Face of the Franchise

Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant just retired within the last two years. Dirk Nowitzki is currently starting in his 20th season with the Mavericks, nearing the end of his decorated career. Outside of San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli and Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison, the next longest tenured current NBA player to have played their entire career with the same team is Memphis’ Mike Conley, who was drafted in 2007. The number of NBA players and coaches that are not only able to have prolonged careers in the league, but are able to do so with the same single team, is a rapidly dwindling figure.

Then there’s Alvin Attles, the longest tenured employee in the NBA.

For a Warriors franchise that has endured and experienced just about every possible high and low throughout its existence, there has been one steadying constant for the last 58 years. Whether running up and down a court, pacing its sidelines or dedicating one for a community in need, the man they called ‘The Destroyer’ has been a defining and emblematic part of the Warriors franchise since before they made the move to the Golden State.

“Despite this climate of dominance and dynasty, the beauty with which the current teams play, the Warriors are most known for struggle,” says The Athletic Bay Area’s Marcus Thompson, “for clawing to get an ounce of respect, for being grass roots in their fervor, loyal in their heart. Al Attles embodies that spirit.”

This Friday night, the Warriors will honor the longest tenured employee in franchise history when they host the Washington Wizards on Al Attles Bobblehead Night. It is a fitting opponent, as Attles was Head Coach of the 1975 Warriors team that swept the Washington Bullets in four games to win the third NBA Championship in franchise history and the first in the West Coast Era.

Attles was selected by the Philadelphia Warriors in the fifth round of the 1960 NBA Draft, which saw future NBA Hall-of-Famers Oscar Robertson and Jerry West go first and second overall. It was at a time when lower draft picks did not have a high success rate of making the team, as the league consisted of only eight teams in total. He remembers his first uniform being meant for someone who was 6’11” (Attles was a six-foot guard), as the armholes fell all the way down to his waist.

“I always say, I didn’t make the team,” quips Attles. “They kept me.”

Nonetheless, he would go on to enjoy an 11-year playing career with the Warriors, averaging 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 711 regular-season games and spending the final two years as the club’s player/coach. The NBA didn’t begin naming All-Defensive Teams—which former players insist he would have frequented—until 1968-69, his ninth season in the league. But according to Basketball-Reference, the Warriors ranked in the top half of the league in defensive rating (estimated points allowed per 100 possessions) in all but one of Attles’ 11 seasons, boasting a top-three rating in seven of those campaigns.

On March 2, 1962, Attles went a perfect 8-of-8 from the field, while also hitting his only free throw attempt, to finish as the team’s second-leading scorer in a win over the Knicks. His efficient 17-point game was overshadowed slightly by his teammate, Wilt Chamberlain, who scored an NBA-record 100 points that same night in Hershey, PA. Chamberlain gave the game ball from that record-breaking performance to Attles, which now sits in a glass case in his home, adorned with an engraved placard that states:

To Al Attles,
The man who did the right thing at the wrong time. 8 for 8 and 1 for 1
Sorry I scored 100 with this ball.
DIP
P.S. You deserve it.

With 30 games remaining in the 1969-70 season, Attles took on duel responsibilities as Golden State’s player/coach, a role he held for the entire 1970-71 season before serving exclusively as head coach for the next 12 years. The North Carolina A&T product amassed a regular-season coaching record of 557-518 (.518) at the helm of the Warriors during his 13-plus year coaching career, the most games and wins by a head coach in franchise history. Attles completed his coaching career at the conclusion of the 1982-83 campaign to become the Warriors’ general manager, heading the team’s basketball operations for the next three years. Ever since, Attles has served as a Warriors Legend and Community Ambassador in supporting community efforts around the Bay Area.

“Most of the great organizations who have a lot of history, they have one player who everybody kind of associates with that franchise,” says current Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr. “Al Attles is that guy for us. He’s the face of our franchise, for many, many generations of Warriors fans. So, we’re lucky to have him.”

Attles is one of only 26 coaches in NBA history with over 1,000 games on his resume and is one of only 11 coaches to amass over 500 victories with a single franchise. He’s also tied with Ed Gottlieb for the most postseason appearances in Warriors lore (six), and ranks second in franchise history with 31 playoff victories. And of course, it was Attles at the helm of the 1974-75 squad that captured the first NBA championship in the Warriors’ West Coast history.

In addition to having a hand in raising the 1974-75 championship banner, Attles has another, more personal banner hanging from the rafters at Oracle Arena, as his No. 16 is one of only six retired numbers in Warriors franchise history, along with Chamberlain (#13), Rick Barry (#24), Tom Meschery (#14), Chris Mullin (#17) and Nate Thurmond (#42).

Attles’ endless contributions as a player, executive and civic leader resulted in his induction into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and, in August 2014, he was honored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, which is the most prestigious of its kind presented by the Hall of Fame outside of enshrinement, honors coaches, players and contributors whose outstanding accomplishments have impacted the game of basketball. And just this past June, Attles was named the 2017 co-recipient of the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary contributions that have had a positive and powerful impact on the NBA coaching profession.

He’s worn oh so many hats, but always for the same organization, and all while being one of the friendliest and approachable people you’ll ever meet. He still attends most home games, and can be found in his usual seat atop the lower bowl. Media members exchange pleasantries with him as they pass by, while adoring fans approach him for photo opportunities. He always obliges with a smile on his face, but even the most prepared can be caught off guard by the iconic, gravelly voice of a man, now in his 80s, that could still have a future in movie trailer voiceovers.

That is, if the Warriors ever create a movie trailer voiceover department. Because Al Attles, the longest tenured employee in franchise history, is and will always be as much a part of the Warriors as they are of him.

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