In the waning days of his senior year at LaSalle University, David Grzybowski endeavored to answer a seemingly simple question: who was Tom Gola?
After five years of research, interviews, and writing sessions between his shifts as a television reporter, Grzybowksi delivered his answer in the form of a biography. The book, titled Mr. All-Around: The Life of Tom Gola, is available in bookstores now.
Mr. All-Around checks in at a little over 200 pages, but you won’t have trouble breezing through the contents in little more than a weekend. Grzybowksi’s writing style is plain and unpretentious. His text thankfully lacks the contrived alliterative phrases that pollute television copy.
The subject of the book proves to be a bit more enigmatic. When Grzybowski took on this project, Gola was in the winter of his life. A fall in 2003 had left the former basketball star physically impaired; Gola would spend the rest of his life recovering at St. Joseph’s Manor, an assisted living facility on Huntington Pike in Meadowbrook, Pennsylvania. Gola passed away in January 2014 at the age of 81.
Grzybowksi acknowledges in his introduction that “a stroke made it difficult for Gola to speak” during his lone meeting with his subject. Nevertheless, the two were able to speak about Gola’s “playing career and his time at LaSalle,” Grzybowksi told me in an email exchange.
The seeds of this discussion form the basis of Mr. All-Around, which chronicles Gola’s journey from a basement gym in Olney to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. Along the way, Grzybowski documents Gola’s time at LaSalle College High School and LaSalle College. He also details Gola’s decade-long NBA career with the Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks.