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Guy Rodgers, Philly hoops legend, dead at 65

Rodgers' career highlights

Friday, February 23, 2001
Guy was always in control
By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to

Guy Rodgers is listed among the All-Time Great Players in the Official NBA Register.
Guy Rodgers
In the 1962-63 season, Guy Rogers led the NBA with 825 assists.
He was a first round, territorial draft choice from Temple University of Philadelphia in 1958 and accompanied the Warriors to San Francisco when the franchise moved there in 1961.

Rodgers had a good NBA career; was a four-time participant in the All-Star game; and twice led the league in assists (10.4 in 1963 with San Francisco and 11.2 in 1967 with Chicago). He was the playmaker on some good NBA teams -- Philadelphia, that lost to Boston in seven games in the 1962 Conference Finals, and San Francisco when it lost again to the Celtics in five games in the 1964 NBA Finals. He averaged 11.7 points and 7.8 assists over his 12-year career. Guy had great speed, was quick getting into the open court and was skilled in finding open teammates, although an under 40% shooter himself from the perimeter.

As good as his NBA career was, I remember Guy Rodgers best as a collegiate All-American at Temple in the mid-1950s. Temple had great teams in those years, coached by Hall of Famer Harry Litwack. The Owls were ranked among the top three annually, and advanced to the NCAA Final Four twice and the NIT once -- finishing third each time. I coached at St. Joseph's College at that time, which was the beginning of the highly intense Philadelphia Big Five (Temple, Penn, St. Joseph's, La Salle and Villanova) competition.

In the early years, the Big Five championships always seemed to come down to a final game between Temple and St. Joe's, and I yet recall the problems that Litwack's zone posed for my teams. Rodgers was their star player and teamed with Hal Lear, a player of equal speed, to form the front line of Temple's defense. Rodgers was especially quick-handed, and frequently picked opposing guards clean of the ball and then fed scoring passes to the streaking Lear for lay-ups.

Rodgers never seemed to tire; he ran with a gliding stride that appeared half-speed, but enabled him to easily out-run his pursuers. He played with a half-smile on his face, as if he fully enjoyed the game and its challenges. He played under complete control -- I can't recall him ever questioning an official's decision. Guy was always poised in the most extreme pressure situations, rarely made a passing error, and had the knack of coming up with the field goal or assist when his team needed it the most.

I last saw Guy when I coached a team of former NBA players in the Senior World Games, which were held in Bermuda about five years ago. Like all of us, he had aged some, and had put on weight so that he was no longer able to run the floor like he once did. But his demeanor was the same...still under full control, still the team player looking for the open man... with that half-smile that told you he still loved the game.

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