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Rudy Tomjanovich

Rudy Tomjanovich
File:Rudy T Space and Missile Center Feb 26, 2009.jpg
Rudy Tomjanovich in February 2009
Personal information
Born (1948-11-24) November 24, 1948 (age 67)
Hamtramck, Michigan
Nationality American
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Career information
High school Hamtramck (Hamtramck, Michigan)
College Michigan (1967–1970)
NBA draft 1970 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the San Diego Rockets
Pro career 1970–1981
Position Forward
Number 45
Coaching career 1983–2005
Career history
As player:
19701981 San Diego / Houston Rockets
As coach:
1983-1992 Houston Rockets (assistant)
19922003 Houston Rockets
2004–2005 Los Angeles Lakers
Career highlights and awards

As player:

As coach:

Career statistics
Points 13,383 (17.4 ppg)
Rebounds 6,198 (8.1 rpg)
Assists 1,573 (2.0 apg)
Stats at

Rudolph "Rudy" Tomjanovich, Jr. (born November 24, 1948) is an American retired basketball player and coach who coached the Houston Rockets to two consecutive NBA championships. He was an All-Star forward for the Rockets during his playing career. He is currently a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers.


Early life

Tomjanovich was born in Hamtramck, Michigan to a family of Croatian descent.[1][2] He attended high school in Hamtramck and later the University of Michigan (from 1967 to 1970)

Playing career

File:Rudy Tomjanovich (1970).png
Tomjanovich from 1970 Michiganensian

In college, Tomjanovich set Michigan Wolverines men's basketball career rebounding records that continue to stand.[3] In 1968 he earned second team All-Big Ten honors, which he followed with first-team honors in 1969 and 1970.[4] During 1970 he was also an All-American.[5]

Tomjanovich was selected in the 1970 NBA Draft as the second overall pick by the San Diego Rockets (the franchise relocated to Houston in 1971), for whom he would play the entirety of his NBA career. He was also drafted in both 1970[6] and 1974[7] by the Utah Stars of the ABA. In his eleven years in the NBA, Tomjanovich had a scoring average of 17.4 points and a rebounding average of 8.1, earning five All-Star Game selections in the process (1974–1977, 1979). He is the third-leading scorer in Rockets history behind Hall of Famers Calvin Murphy and Hakeem Olajuwon. Because his last name was so long, the back of Tomjanovich's jerseys would read "RUDY T.", rather than his 11 character name.

The Rockets retired Tomjanovich's #45 jersey upon the conclusion of his playing career. His collegiate jersey, also #45, was retired by the University of Michigan in 2003.

The Kermit Washington incident

Despite Tomjanovich's noteworthy career as a player, he is perhaps best remembered for an infamous occurrence at the height of his playing career. In a December 9, 1977, game, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kermit Washington threw a punch during an on-court melee that struck Tomjanovich. The blow shattered Tomjanovich's jaw and face and inflicted life-threatening head injuries, leaving him sidelined for five months. He eventually made a full recovery, but his playing career slowly came to a halt and he was forced to retire in his mid 30s. The story and aftermath are recounted in the John Feinstein book The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever.

Coaching career

Houston Rockets

Tomjanovich retired in 1981 and became a scout for two years before being named an assistant coach in 1983. He served as an assistant under Bill Fitch and Don Chaney.

Tomjanovich was named the Rockets' interim head coach in February, 1992 after Chaney's resignation. After nearly leading the Rockets to a playoff berth, he was given the job on a permanent basis.

In his first full season on the job (1992-93), Tomjanovich guided the Rockets to the Midwest Division title, making him the first head coach to ever take his team from the lottery to a division crown during his first full season. Building on this success, Rudy T. led the team to back-to-back NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. On the playoff run to their second title, the Rockets became the lowest seed (sixth) to win one, and the only team in history to defeat the teams with the four best regular season records in the playoffs. It was on the floor of The Summit after they captured their second title that Rudy proclaimed, "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!" In his 11-plus season tenure as Rockets head coach, he posted a 503–397 (.559) regular-season record and a 51–39 (.567) playoff mark. His career wins and winning percentage are Rockets franchise records. Tomjanovich left the team after the 2002-03 season when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, ending a 33-year association with the Rockets franchise—including its first 32 years in Houston—as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

U.S. national basketball team

In 1998, Tomjanovich volunteered to coach the U.S. men's senior basketball team at the FIBA World Championship in Greece. Despite the absence of NBA players due to labor negotiations, Tomjanovich guided the hastily assembled group of CBA players to the bronze medal. In light of his outstanding service in coaching at the 1998 Worlds and his stellar professional resume, Tomjanovich was tabbed to coach the U.S. men's senior team at the Games of the XXVII Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. The U.S. Team won the gold medal with an 8–0 record. On February 15, 2006, Tomjanovich was named director of scouting for USA Men's Basketball.

Los Angeles Lakers

In 2004, Tomjanovich signed a five-year, $30 million contract to replace Phil Jackson as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.[8] He resigned after 41 games, citing mental and physical exhaustion unrelated to his past bout with bladder cancer. The Lakers paid him a $10 million settlement, leading to speculation that the Lakers had instead terminated his contract.[8][9] Tomjanovich stayed with the Lakers as a consultant.

Coaching style

Tomjanovich was well known for his instinctive managerial style and intensity on the bench. Always self-deprecating, he nonetheless heaped tremendous pressure on himself and his assistants to be prepared for each game, several times being hospitalized for exhaustion. After winning back-to-back titles, Tomjanovich deflected much of the praise and eschewed the "genius" label assigned to other champion coaches like Chuck Daly and Phil Jackson. His hands-off, easy-going manner with his players gave him a reputation as a "players coach," and as such veteran players were eager to play on his teams. Among the stars who requested and were granted trades to Houston during his tenure were Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and Scottie Pippen.

Personal life

In 1997 Tomjanovich resided in the Northfield subdivision in the Fondren Southwest area of Houston.[10]

Tomjanovich has participated with the Texas Children's Cancer Center to help raise funds for cancer research. He has also helped promote a deadbolt called the "Ultimate Lock" and CieAura health care products.[11]

Coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
HOU 1991–92 30 16 14 .533 3rd in Midwest Missed Playoffs
HOU 1992–93 82 55 27 .671 1st in Midwest 12 6 6 .500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
HOU 1993–94 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 23 15 8 .652 Won NBA Championship
HOU 1994–95 82 47 35 .573 3rd in Midwest 22 15 7 .682 Won NBA Championship
HOU 1995–96 82 48 34 .585 3rd in Midwest 8 3 5 .375 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
HOU 1996–97 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Midwest 16 9 7 .563 Lost in Conf. Finals
HOU 1997–98 82 41 41 .500 4th in Midwest 5 2 3 .400 Lost in First Round
HOU 1998–99 50 31 19 .620 3rd in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
HOU 1999–00 82 34 48 .415 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
HOU 2000–01 82 45 37 .549 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
HOU 2001–02 82 28 54 .341 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
HOU 2002–03 82 43 39 .524 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
LAL 2004–05 43 24 19 .558 (resigned)
Career 943 527 416 .559 90 51 39 .567


  • NBA Champion head coach (1994, 1995)
  • Head coach of the gold medalist USA men's basketball team at the 2000 Summer Olympics
  • Head coach of the bronze medalist USA men's basketball team at the 1998 FIBA World Championship
  • 5-time All-Star (1974–1977, 1979)
  • NCAA All-American (1970)
  • All-time University of Michigan leader in rebounds. Second on UM all-time list in points per game
  • Holds the Crisler Arena single game scoring and rebounding records
  • Averaged 17.4 points per game on 50.1% shooting during his NBA career
  • Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

See also


  1. ^ Robert Bajruši (16 March 2004). "Mislio sam da sam Poljak dok mi roditelji nisu rekli sa smo Hrvati" [I thought I was Polish until my parents told me we were Croats] (in Croatian). Nacional (weekly). Archived from the original on 4 July 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Michael Wallis (November 13, 1978). "Severely Injured by a Rival Player's Punch, Rudy Tomjanovich Enjoys An Amazing Comeback". People (magazine). Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  3. ^ 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 166. 
  4. ^ 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 147. 
  5. ^ 2007-08 Men's Basketball Media Guide. University of Michigan. 2007. p. 145. 
  6. ^ 1970 ABA Draft
  7. ^ 1974 ABA Draft
  8. ^ a b "NBA Truth & Rumors: May 12, 2005". May 13, 2005. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ Lazenby, Roland (2006). The Show: The Inside Story of the Spectacular Los Angeles Lakers in the Words of Those Who Lived It. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 436. ISBN 978-0-07-143034-0. Retrieved February 20, 2013. 
  10. ^ Rodriguez, Lori. "A HALF-EMPTY, HALF-FULL WORLD/They want a neighborhood that they all can live with/Common ground is rare for Fondren Southwest." Houston Chronicle. Sunday May 25, 1997. A1. Retrieved on December 30, 2011.
  11. ^ Jonathan Feigen. "Rudy T's new calling helps others". Houston Chronicle. September 21, 2009. Retrieved on March 7, 2010.


  • Feinstein, John. The Punch: One Night, Two Lives, and the Fight That Changed Basketball Forever. Publisher: Back Bay Books. ISBN 0-316-73563-9

External links

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