Tom Gola

Tom Gola

Gola in 1953
Personal information
Born (1933-01-13)January 13, 1933
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died January 26, 2014(2014-01-26) (aged 81)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Listed weight 205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school La Salle (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
College La Salle (1951–1955)
NBA draft 1955 / Pick: Territorial
Selected by the Philadelphia Warriors
Playing career 1955–1966
Position Small forward / Shooting guard
Number 15, 6
Career history
19551962 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 by William Klenk
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 170th district
In office
January 7, 1969  January 5, 1970
Preceded by District 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.

Early life

Gola was the oldest of seven children born to Ike and Helen Gola. Gola's father was a Philadelphia policeman of Polish descent who had shortened 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.

La Salle

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

Gola starred as a college freshman and led La Salle to the 1952 N.I.T. 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. He averaged 20.9 points and 19.0 rebounds during 115 games and holds the NCAA record with 2,201 career rebounds. 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 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.


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).

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.

Return to La Salle

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.


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
La Salle Explorers (Middle Atlantic Conferences) (1968–1970)
1968–69 La Salle 23-1 5-0 1st
1969–70 La Salle 14-12 3-2 2nd
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

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 State 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.[4] 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 field Republican primary, behind Congressman Charlie Dougherty and the winner, John Egan, who went on to lose the fall general election to Wilson Goode.[5]


Gola was married to Caroline Norris in June 1955, and they had one son Thomas Christopher. Gola died on January 26, 2014 at the age of 81 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.[6]

College basketball achievements

Pro basketball achievements

See also


  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
  4. 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.
  5. "Gola, Thomas J.". Our Campaigns. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  6. Tom Gola at Find a Grave
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
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