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Harvey Pollack

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  • Dean Oliver
    This brief interview is pretty good: 2-A. WE ASK, AND HARVEY POLLACK ANSWERS For most of his 80 years, the workload of Harvey Pollack, the longtime Director of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 19, 2002
      This brief interview is pretty good:


      For most of his 80 years, the workload of Harvey Pollack, the
      longtime Director of Statistical Information for the Philadelphia
      76ers, has been a never-ending compilation of nuances and numbers on
      nearly every kind of sporting event, from NBA basketball to indoor
      lacrosse and beyond. On September 27, Pollack will receive the 30th
      John Bunn Award, to be presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball
      Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The award -- the highest honor
      bestowed on an individual by the Hall of Fame outside of
      enshrinement -- honors a person who has contributed greatly to the
      game of basketball. And the honor certainly fits the ageless Pollack,
      managed to sit down long enough for a recent Q & A session.

      Q: In a lifetime of achievements in basketball, where do you place
      winning the John Bunn Award?

      Pollack: It's got to be the climax of my career. I'm as old as the
      NBA. I've been in the league since the very first year, and you could
      say I'm the last of the Mohicans. I've been in other Halls of Fame --
      my high school, college, Big Five, the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame,
      the State Hall of Fame, but there's nothing like this. It's like
      hitting the top. Everything else is dwarfed in comparison. Anything
      that happens from hereafter in my career will in no way top this.
      I've got four championship rings, so winning another would be nothing
      new. I was there for Wilt's 100-point game and Wilt's 55-rebound
      game -- things that may never be equaled. So it's going to be pretty
      hard from here on in to top this award.

      Q: What were your first thoughts when you were told you would receive
      the Bunn Award?

      Pollack: I've been waiting for a couple years -- I've been on the
      ballot for three years, and I know that once you're on the ballot,
      you're on it for five years. But it was a bolt out of the blue when I
      got the word that I had won. My bggest regret was that my wife was
      not around to hear this news. But my family is ecstatic. They're all
      going up [to Springfield] en masse. They're going by bus, they're
      going by plane, they're going by train. I'm going to have a lot of
      rooters at the Hall of Fame when I get there. It means as much to
      them as it does to me.

      Q: What's the most memorable moment from your tenure?

      Pollack: The night that stands out most vividly is the night of
      Wilt's 100-point game, because I was wearing so many hats that night.
      I was the P.R. Director of the Philadelphia Warriors then, and I was
      the game statistician. It was a game late in the season, and the
      Inquirer decided not to send its writer and asked me to cover it for
      them. I already was a stringer for UPI, and the Associated Press
      asked me to cover for them also. So I had a zillion duties that
      night, which included sending detailed play-by-play of the game to
      the Inquirer, making up the box score, running to the dressing room
      to compose that "100" sign -- I never would dream it would become
      such a memorable picture today, what is it, 40 years later? Then I
      had to get out of there, get to the phone and let the world know
      about it. I had to dictate a story to the United Press, my son -- who
      was 16 at the time -- read the box score to UPI, then I had to get
      back to the table and write a completely new story for the Inquirer.
      By the time that night was over, the most vivid thing I remember was
      telling our driver to stop at the nearest bar.

      Q: When you first started, reporters filed stories by teletype. Now
      everything's computerized. How much has technology helped you in your

      Pollack: It's definitely helped in the statistical end. We have 1,189
      games in the NBA, and we have to dissect every one of them to pull
      out the information that appears in my annual statistical guide. So
      fortunately, my son is in the computer business, and he wrote all
      kinds of programs in my computers, so all I have to do is input
      numbers. That saves my interns and I a lot of work.

      Q: How did you become so intrigued with numbers and statistics?

      Pollack: I grew up in the shadow of Connie Mack Stadium in
      Philadelphia. At that time, I was a baseball fan, so I was always
      interested in stats. When I was in college at Temple, I was the
      manager of the basketball team, and one of the duties was going on
      the road with the team and making sure the home team's scorer was
      honest and wasn't trying to sneak in fouls on your players or points
      to their total. So after the first game, I went to the coach and
      asked him if I could keep other stats besides field goals, fouls,
      personals and points, because I felt like a spectator. I told him I
      could keep shots attempted, rebounds and assists without any problem.
      So I did. And Temple's stats went across two columns; everyone else's
      were only one column wide. And boy, did it make the SID look good!
      After the war, I went back to see him, and he helped me get a job at
      the Philadelphia Bulletin. The same week, he asked me if I could do
      stats for the football team. That was in 1945. To this day, I'm still
      doing them. Then I started doing the college basketball doubleheaders
      at Convention Hall. Then the NBA was born, and Eddie Gottlieb, who
      was running the Philadelphia Warriors, found out about me and hired
      me as the team's statistician for the Warriors. And now, I'm still
      the head statistician at the games in Philadelphia.

      Q: How many games do you think you've seen in all sports through the

      Pollack: I'd have to really sit down and try to figure that out,
      because I've been involved in more sports ... for 15 years, I was the
      statistician for the Baltimore Colts. Since 1973, I've been the
      statistician for the Philadelphia Wings indoor lacrosse team. I also
      worked for the Stars in the USFL, the Bell in the WFL and the
      Bulldogs in the Continental League. In basketball, I did the Camden
      Bullets and the Lumberjacks. I did roller hockey at the Spectrum.
      There's going to be a new Arena Football League team in Philadelphia,
      and I have a feeling I'll get that job, too. But I don't really want
      that job -- my son wants it. For a few years, I was the stringer for
      WINS covering the Phillies, and even before that, when the A's were
      here. I'm also the head statistician for Temple, La Salle, St. Joe's,
      Penn, Villanova and Drexel. So for me to figure out all these
      different teams and games I've seen ...

      Q: You have more energy than guys a quarter your age. How have you
      been able to do all this as long as you have?

      Pollack: I don't know. I've been really healthy, and I've done it
      without dieting and without exercise. I move around so much. And
      besides all that, for 50 years I've written an entertainment column,
      covering casinos, movies, concerts and restaurants. And since 1947,
      I've written a pro football column and a pro basketball column, 52
      weeks a year. I still do that. I'm sure there's other things. I can't
      think of all of them right now.
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