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Dave Wohl

Sport: Basketball

Born: June 23, 1977

Town: East Brunswick

David Bruce Wohl was born November 2, 1949 in Queens and moved to New Jersey from Flushing when he was in junior high school. A tall and rangy athlete with a strong left arm and great leadership skills, Dave starred for East Brunswick High School as a point guard and quarterback. The 1966 football team went 7–1–1 with Dave at the helm and won a share of the sectional title. Their only loss was to archrival South River, led by Joe Theismann.

Dave was recruited to play for the University of Pennsylvania football team but switched to basketball once he arrived on campus. The Quakers had been invited to just one NCAA Tournament when he joined the team. Under coach Dick Harter, Penn won the Ivy League title in 1970 and 1971, earning tourney berths both times. Dave developed into a lightning-quick floor leader who was All-Ivy as a junior and senior. He led a 1970–71 squad that co-starred forwards Bob Morse and Corky Calhoun. Morse, the Quakers’ top scorer, would go on to become a huge star in Europe. Calhoun was the fourth overall pick in the 1972 NBA Draft and helped the Portland Trailblazers win the 1977 title.

In 1971, the Quakers went into the NCAA Tournament undefeated, and then beat Duquesne and South Carolina to reach the Elite 8—where they were blown out by the Villanova Wildcats, who made it all the way to the championship game. Nova’s star forward, Howard Porter ,scored 35 points and dominated the boards with 15 rebounds against the Dave and his teammates; Porter would go on to be named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament. However, there was just one problem: Porter had signed with an agent prior to the tournament when he saw the draw. Dave and the Quakers had beaten the Wildcats twice that year, and South Carolina had a formidable team led by All-Americans John Roche, Tom Riker and Tom Owens. Porter didn’t believe his team had a chance. When the NCAA later found out about the rules violation, it vacated Villanova’s wins.

Thus Penn became the only team to go undefeated in the regular season and NCAA Tournament that did not win a national championship.

Dave was selected by the hometown 76ers in the third round of the 1971 NBA Draft. He was a member of an aging club coached by Jack Ramsey, and scored 8.1 points a game backing up Archie Clark and Hal Greer. The 76ers traded him to Portland prior to the next season, where he was briefly reunited with Calhoun before being waived. Dave caught on with the Buffalo Braves, where Ramsey had landed after leaving Philly. One of Ramsey’s assistants was Bob MacKinnon, who became a big fan of Dave’s during his time in Buffalo. Midway through the 1973–74 season, Dave was traded to the Houston Rockets. He played an important role in their run to the playoffs in 1974–75, spelling guards Mike Newlin and Calvin Murphy and earning a reputation for rarely making a bad pass or taking an ill-advised shot. Dave finished his playing career with the Nets under Kevin Loughery in 1978.

Dave averaged about 20 minutes a game during his NBA career, with 3.4 assists and 6.2 points—sometimes as a starter, sometimes as a sub—for a number of bad teams. He became a student of the game and had an ability to read the floor whether he was part of the action or on the bench. When his playing career ended, Loughery made him an assistant, and Dave went on to work for Don Nelson in Milwaukee and Pat Riley in Los Angeles. The Lakers reached the NBA Finals all three years Dave was with the team, and won the championship in 1985.

Dave was named head coach of the Nets in 1985–86 and made MacKinnon one of his assistants. The team’s roster was full of misfits and strange personalities, but he managed to coax a respectable 39–43 out of them the first year and actually made the playoffs. The team tanked the following season and Dave was replaced by MacKinnon a month into the 1987–88 campaign. Dave rejoined Riley’s staff in Miami and spent most of the next two decades in an assistant coaching or front office role for the Kings, Clippers, Lakers, Magic, Celtics and Timberwolves. In 2014, he was named GM of the Clippers, reuniting with coach Doc Rivers. Dave had been part of Rivers’s staff in Orlando and Boston. He held that job through the 2016–17 season.

 

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