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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rest in Peace, Tom Gola

My father died over a quarter century ago, and, with him, started to die a generation of people who could tell good stories.  Part of the reason they told good stories is that they didn't have the internet, videos, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and all of the other sites to tell their stories for them.  They had to speak, they had to change their cadence, they had to pause, they had to talk fast, then slow, all to create a mood and bring back memories.  Memories of small gyms, of when Philadelphia was the center of the college basketball universe, of when the likes of Villanova, Temple, Penn, Temple and St. Joe's played at the Palestra, the palace of the basketball Gods, and when players like, well, Bill Mlkvy, the Owl without a Vowel, became a two-time first-team all-American, only to be eclipsed by LaSalle's great forward Tom Gola, who became both a two-time first-team all-American and a two-time Player of the Year.

They talked of gyms and parishes and games and neighborhoods, and pick-up games and playgrounds and summer games, games in the mountains and games at the Jersey shore, about when Earl the Pearl parked his Rolls in the middle of Broad Street and then lit up a Baker League game for 50 points in the second half (okay, so that was over ten years later), and they talked of guys like Rodgers, Lear, White, Arizin, Melchionni, Baum, Pawlak, Littlepage, Hankinson, Morse, Durrett, Porter, Ford, Siemientowski, Inglesby, and, well, my memory of the legends has faded a bit.  Perhaps it's because, well, those games took place a long time ago, and perhaps it's because I haven't been around the guys who could tell the stories the way my dad and some of his friends could.  But Bill Raftery can still tell those stories.  So can Sonny Hill.  And many others.

Tom Gola was a great player.  One of the best.

He will be missed.

You can read a short obituary here.


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