Saturday, May 21, 2011

Washington Generals Top Players: Red Klotz

I have decided that I will be doing post about some of the best players to don the green and yellow and play for the Washington Generals. (note: The New York Nationals players will of course also be eligible.)

Now, while it may seem ironic to be categorizing players for a team that never wins games as "the best". I base this not on their win/loss record with the Generals. The subjects of these post get here because they have an outstanding career in basketball before or after the Washington Generals as well as players that have gone on to accomplish other great things outside the world of basketball.

While their game record with the Generals may not reflect it, the Washington Generals have had a number of players who were both outstanding basketball players, and in fact outstanding people. And I want to give them their due.

For the first edition of this series I can think of no better a subject than the founder and long time player/coach of the Generals, Louis "Red" Klotz. As a coach of the washington Generals since it's inception in the 50's Red has become forever associated with heading the "losingest team in basketball." Currently at 90 years old it is the legacy he will undoubtedly leave in this world, and one he owns with pride.

But there was a time before Red began his unlikely path as the Globetrotters top foil that the name "Red" Klotz would have never associated with losing.

Born in 1921, Klotz first learned the fine art of basketball growing up in South Philidalphia. Klotz was once quoted as saying, "Where I was raised, you either earned a scholarship to college or became a gangster."

As a high-school student in South Philadelphia High School Red led the team to two championships, one in 1939 and the other in 1940, both of which also earned him "Player of the Year" honors.

With an impressive high school basketball career behind him and now infamous for his two hander shot, Klotz was able to earn that scholarship to Villanova University. Klotz played for two years before eloping with his then and current wife Gloria, which at the time school regulations cost required he lose his financial aid. No longer on the team Red enlisted in the military serving during World War II.

After returning from the war Red joined the American Basketball League's Phillidalphia Spha's. After that he joined the NBA playing with the Baltiomore Bullets for 11 games in the 1947-48, season, Klotz and his team would then go on to win the NBA title.

After that season Klotz re-joined the Spha's and eventually even went on to buy the team. But it was in 1949 when the Spha's were hired to play a two week exhibition tour against the Harlem Globetrotters that Red's life would change forever.

Even during that time, where the Globetrotters were more of a traditional basketball team (and by that I mean they played "real" games without the showmanship they are known for today), the Globetrotters, having some of the best basketball talent in the country, was still known for winning most of their games. But during the two week tour while playing on the dance floor of the Broadwood Hotel in Philadelphia, Klotz and the Spha's upset the generals, winning by 25 points.

After the game Globetrotter Goose Tatum assured Klotz that would never happen again, but the very next night the Spha's scored another win in Syracuse, defeating the Trotters by 12 points.

Then Globetrotter owner Ed Saperstein was so impressed that Klotz had let this team to two upsets in a row that he approached Red about forming a team to travel full time with the Globetrotters. So it was that a few years later in 1953 Red formed the Washington Generals and the Globetrotters over 60 year old nemesis was born.

Over the years Klotz ran the Generals as a player/coach playing for over 40 years as a point guard with the Generals until retiring as a player in 1995. Although Klotz has lost over 10,000 games in arenas all over the world, he also holds the distinction of being the only Washington General to play with the team during all six of their wins against the Harlem Globetrotters.

Klotz continued to coach for another decade after giving up playing before more or less retiring from the Generals in 2005, although he still owns and is the face of the Washington Generals.

Red Klotz legacy in Basketball will always be "the guy who coached the team who lost thousands of games to the Harlem Globetrotters". But in closing I give you this...

In his basketball career Red has won two high school championships, an NBA Title, had one of the longest professional career as a player in all of basketball (possibly the longest), has no doubt scored more points in his professional career than any player, in 1971at 50 years old scored the winning basket in what, statistically, would be considered the biggest upset in sports history, is the only non-Globetrotter to have his number retired by the Globetrotters, has both his Philadelphia Spha's and Washington Generals jerseys hanging at the Basketball Hall of Fame, and touring with the Generals he has done more to introduce the sport of basketball to the world than anyone, while helping make children laugh and adults feel like kids again. And during it all he has managed to enjoy a long successful marriage and raise a loving family.

The score books may call Louis "Red" Klotz a loser... but his friends, family, and fans know the truth. In every way that really matters, Klotz is anything but.

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