Tom Gola, a Philadelphia sporting legend, passed away early Sunday afternoon at St. Joseph's Manor on Huntingdon Pike. He was the star of La Salle's NCAA and NIT champions, the coach of what many consider the greatest Big 5 team in history (1968-69 La Salle) and one of the transcendent players of the 1950s. He revolutionized college basketball by being the first man of his size (6-6) able to play any position on the court.
His wife, Caroline, confirmed Mr. Gola's passing.
It was July 25, 2003, when Gola, slipped, hit his head on a curb, went into a coma and nearly died. He would start to get better then suffer terrible seizures. Eventually, he began to fall and could not get up. Gola, 81, spent his final years at the Manor, connected to the Holy Redeemer Hospital.
In his four seasons at La Salle, Gola scored 2,461 points and got 2,201 rebounds, an NCAA record that will never be broken. He averaged 20.9 points and 18.7 rebounds. His La Salle teams' records were 102-19.
Gola, a great success in business, never forgot his roots - 3rd and Lindley, two blocks from Incarnation Parish. He went to La Salle High, La Salle College, the NBA and eventually the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. La Salle University now plays its game in Tom Gola Arena.