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Al Attles guided the Warriors to the 1975 NBA championship over the heavily favored Washington Bullets, making him the second African American coach to win an NBA title (the first was Bill Russell)
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The Warriors during their first 40 years in the Bay Area employed 19 different coaches, only one of which led them to an NBA Championship.

Those Warriors didn’t simply win the NBA Finals, they did so in a sweep – and with only one All-Star on the roster.

Motivating and inspiring that team to a championship in 1975 was Alvin Attles’ finest professional hour – until Friday.

That’s when Attles received a phone call that, frankly, was overdue. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame informed him that he had been elected, as part of the Class of 2019, to join the ranks of the game’s legends.

Upon getting the news that he had been chosen, Attles responded with typical good-natured humility.

“The first thing he said about his selection,” according to his son, Alvin Attles III, “is that everybody makes a mistake.”

That surely was the reaction around much of the sports world when the Warriors shocked the Washington Bullets back in ’75.

@youngvino1616

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The Bullets (now the Wizards) had three All-Stars – Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, and Phil Chenier. Their 60-22 record tied the Celtics for the best in the league, and they ousted Boston from the Eastern Conference Finals in six games.

Though the Warriors, with Rick Barry as their only All-Star, finished 48-34 that season, they embraced the underdog role and won four games by a combined margin of 16 points.

That the Warriors won every game by single digits is a reflection of their mental toughness and basketball intellect, two attributes also associated with Attles during his 11-season playing career, providing team owner Franklin Mieuli with sound reasons make Attles a player-coach over his final two seasons before becoming a full-time head coach in 1971.

Attles won a title with a roster with players – rookie Keith (later Jamaal) Wilkes was the No. 2 scorer at 14.2 points per game – that embodied his characteristics surrounding Barry, who averaged more than 15 points per game.

Attles, 82, usually is a fixture at Warriors games, sitting in his personal seat atop the lower bowl at Oracle Arena. In his 59th year with the Warriors in several capacities, he attended a few games earlier this season but has not been on site in recent months while coping with an undisclosed medical condition.

MORE ON AL ATTLES

Alvin Austin Attles Jr. (born November 7, 1936) is an American retired professional basketball player and coach best known for his longtime association with the Golden State Warriors.

He is a graduate of Weequahic High School in Newark, New Jersey and North Carolina A&T State University. He has a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and History along with a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. He intended to return to Newark and coach at his local junior high school when he was drafted by the Warriors. He initially declined before accepting and going to training camp.

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Attles joined the then-Philadelphia Warriors in 1960. On March 2, 1962, he was the team’s second-leading scorer with 17 points on the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points. There is a probably apocryphal story to the effect that one of the sportswriters covering the game began his filing with the lede “HERSHEY, Pa. — Wilt Chamberlain and Al Attles combined for 117 points last night as the Philadelphia Warriors defeated the New York Knicks 169-147.” Attles moved with the team to the Bay Area at the end of the 1962 season, playing until 1971. Attles was known as “The Destroyer” due to his defensive specialities along with once punching a player in the jaw. He was a role player on the 1964 Warriors team (with Wilt Chamberlain and Guy Rodgers) that made the NBA Finals and eventually lost the championship series to the Boston Celtics, four games to one. Attles also played on the Warriors’ 1967 team that lost to Chamberlain’s 68-13 Philadelphia 76ers in an evenly matched, six-game championship series.

Coaching career

Attles later became one of the first African-American coaches in the NBA when he was named player-coach of the Warriors midway through the 1969–70 season, succeeding George Lee. Attles guided the Warriors to the 1975 NBA championship over the heavily favored Washington Bullets, making him the second African American coach to win an NBA title (the first was Bill Russell). Attles’ team tried to repeat the following season, but they lost to the Phoenix Suns in the Conference Finals in seven games. The team would make the playoffs only once more for the remainder of his tenure as coach. Attles was replaced by Johnny Bach for the last 21 games of the 1979–80 NBA season (a season in which the Warriors finished tied for dead last), though he returned for the next season (Bach would become Attles’ permanent successor after 1983). Attles coached the Warriors until 1983, compiling a 557-518 regular season record (588-548 including playoffs) with six playoff appearances in 14 seasons. During the 1983–84 season, Attles worked as the Warriors’ general manager. He is the longest-serving coach in Warriors history.

Honors

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In 2014 Attles was the recipient of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award—an annual basketball award given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to an individual who has contributed significantly to the sport of basketball, the award is the highest and the most prestigious honor presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame other than enshrinement.

Attles’s number 16 is retired by the Warriors and he attends every Warriors home game. He also serves as a team ambassador. On February 7, 2015, Attles’ #22 was retired by North Carolina A&T, the first ever retired by the team. He was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

Attles has been on the Warriors’ payroll in one capacity or another for 58 years, the longest uninterrupted streak of any person for one team. Attles and his wife Wilhelmina reside in Oakland and have two adult children.

Head coaching record

Legend
Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
San Francisco 1969–70 30 8 22 .267 6th in Western
San Francisco 1970–71 82 41 41 .500 2nd in Pacific 5 1 4 .200 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Golden State 1971–72 82 51 31 .622 2nd in Pacific 5 1 4 .200 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Golden State 1972–73 82 47 35 .573 2nd in Pacific 11 5 6 .455 Lost in Conf. Finals
Golden State 1973–74 82 44 38 .537 2nd in Pacific
Golden State 1974–75 82 48 34 .585 1st in Pacific 17 12 5 .706 Won NBA Championship
Golden State 1975–76 82 59 23 .720 1st in Pacific 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conf. Finals
Golden State 1976–77 82 46 36 .561 3rd in Pacific 10 5 5 .500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Golden State 1977–78 82 43 39 .524 5th in Pacific
Golden State 1978–79 82 38 44 .463 6th in Pacific
Golden State 1979–80 61 18 43 .295 6th in Pacific
Golden State 1980–81 82 39 43 .476 4th in Pacific
Golden State 1981–82 82 45 37 .549 4th in Pacific
Golden State 1982–83 82 30 52 .366 5th in Pacific
Career 1,075 557 518 .518 61 31 30 .508