Home Cherry Hill News Cherry Hill native pens biography on Philadelphia basketball legend Tom Gola

Cherry Hill native pens biography on Philadelphia basketball legend Tom Gola

David Grzybowski’s first book, “Mr. All-Around: The Life of Tom Gola” will be released on Nov. 15 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Author and Cherry Hill native David Grzybowski

La Salle University basketball legend and long-time Philadelphia resident Tom Gola was synonymous with the city for many years.

Gola is the NCAA’s all-time leading rebounder with 2,201 boards in his four years at La Salle University from 1951 to 1955. He was a five-time NBA all-star and played most of his career with Philadelphia Warriors. He is member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, coached La Salle for two years, served four years as the city controller in Philadelphia and even ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1983.

Despite the lengthy resume, La Salle grad and Cherry Hill native David Grzybowski was shocked to discover no one had written a book on Gola.

“People told me they were surprised this wasn’t already written,” Grzybowski said.

After five years of researching, interviewing and writing, Grzybowski has finally completed “Mr. All-Around: The Life of Tom Gola.” The 204-page book on Gola’s life is slated for release on Nov. 15.

This is the first book Grzybowski had written. A 2009 graduate of Cherry Hill High School West, Grzybowski attended La Salle University and was first introduced to Gola while writing for the school newspaper.

Grzybowski graduated from La Salle in 2013 and went into the broadcasting field, where he worked as a reporter for WPHL in Philadelphia and later WNCN in Raleigh, N.C., before moving back to the Philadelphia region last year. It was shortly after graduation in November of 2013 when Grzybowski finally decided to pursue writing a book on Gola during his free time outside of work.

“If you had told me I would be writing a book 10 years ago, you’re crazy,” Grzybowski said. “It would have never happened.”

Book cover for “Mr. All-Around: The Life of Tom Gola.”

Grzybowski began writing the book just a couple months prior to Gola’s death in January of 2014. Grzybowski was able to meet with Gola before his passing and has some direct quotes from him, but many of the quotes from Gola are attributed to past newspaper articles in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” and the “Philadelphia Bulletin.”

“My favorite part was the research phase, trying to find little anecdotes in an old newspaper or an old photo I didn’t know about,” Grzybowski said.

Grzybowski estimates he interviewed more than 125 people for the book. Some of his interviews include famous players who played with or against Gola, such as Bob Cousy, Bob Pettit and Jerry Lucas. Grzybowski also interviewed many influential people in Philadelphia basketball, including Fran Dunphy and Lionel Simmons. Grzybowski felt the interviews taught him a lot about Gola.

“When Gola walked into a room, you felt his presence, which is the main thing people talked to me about,” Grzybowski said. “When Tom Gola walked into a room, you knew Tom Gola walked into the room.”

“It’s cool to find more than just stats and game reviews and recaps,” Grzybowski added. “It was cool to see the interpersonal stuff and the way he impacted the community. It was more than just basketball.”

Grzybowski worked on the book whenever he was off from work, leading to some very long days.

“On my off days, I would just interview people,” he said. “It was convenient. When I was at channel 17, I would work the morning shift, so I would get off in the afternoon. I would call people and do research until bedtime, which would be 8 o’clock at night, because I would have to wake up at 2 a.m. for the morning show.”

Last year, Grzybowski decided to leave his job in North Carolina and move back to South Jersey. This move pushed him to finish the book.

“Writing a book was the hardest thing I’ve done in my professional career,” Grzybowski said. “More so than doing live TV shots or doing hard news stories.”

Leading up to the book’s release, Grzybowski is focusing his efforts on marketing. He has launched a website, http://tomgolabook.com, and has created a logo to go with book. Grzybowski has also created T-shirts and hats to market the biography.

“I think this book has reach, not just in Philadelphia,” Grzybowski said. “Gola is the all-time leading rebounder in NCAA history, so I think this is more than just a Philadelphia book.”

While Grzybowski continues to promote “Mr. All-Around,” he is also looking forward to his next book. While he is not yet publicly saying what book will be about, he is hoping for it be another basketball-related piece.

“Mr. All-Around: The Life of Tom Gola” is available for pre-order at the Temple University Press website, http://tupress.temple.edu, as well as on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites. For more information on the book and Grzybowski, visit http://tomgolabook.com.

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