College basketball’s all-time leading rebounder, Tom Gola died Sunday in a Pennsylvania nursing home. Gola was 81. He passed away nearly eleven years after sustaining a head injury in a fall against a curb in 2003, and spending several days in a coma.
Gola was one of the few basketball stars to ever play for both an NCAA championship team (LaSalle in 1954) and an NBA champion (the Philadelphia Warriors in 1956). His LaSalle team also won the NIT championship in 1952, and finished second in the NIT in 1955. He closed his collegiate career with 2,201 rebounds – still a record – and 2,461 points. Joe Holup, who competed for George Washington, is the only other player who ever also recorded 2,000 career rebounds.
In ten NBA seasons, for the Warriors in both Philadelphia and San Francisco and for the New York Knicks, Gola averaged 11.3 points and eight rebounds per game. He later coached at his alma mater, LaSalle.
Gola later became a Pennsylvania State Representative, was Philadelphia’s city controller, and served under President Ronald Reagan as regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).