Career history
Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors
19621966 New York Knicks
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points 7,871 (11.3 ppg)
Rebounds 5,417 (7.8 rpg)
Assists 2,962 (4.2 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
Tom Gola
Philadelphia City Controller
In office
January 5, 1970 January 7, 1974
Preceded by Alexander Hemphill
Succeeded byWilliam Klenk
Member of the PennsylvaniaHouseofRepresentatives
from the 170th district
In office
January 7, 1969 January 5, 1970
Preceded byDistrict Created
Succeeded by Alvin Katz
Personal details
Political party Republican

Thomas Joseph 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 inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.


Early life

Gola was the third of seven children born to Ike and Helen Gola. Gola's father was a Philadelphia policeman of Polish descent who had changed the family's surname from "Galinsky". [1] 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.

College career (1951–1955)

Gola was one of the most talented collegiate athletes in Philadelphia sports history. He came to national attention while playing for his hometown La Salle University Explorers men's basketball team.

Gola starred as a college freshman and led La Salle to the 1952 NIT championship. [2] 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. 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 averaged 20.9 points and 19.0 rebounds during 115 games and remains the NCAA All time rebounding leader with 2,201 career rebounds.

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. [3] Gola was listed on "ESPN's Countdown to the Greatest" College basketball players as #17.

NBA career (1955–1966)

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 consistently reach the NBA Playoffs, but they could not beat the star-studded Boston Celtics in the NBA Eastern Division during his seasons in the early 1960s even with Chamberlain. During the 1959–60 season, Gola became the first Warrior to have three straight games with a triple-double (the only other being Draymond Green, 2016). On January 10, 1960, Gola recorded 18 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists in a 116–103 win over the New York Knicks. [4]

Gola played with the New York Knicks from 1962 to 1966. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 26, 1976.

Coaching career (1968–1970)

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.

Political career

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 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. [5] 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 Republican primary, behind Congressman Charlie Dougherty and the winner, John Egan, who went on to lose the fall general election to Wilson Goode. [6]

Personal life

Gola was married to Caroline Norris in June 1955, and they had one son Thomas Christopher.

Gola died on January 26, 2014, thirteen days after his 81st birthday, in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania. [1] A former US Army specialist, he was buried at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. [7]

Tom Gola Arena at La Salle University. Constructed in 1998. Penn La Salle Basketball.JPG
Tom Gola Arena at La Salle University. Constructed in 1998.

College basketball achievements

Pro basketball achievements

NBA career statistics

  GPGames 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
  Won an NBA championship

Regular season

1955–56 Philadelphia 6834.5.412.7339.15.910.8
1957–58 Philadelphia 5936.0.415.74610.85.513.8
1958–59 Philadelphia 6436.5.401.78711.14.214.1
1959–60 Philadelphia 7538.3.433.79410.45.515.0
1960–61 Philadelphia 7436.6.447.7479.43.914.2
1961–62 Philadelphia 6041.0.421.7659.84.913.7
1962–63 Philadelphia 2139.1.457.7587.03.513.0
1962–63 New York 5235.5.460.7847.14.312.0
1963–64 New York 7429.1.429.7266.33.59.1
1964–65 New York 7722.4.448.7394.12.97.0
1965–66 New York 7415.2.450.7813.92.64.4


1956 Philadelphia 1036.0.355.78310.15.812.3
1958 Philadelphia 840.9.330.74510.54.013.8
1960 Philadelphia 937.8.412.80610.65.612.6
1961 Philadelphia 342.3.206.75012.35.09.7
1962 Philadelphia 935.1.271.7608.22.76.3

College coaching record

Statistics overview
La Salle Explorers (Middle Atlantic Conferences)(1968–1970)
1968–69La Salle23–15–01st
1969–70La Salle14–123–22nd
La Salle:37–13 (.740)8–2 (.800)

‡ Ineligible for any postseason tournaments

Total:37–13 (.740)

      National champion        Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion        Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion      Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

See also

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  1. 1 2 Fitzpatrick, Frank; Juliano, Joe (January 26, 2014). "Philadelphia basketball great Tom Gola dies". The Philadelphia Inquirer . Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  2. Eskenazi, Gerald (January 27, 2014), "Tom Gola, a Philadelphia Hero, Dies at 81", The New York Times
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 15, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Philadelphia Warriors at New York Knicks Box Score, January 10, 1960". Basketball-Reference. Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  5. 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.
  6. "Gola, Thomas J." Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
Political offices
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Preceded by
District created
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 170th District
Succeeded by
Alvin Katz
Political offices
Preceded by
Alexander Hemphill
Philadelphia City Controller
Succeeded by
William Klenk