Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gola was praised as a great all-around player as a high school student, and he came to national attention while playing for local La Salle University Explorers in 1954 as an All-American forward. At 6'6", 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.
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 the 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.
Gola was married to Caroline in June of 1955, and they had one son. He served in the military from 1956 to 1958.
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 60's with Chamberlain.
Gola played with the New York Knicks from 1962 to 1966.
In 1968, he returned to La Salle University to serve as an acclaimed basketball 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. The school's Tom Gola Arena was named after him.
He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on April 26, 1976.
After his retirement from basketball, Gola served in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, followed by a stint as Philadelphia City Controller. He ran for city mayor in 1983, but came in third in the race.
On July 25, 2003, the 70-year-old Gola fell and suffered a head injury that left him in a coma for several days, but he soon recovered enough to return home.
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; first title game ever televised)
- College Basketball Player of the Year (1954)
- NCAA all-time rebound leader (2,201)
- 2,461 points
- 102-19 won-lost record
Pro Basketball Achievements
- World championship in his first professional year (1956)
- All-NBA Team (1958)
- NBA All-Star (five times, 1960-64)
- 7,871 career points
- One of only two players to win NCAA, NIT & NBA championships
- Basketball Hall of Famer
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