Al Attles came to the Warriors as a fifth-round draft choice in 1960 with very limited hopes. Forty-six years later, he was honored this week by having a refurbished basketball court at Lincoln Square Park in Oakland dedicated to him.
“I only packed enough clothes for two weeks when I came to the Warriors,” he remembered. “I was surprised even to be drafted and I didn’t think I’d be around long.”
Now, his 46-year run with the Warriors is second in the NBA only to Red Auerbach, who has been with the Boston Celtics since 1950.
Attles is one of the nicest men in sports but beneath that personality is an intensity that earned him the nickname of “The Destroyer” as a player and enabled him to control even Rick Barry in coaching the Warriors to their only NBA title since they moved to the Bay Area.
The court named after him, which is only about two blocks from the Warriors’ practice facility, is one of 23 outdoor courts in the Bay Area that the Warriors and the Good Tidings Foundation have combined to refurbish.
Attles began his long basketball career on a playground, but there the similarity ends.
“We would have died to play on a court like this,” he said. “The courts we played on when I was a kid in New Jersey had rocks on them. We just threw the rocks off and went ahead.
“This is great for the youngsters, though. I’m just happy to be a part of this, giving them a chance to play.”
The youths who will be using the court were there for the ceremony, along with Attles’ family, wife Wilhelmina(Willie), son Alvin III, daughter Erica and four grandchildren. As a player, Attles was noted for his tenacious, physical style of defense.
He was the rare player who could slow down Oscar Robertson, mostly because he never gave the Big O any breathing room. “He’s practically inside my jockstrap,” Robertson complained one time.
Never much of a shooter, Attles nonetheless is part of the NBA history book for most points scored in a game by two teammates: 117. Wilt Chamberlain had 100 of them.
He became a coach almost by accident. After team owner Franklin Mieuli fired George Lee 52 games into the 1969-70 season, “Nobody else wanted the job,” said Mieuli, who was at the ceremony.
The high spot of his coaching career was the 1974-75 season. Little was expected from the Warriors after Nate Thurmond was traded, but Attles expertly juggled his roster, getting the maximum out of a 10-player rotation.
He also got the most out of the very temperamental but also very talented Barry, who had the best season of his career, leading the team in scoring and also being the leader on the floor, running the offense.
Though his 13-year coaching run is the longest in franchise history, Attles left coaching after the 1982-83 season because he could already see the trend to more concentration on individual accomplishments in the NBA, getting away from the unselfish, team-oriented philosophy he taught. He has been in the Warriors’ front office in various roles ever since.
His career has taken some unexpected turns and he’s been a treasure for Bay Area fans.