SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – He accepted a job teaching at a junior high school in his hometown of Newark, N.J., coming out of North Carolina A&T and figured he’d play in the Eastern League for fun on weekends. That’s how sure Al Attles was he had no real future in basketball.
He packed for one week when he set off for Hershey, Pa., and training camp as a Philadelphia Warriors rookie in 1960. That’s how sure Attles was he would have a short NBA life.
And now look. The teaching thing never worked out. And that short life in pro ball turned into 54 years with the same organization, leading to Attles being saluted tonight with the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall of Fame, the highest honor from the basketball museum short of enshrinement.
Attles played for the Warriors for 11 seasons, averaging 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He coached them for 13, resulting in six playoffs berths, two division crowns, the best mark in franchise history (59-23 in 1975-76) and the only championship in the West Coast era, the 1975 Finals win over Washington. He was general manager for three more seasons.
Now a community ambassador and a beloved member of the organization, he will be recognized as part of the Hall of Fame festivities that culminate with induction ceremonies for the Class of 2014 on Friday night at Symphony Hall.
“Alvin Attles contributed over 50 years to the Warriors and to the game of basketball,” John Doleva, the president of the Hall said when the honor was announced in February. “He impacted the lives of so many as a player, coach, ambassador and executive during his NBA tenure. We are honored to recognize coach Attles with this prestigious award.”
Others being saluted the next two days, in addition to Alonzo Mourning, David Stern, Mitch Richmond, Sarunas Marciulionis and Bob Leonard, in the Class of 2014:
Nat Clifton, with induction via the Early African-American Pioneers of the Game committee. Clifton played for the Harlem Globetrotters and for eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 10 points and 8.2 rebounds. Also in the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, he passed away in 1990.
Guy Rodgers, with induction via the Veterans committee. Rodgers led Temple to a pair of Final Four appearances, was a unanimous All-America in 1958 and played 12 seasons in the NBA, twice finishing first in assists. He passed away in 2001.
Nolan Richardson, with induction via the North American committee. Richardson coached Arkansas to the 1994 national championship and three Final Fours as part of a career that also included an NIT title at Tulsa, a junior-college crown with Western Texas and a college coaching mark of 509-207.
Gary Williams, with induction via the North American committee. The Maryland coach made 11 consecutive tournament appearances in the 1990s and 2000s, won the national championship in 2002, led teams to seven 25-wins seasons and finished 668-380.
Immaculata University, with induction via the Women’s committee. The school won three straight AIAW championships, from 1972 to 1974, while going 60-2 and became the first women’s team to play a nationally televised game. The roster included three future members of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame: Theresa Shank, Marianne Crawford and Mary Scharff.
Joe Gilmartin (print) and John Andariese (electronic), with the Curt Gowdy Media Award. Gilmartin was a columnist for the Phoenix Gazette for more than 30 years, wrote for the Suns’ website, was the team’s television analyst in the 1980s and was voted Arizona sportswriter of the year a record 16 times. Andariese has been a color commentator on Knicks games since 1972, when he teamed with Marv Albert, later joined TVS, ESPN, Turner, did radio broadcasts and currently handles Knicks duties for MSG Network.
Former referee Bob Delaney and former Charlotte owner Robert L. Johnson, with the Mannie Jackson-Basketball’s Human Spirit Award for “striving to improve the community, making a commitment to others, hard work and embracing the core values of the game.” Delaney, a former New Jersey State Police officer who worked undercover to fight organized crime, was cited for his work in providing awareness and education on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, is saluted for his philanthropic work.