Tom Gola, one of the greatest all-around players to ever don a La Salle basketball jersey, passed away on Sunday at the age of 81.
Dick Jerardi of Philly.com confirmed the news on Sunday night, citing Gola's wife, Caroline, as his source.
Philadelphia 76ers Chief Executive Officer Scott O'Neil released a statement following the announcement of Gola's passing:
On behalf of the entire Philadelphia 76ers organization, we are deeply saddened to learn of the unfortunate passing of La Salle basketball legend Tom Gola. Tom will always be fondly remembered for his dedication to this city and as an icon for his accomplishments both on and off the court.
We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Caroline, and the entire Gola family during this difficult time.
The former La Salle and Sixers player spent his final days at St Joseph's Manor on Huntingdon Pike. Jerardi provides a little background information on the situation:
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.
Kevin Negandhi of ESPN is a Temple graduate and Philadelphia native and tweeted about the passing of Gola:
Rest in peace La Salle legend Tom Gola. Over 50 years later, still holds the all time college record in rebounds. Big 5 family.— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) January 27, 2014
Gola was a three-time All-American with the Explorers and was named the national player of the year in 1955. La Salle won both the 1952 NIT championship and NCAA title in 1954 with Gola as their leading scorer and rebounder.
He still stands as the school's third-leading scorer with 2,461 points and all-time leading rebounder as well as holding the NCAA record for most rebounds in a career with 2,201.
Following his collegiate career, Gola played in the NBA for 10 years. His most notable years were spent with the Sixers, then named the Philadelphia Warriors, where he won a championship in 1956 and was named an All-Star five times.
Gola later went on to coach at La Salle, and the home court for the Explorers was eventually named after him. In his two seasons as a coach, Gola would finish with a record of 37-13, including a 23-1 record in his first season at the helm.
The La Salle and Sixers great will forever be remembered as an innovative player who was able to play every position on the court and changed the La Salle program for the better.