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Scott Howard-Cooper

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Al Attles (far right) has become one of the lasting icons of the Golden State Warriors' franchise.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Well-liked Attles knows a thing or two about stability


Posted Jul 26 2011 6:08PM

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Sitting in the back corner of the coffee shop, relaxing in slacks and a golf shirt on another beautiful Bay Area summer day, Al Attles mentions, in passing, about his never-ending career that, "I kind of like stability."

Mr. Funny.

He has been married to Wilhelmina since 1965.

He has been in the same house since 1974.

He has been with the Warriors since 1960.

Fifty-one years, from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Oakland to San Jose back to Oakland. He's gone from 11 seasons as a hard-charging player known as The Destroyer, to 13 more as the longest-tenured coach in franchise history, to the front office, to a current role in community relations. Fifty-one years, from fifth-round draft pick out of North Carolina A&T to a good guy who still enjoys a role among one of the most-loyal fan bases in the league.

Yeah, he kind of likes stability.

"Right place, right time," Attles said, explaining a half-century with the same organization. There's no end in sight for him, either. At 74, he's in good health, looking fit as he walks through town.

Attles could have been traded during those 11 playing seasons, when he averaged 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He could have been fired off the sideline and be out of town, somewhere between taking over late in 1969-70 as player-coach and stepping down after 1982-83 to become general manager. (He won the 1975 title, made six playoff appearances and sported a 557-518 record.)

And community ambassadors are certainly expendable in these days of slashed budgets.

But this is about the man. Attles has enjoyed more than a half-century of uninterrupted employment through four different owners in his post-playing life alone because he is a well-liked, genial storyteller who connects with fans and basketball insiders alike. Hall of Fame center Nate Thurmond, a fellow Warriors community ambassador, once said it would be impossible to find anyone who dislikes Attles. When Jerry West had his introductory press conference after joining the executive board and becoming a minority owner, he made a point to acknowledge Attles in the back of the room.

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As coach of the Warriors in the 1970s, Al Attles led Golden State to a championship in 1975.
Vernon Biever/NBAE via Getty Images

"Whenever I reflect on it," Attles said of his seemingly eternal presence, "I'm a big believer being in the right place at the right time. A lot of things are responsible for where you end up. But something I learned a long time ago is something called the intersection of opportunity."

Intersection: He would have gone to a different high school in Newark, N.J., if he lived across the street, but ended up at Weequahic and with the basketball coach who would become one of the biggest positive influences on Attles' young life.

Intersection: He had the opportunity to attend bigger colleges closer to home -- Seton Hall, St. John's, NYU -- but chose North Carolina A&T despite never having been farther south than Washington and being concerned about how an African-American would be treated. He believed the people at A&T were genuinely concerned about his education and liked the idea of a smaller campus with smaller classrooms. The same Attles who wandered through high school academically made honor roll at the Greensboro, N.C., campus.

Intersection: Being drafted by the Warriors in 1960.

Even taking over as coach was a turn of events that led down the right path. Late in Attles' playing career, colorful owner Franklin Mieuli approached him about replacing George Lee. Attles turned Mieuli down three times within about a month before finally accepting. Four full seasons later, Rick Barry and the Warriors improbably swept the Bullets for the '75 title, giving Mieuli the chance to ride around with the championship trophy in the back seat of his convertible.

Attles never thought he would play in the NBA. He never thought he would coach. He certainly never thought he would spend 51 years with the same organization.

But here he is in Oakland, still. It helps to kind of like stability.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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