Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission Approves Tom Gola Historical Marker
PHILADELPHIA – The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission recently announced that a historical marker commemorating the life of former La Salle men's basketball great Tom Gola has been approved. The marker, which will reside on campus outside Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center, is one of 18 new markers approved across the state. A dedication ceremony will be held prior to the first home game of the 2019-20 men's basketball season in November.
"I am truly grateful for this nomination to have been approved by the Commonwealth's Historical and Museum Commission on behalf of Tom Gola and family," La Salle University Chief of Staff & Executive Director of Government and Community Affairs Joe Meade said. "In 2017, I was approached by (La Salle alum) David Gryzbowski as he was conducting research for his recently published book, "Mr. All Around, the Life of Tom Gola."
"Immediately after the conversation," Meade continued, "David and I developed the marker application. Personally, this is an honor because I am in the proud 1,000 point club of La Salle College High School with Tom Gola. This effort adds to his lifelong legacy on the University's campus."
Considered one of the greatest basketball players of the mid-20th century and by some the greatest college basketball star in history, Gola played his high school basketball at La Salle College High School, winning a Philadelphia Catholic League Championship.
The 6-6 forward made the transition to college basketball in 1952, leading helping the Explorers to the National Invitation Tournament title as a freshman. Two years later, he was named National College Player of the Year and NCAA Tournament MVP as La Salle won a national championship.
Over his four-year career, the four-time All-American averaged 20.9 points and 19.0 rebounds over 115 games and remains the NCAA's all-time rebounding leader with 2,201 career boards. Gola also accumulated 2,461 points and still ranks third on La Salle's all-time scoring list.
A territorial draft choice by the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors in 1955, Gola went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA and is one of only two players to have won the NIT, as well as NCAA and NBA championships. He represented the United States in the 1964 "Behind the Iron Curtain" tour and was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976.
Following his illustrious playing career, Gola was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and represented Philadelphia's 170th District. After serving three years, he served as Philadelphia City Controller in 1970, joining politician Arlen Specter on a joint campaign that revolutionized political marketing within Philadelphia.
Also during this period, Gola took over as head men's basketball coach at his alma mater and put together one of the greatest seasons in program history in 1968-69. Widely regarded as the best Philadelphia Big 5 team ever assembled, the Explorers went 23-1 that season and ascended to No. 2 in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Gola continued to be a staple in Philadelphia through his commitment to public service, sports and the La Salle community until his death in 2014.
The new markers were selected from 55 applications, bringing the state's total to more than 2,300 since the program's inception in 1946. Nominations for historical markers may be submitted by any individual or organization. They are evaluated by independent experts from throughout the state and approved by the agency's commissioners