La Salle Legend Tom Gola Passes Away

Posted by Adam Stillman on January 27th, 2014

John Wooden might have said it best. The legendary former UCLA coach once described Thomas Joseph Gola as the “greatest all-round basketball player” he had ever seen. That seems an apt characterization for a player who won championships at every level of the sport before pursuing a coaching and political career. The basketball world lost a true legend when Gola died on Sunday just outside Philadelphia. He was 81.

Former La Salle legend Tom Gola passed away Sunday.

Former La Salle legend Tom Gola passed away Sunday. (Photo courtesy of philadelphia.cbslocal.com)

Gola set a standard for excellence that may never be surpassed. Standing at just 6’6″, he played much bigger than his frame would suggest, still holding the NCAA record for career rebounds with 2,201; only one other player (George Washington’s Joe Holup) has even eclipsed the 2,000-rebound plateau. Gola dominated the competition during his four-year career at La Salle, averaging 20.9 points and 19.0 rebounds per game over 121 games with the Explorers. A three-time All-American, Gola led La Salle to the 1952 NIT title, the 1954 NCAA championship (including the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award), and an NCAA runner-up placement in 1955. He was also the Helms Foundation National Player of the Year in 1954 and the UPI National Player of the Year in 1955.

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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #26 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2013

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Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#26 – Where A Memory Carries On Happens.


We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

 

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Morning Five: 06.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2013

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  1. The biggest news impacting college basketball over the weekend came from Tobacco Road, as the Raleigh News & Observer‘s Dan Kane has continued to push forward in his dogged pursuit of the truth involving to the North Carolina athletic department’s relationship with a decade-plus history of fraudulent courses involving many of its student-athletes. We plan on having more commentary available later today, but as Kane continues to show with his persistence, there doesn’t appear to be any question that the academic support people charged with assisting student-athletes in their coursework were entirely too cozy with the administrators – Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder — who were ultimately proven responsible for the no-show courses and other academically fraudulent activities. These recently released emails exhibit that Nyang’oro received perks and benefits that were ethically improper (i.e., sideline passes to UNC football games) given that athletes may have been steered to the bogus classes under his watch. This latest reveal gets Kane one step closer to a direct connection with the athletic department, as the academic support staff who appear to have been nudging athletes to these courses and providing Nyang’oro with perks are under the employ and direction of the athletic department. Are we to take at face value that these staff members were acting on their own in a rogue manner; or was there a wink-and-a-nudge agreement in existence here, from the top down? Credit to Kane to continue rattling the cage in Chapel Hill — apparently there are a number of possibly instructive emails that were not released because of student privacy and/or personnel concerns. We’ve said it before, but the University of North Carolina really needs to take more responsibility over this entire situation. 
  2. UNC, of course, has a ridiculously successful basketball program to protect, and keeping that brand viable and competitive is one of the cornerstones of the new ACC as it moves into a basketball environment that Mike Krzyzewski has already called the “best ever.” ESPN’s senior VP of college sports programming, Burke Magnus, did an interview with Al.com last last week, where he described college hoops programming as very important to ESPN’s continued success in the sports broadcasting marketplace, but also focused specifically on the new-and-improved Atlantic Coast Conference as the key to higher (even approaching college football) television ratings going forward. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner took the time to evaluate his statements — could ACC basketball become SEC football, in other words? — finding that Magnus’ hoped-for ratings may be a bit ambitious, but ESPN’s move of the ACC to Big Monday and the congregation of so many nationally-relevant programs in the same league will without question have a positive impact on viewer interest.
  3. Later today the sportscaster who probably had more influence than any other in making college basketball a name-brand, marquee American sport, will be inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. Dick Vitale, long before he was Dookie V. or some kind of embellished caricature of himself, was must-see viewing along with the teams of the 1980s and 1990s — if you listen to some of those broadcasts now on ESPN Classic, a keen observer will note that Vitale’s analysis was often spot on, making his more muted schtick considerably more appealing as an exciting conversational tool. At some point around the turn of the last decade when Vitale lost interest in providing thoughtful analysis and instead became synonymous with cheerleading for certain blue-blooded programs (ahem), many of the younger generation of fans turned on him and have rightfully viewed him as an anachronistic dinosaur ever since. Still, his influence on the sport as a whole is far beyond what any other national college hoops broadcaster has ever reached, and Vitale deserves all the accolades he is now receiving, in this, the twilight, of his long and illustrious career.
  4. There was some transfer news over the weekend, as former Indiana guard Maurice Creek announced that he will spend his graduate transfer year at George Washington, and Illinois forward Myke Henry announced that he will spend his final two seasons at DePaul. Both players are transferring back home, as Henry is a Chicago native and Creek grew up in the suburbs just outside Washington, DC. The new Colonial, Creek, represents a very intriguing situation — a one-time rising star whose career was sidetracked by multiple injuries, he could provide an immediate lift on the perimeter to a young team desperately in need of some senior leadership and scoring punch. Henry will have to sit out next season, but he will join a talented recruiting class in 2014-15 with a year of action under its belt that can probably use the versatility on the wing that Henry can provide.
  5. There was some very sad news over the weekend, as colorful longtime Miami (OH) head coach Charlie Coles passed away at the age of 71. As the Athens Messenger writes in a column about his life, Coles was “one of a kind,” the kind of old school coach who “always had a minute; always had a story.” He retired from basketball in 2012 after enduring years of health issues, but his teams at Miami were generally known as very tough outs — he took the Red Hawks to three NCAA Tournaments including a Sweet Sixteen in 1999, a couple of NITs and CBIs, and was regularly competitive in the even-steven environment of the MAC. Twitter reaction around the college hoops universe about Coles‘ passing was proper and respectful, but this video of his press conference after a close-but-no-cigar loss at Kentucky in the 2009-10 season is perhaps more revealing (and fun). You can leave his family a note on his Legacy page here; he certainly will be missed.
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Morning Five: 07.11.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2012

  1. Everyone feel free to let out a big sigh… Former Arizona malcontent and SMU transfer Josiah Turner has decided to follow his dream to play in the NBA by forgoing college basketball in favor of taking a shot with the D-League or spending next season in Europe to hone his game for next year’s draft. As he put it in an interview with Yahoo Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg Tuesday, “In college, you get your degree and everything, but going pro is getting me closer to my dream and what I want to do in life.” Turner was set to become new head coach Larry Brown’s first big recruit at SMU, but for now it appears that he’s putting all of his eggs into a rather competitive basket. He admits that alcohol and marijuana contributed to his paltry stats (6.8 PPG; 2.4 APG) and disciplinary problems during his one year in Tucson, but he also says that his partying days are behind him and he’s matured from that experience. Will we ever hear from Turner again — is anyone willing to take the affirmative?
  2. It’s no secret that Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy is, much like us, a defender of the inherent value of the game of college basketball. His latest piece brings up an interesting fact that we weren’t aware of prior to reading it — of the 144 basketball players who will participate in the London Olympics later this month, no fewer than 46 of them (32%) spent time developing at US colleges. When you consider that the qualifiers range from Nigeria (Arizona State’s Ike Diogu) to Australia (St. Mary’s Patty Mills) to Great Britain (GW’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu) to Lithuania (Maryland’s Sarunas Jasikevicius) to the good ol’ USA (Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and others), you quickly realize that for many countries the American college game has become an elite training ground for the world’s top amateur talent.
  3. We sadly mentioned in yesterday’s M5 the passing of Stanford’s Peter Sauer, which reportedly was caused by a condition associated with an enlarged heart. Today’s M5 brings even more bad news in that UCLA guard Kenny Heitz, a key member of John Wooden’s three-time national champions from 1967-69, passed away in Pacific Palisades at the age of 65. Heitz and Lew Alcindor were in the same class at UCLA (talk about fortuitous timing!) and their teams went a ridiculous 88-2 over their paired careers. Rather than pursuing a professional basketball career after graduation, the Academic All-American went on to Harvard Law School and became a top-drawer commercial litigation attorney in Southern California. Thoughts go out to his family, and we hope he rests in peace.
  4. Another member of the UCLA family, Josh Smith, is entering his junior season as a Bruin. His weight problem was a major distraction last season, as he often struggled to run the court two or three times without getting winded, and Ben Howland’s team suffered as a result. Peter Yoon of ESPNLosAngeles caught up with the talented but enigmatic center recently and discovered that Smith appears to finally be taking seriously the gifts of skill and size that have been given to him. Smith said that last summer he simply returned home to Washington state and goofed around with his free time, but this summer he has remained in Westwood and is working with a nutritionist who has helped him already lose 15 pounds and improve his conditioning. It certainly remains to be seen whether any of this will actually stick for Smith, as we feel like we’ve heard this before (not only from him but Renardo Sidney also comes to mind) and he needs to melt a lot more than 15 bills from his frame. But… and this is a big if… if Smith is in shape and the Wear twins are at all adequate, then Ben Howland will have the best frontcourt in America.
  5. It appears that the nation’s athletic directors are in a giving mood this month. Third year Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery received a revised seven-year contract that will pay him an average of between $1.6 to $1.9 million over that period, depending on whether he hits certain NCAA Tournament incentives. Keep in mind that, although McCaffery has certainly got the Hawkeye program heading in the right direction (from 11-20 his first year to 18-17 last season), he has yet to finish in the top half of the Big Ten nor done any damage nationally. This is a rather unbelievable deal for someone who has yet to even sniff the NCAAs in his time in Iowa City — but hey, we’re rooting for the guy to earn it. Good for him.
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Morning Five: 07.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 10th, 2012

  1. Fans of west coast basketball from the 90s were saddened on Monday with the news that former Stanford forward Peter Sauer collapsed and died on Sunday during a pickup basketball game in White Plains, New York. Sauer was a team captain who averaged 7.9 PPG for his career and played a significant role in leading the Cardinal to its second-ever Final Four in the 1997-98 season, where it lost in overtime to eventual national champion Kentucky in the semifinals. His graduating class of 1999 was one of the most successful in program history — in four seasons, it won 90 games, a Pac-10 title, attended four straight NCAA Tournaments, and was a large part of the renaissance of Stanford basketball by turning a historically woeful program into a national powerhouse. Sauer leaves behind a wife and three young daughters, a man in the prime of his life taken away far too soon. May he rest in peace.
  2. In an odd coincidence, Sauer’s college coach at Stanford, Mike Montgomery, also made news on Monday. The curmudgeonly California coach signed an extension that will keep him coaching until at least the 2015-16 season. In four seasons so far at Berkeley, Montgomery has fielded scrappy and competitive teams that have been invited to three NCAA Tournaments (no easy task in the Pac-10/12), but he has not yet achieved the national success that he did at Stanford in the latter part of his career across the bay (e.g., three 30-win seasons). Still, the Cal administration clearly appreciates the work that Montgomery has already put in, and he stands to keep the Golden Bears among the better basketball programs of the Pac-12 for years to come.
  3. We mentioned last week that Syracuse recently released an independent report that suggested its program and administration did not act to cover up allegations made against assistant coach Bernie Fine in 2005, but could have acted more promptly in notifying authorities of the charges made against him. The lawyer for one of Fine’s accusers (Bobby Davis) responded on Monday — it would be quite the understatement to suggest that Gloria Allred disagrees. After describing the university’s report as a “complete whitewash” of the relevant events seven years ago, she went on to say that the report’s contention that there was no cover up does not “pass the laugh test.” (hmm… where have we heard that phrase used before?) Allred went on to say that Syracuse’s investigation of the allegations against Fine in 2005 were done to protect the university rather than learn the truth — whether all of her claims here are true or not, she’s certainly rattling the cage and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
  4. July has long been known in college basketball circles as the month when coaches jet around the country to sit in hot gyms and evaluate the stars of tomorrow at the various camps. Though the names and locations have changed, the song and dance is still largely the same. Mike DeCourcy gives us a thorough primer of some of the top storylines in this year’s summer circuit, set to begin on Wednesday from Indianapolis, Philadelphia and just outside of DC. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is something that we noted in this space a couple of weeks ago — most of the top players in the Class of 2013 have held off on their commitments, which means that the summer evaluation period is likely to be more competitive as players angle to catch coaches’ eyes heading into the all-important fall signing period. DeCourcy also discusses the battle for the top player in the class, and how Jay Wright needs an impact player out on the Main Line sooner rather than later.
  5. While on the subject of recruiting, ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf writes a fascinating article about the recent arrival and impact of Canadian recruits on college basketball’s landscape. As he notes early in the piece, five Canadians have been selected in the last two NBA Drafts, and the top overall player in the Class of 2014, Andrew Wiggins, is a native Canuck as well. Then there are the current collegians, such as Texas’ Myck Kabongo, UNLV’s Khem Birch and Anthony Bennett, Marquette’s Junior Cadougan, and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. Call it the Steve Nash Effect (unless you prefer Jamaal Magloire), but much of the talent pool derives from the large immigrant minority populations that have settled in the metropolises of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal in the last 30 years — the children of those immigrants came up with the NBA in Canada and are now starting to find their way to the elite levels of American basketball. As the game of basketball continues its growth as the world’s second-favorite sport, we’re going to see college basketball take on an increasingly international flavor in much the same way that the NBA has over the last 15 years.
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