Mr. All-Around

The Life of Tom Gola

David Grzybowski, foreword by Bill Raftery
Book Cover

HC: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1679-7
Publication: Nov 18

Ebook: $27.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1681-0
Publication: Nov 18

208 pages
6 x 9
30 halftones

The first, definitive biography of La Salle basketball icon Tom Gola

Read Chapter 16 (pdf).


Tom Gola is a Philadelphia Big Five basketball icon who led La Salle College to the National Invitation Tournament championship in 1952 and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in 1954 and holds the NCAA record for most rebounds in a career. He helped the Philadelphia Warriors win the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship as a rookie in 1956 and was named an All-Star five times before retiring in 1966. But Gola also had many amazing successes as a coach; his La Salle Explorer teams were an important part of the national collegiate basketball landscape. In 1976, Gola was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Transitioning from the NBA to politics, Gola served as Pennsylvania state representative and then Philadelphia city controller. His dedication to public service included a joint campaign with politician Arlen Specter that revolutionized political marketing in Philadelphia.

In this definitive biography, reporter David Grzybowski draws on not only his exclusive 2013 interviews with Gola but also anecdotes by such legends of Philadelphia and basketball history as John Chaney, Fran Dunphy, and Lionel Simmons. Mr. All-Around is a heartfelt testament to the life, career, and legacy of one of Philadelphia’s most beloved sports legends.


For a player from the 1950s and 1960s, Tom Gola was dramatically ahead of his time. He could pass, rebound, and score. Of most significance, he had the ability to make his teammates better players. At La Salle College and in his NBA days, he had the smartest basketball mind of his era, winning championships at every level of the sport. And all this was followed by a successful second career in politics. His amazing life is beautifully captured by David Grzybowski in the aptly titled Mr. All-Around.”
Marv Albert, Basketball Hall of Fame Broadcaster

Tom Gola’s service and devotion to Philadelphia always impressed allies and opponents on the court, on the campaign trail, and in office. My fellow La Salle College graduates and Philadelphians may know Gola best for his athletic career, but I enjoyed David Grzybowski’s Mr. All-Around for its coverage of Gola's notable career in Philadelphia politics as well. Gola, who grew up in Philadelphia, was a family man, a soldier in the army, a business owner, and a local politician. Gleaning from personal interviews with Gola and the folks who knew him best, Grzybowski recounts each aspect of his life with heart and enthusiasm.”
Mayor Jim Kenney (La Salle College, 1980)

Tom Gola was, literally and figuratively, a towering figure in the sport of basketball. With accounts of achievements beyond the court that also loom large, this biography is well worth reading. David Grzybowski has done an outstanding job of capturing both the talents and the character of this unique and important figure in sports history. Whether you’re a native of Philly, a basketball enthusiast, or a fan of captivating history and interesting individuals, Mr. All-Around is the book for you.”
Seth Davis, College Basketball Reporter, CBS Sports and The Athletic

"Basketball fans will certainly find much to enjoy in David Grzybowski's Mr. All-Around , a long overdue biography of this Pennsylvania hoops icon." — Pennsylvania Heritage

Table of Contents

    Foreword, by Bill Raftery

  1. 3rd and Lindley
  2. La Salle College High School
  3. La Salle College: 1952 NIT Championship and 1953 Season
  4. 1954 NCAA Champions
  5. 1955: Gola versus K.C. Jones and Bill Russell
  6. Love Letters and Wildwood
  7. Gola to the NBA
  8. Uncle Sam Called
  9. San Francisco and a New York Knicks State of Mind
  10. The "Behind the Iron Curtain" Tour
  11. Gola Becomes Head Coach at La Salle
  12. Gola's Political Career Begins
  13. They're Younger, They're Tougher, and Nobody Owns Them
  14. 1973 City Controller Reelection
  15. Tom Gola for Mayor
  16. One Call to Superman
  17. The Legacy of Number 15
  18. A Call from the Hall
  19. Gola at Work and at Home

  20. Acknowledgments
    Appendix 1. Correspondence
    Appendix 2. Statistics

About the Author(s)

David Grzybowski is a former television news reporter for WPHL in Philadelphia, where he covered the 2015 visit by Pope Francis, the annual Philadelphia Mummers Parade, the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and the 2016 Villanova Wildcats NCAA championship run. He also reported for WNCN in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he covered both the 2017 University of North Carolina NCAA championship title run and Hurricane Matthew. Visit him online at