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1955_02_19--030_SP Coaching the Pro

LARRY FRIED Mel ilntchi tussle which ins scores against New York in a 1 t h e K ni ckerbockers won, The Pistons January 15 Eckman, whose previous coaching experience was limited to am a teur softball, paces in front of his team at a game in New York. In the foreground: Piston cente r Larry Foust. 106-8 Coaching the Pros is a Cinch, He Says By STANLEY FRANK Charley Eckman, a referee with no basketball coaching experience whatso ever, became coach of the Ft. W ayne Pistons—and forthwith hauled an also- ran to the top of the league. What's more, he claims it was easy. "What can you teach All-Americans?*" he says. ’"Howto comb their hair?"" DO all right with the pros, but I couldn’t coach a college team,” Charley Eckman says. " I don’t know enough basketball. Working with a pro line-up full of All-Americans is a cinch, though. What do you have to teach them? How to comb their hair?” Eckman, the new coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons, will wind up with a blunt instrument etched on his brow if he continues to imply —and prove —th a t almost anyone can be a mastermind in the National Basketball Association. Such meas ures seem to be the only recourse left to rivals for cooling off a subversive who has made the racket look too easy. Although Eckman’s previous coach ing experience was limited to amateur softball, he turned the league upside down the first half of this 30 season with the same personnel th a t languished in the lower depths last year. For a long time the op position needed radar to keep within sight of the Pistons. They roared into the back stretch at close to a .700 pace, leading the Minneapolis Lakers, de fending champions, by five and a half games in the Western Division. Eckman has been the most intriguing feature of one of the pleasantest sports surprises of the year. Nobody thought that the team from Fort Wayne, which is by far the smallest town in the N.B.A., would run wild for any part of this season. The league’s seven other cities are all, in baseball par lance, either major-league or Triple-A. Fort Wayne, with a population of less than 140,000, is the only surviving carry-over from the recent past, when pro basketball was largely the game of small Mid western cities. Its team was a powerhouse in those days as the Fort Wayne Zollner P istons—bearing the full trade name of the club owner. Since joining the modem big-city league in 1948, however, the Pistons have never made much of a splash until this year. The fact that Fort Wayne’s upsurge coincided with Eckman s installation as coach has been irri tating enough to the league’s established coaches, but tha t is not the most unkindest cut. Before he went to Fort Wayne, Eckman was a referee in the N.B.A. — and the hostility of basketball coaches for referees is duplicated only by the an tip a th y between the mongoose and the cobra. Eckman never lost an argument while he was (Continued on !’«*<■ 110)


1955_02_19--030_SP Coaching the Pro
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