Advertising

The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource | Free Classifieds | seattletimes.com

NBA


Our network sites seattletimes.com | Advanced

Originally published Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Print

Whatever happened to the Sonics who started it all?

The Sonics' first team, in 1967-68, wasn't very good. In fact, until last season's team, it was the worst in franchise history. The team broke up quickly, but these 12 players will always be part of history, Seattle's first major pro sports team.

Seattle Times assistant sports editor

For 40 years, the Sonics' first team was also their worst, finishing with a 23-59 record. That changed last season, when the Sonics won just 20 games.

In 1967, Seattle's first major pro sports team included a tough guy who became a poet, a future UCLA coach and a 21-year-old rookie who became a prominent judge.

They went on to careers as businessmen, Boeing workers, realtors or coaches.

But back then, they were just the Seattle SuperSonics, a collection of — for the most part — modestly talented players in a new NBA city. Nine came to Seattle in the expansion draft, three others were chosen in the rookie draft.

They weren't very good, as you would expect from an expansion team. And Seattle fans must not have been all that excited, with an average of 6,186 showing up at the Seattle Center Coliseum.

Five of them were gone after one season in Seattle, including their best player, guard Walt Hazzard. By the end of the second season, eight were former Sonics, and so was coach Al Bianchi.

They're long forgotten, but these 12 players will always be part of the first — if not the best — major pro sports team in town.

The starters

Bob Rule, 6-9 center

1967-68: Named to all-rookie team after averaging 18.1 points, 9.5 rebounds.

Sonics career: Rule was a great player, averaging more than 24 points and 10 rebounds the next two seasons. He was off to a hot start in 1970, but an Achilles tendon injury in the fourth game wiped out the rest of his season, and he was never the same. Rule was the last original Sonic to go, traded to Philadelphia during the 1971-72 season, and was done playing by 1974.

Life after basketball: Rule lives in Southern California.

advertising

Al Tucker, 6-8 forward

1967-68: Tucker was the Sonics' first draft pick, taken No. 6 in the first round in 1967. (Rule was the Sonics' second-round pick). He joined Rule (and Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson) on the league's all-rookie team, averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Sonics career: Tucker, blessed with talent but not a lot of motivation, according to a former Sonics scout, was traded to Cincinnati the next season. He bounced quickly to Chicago and Baltimore, and was out of the league by 1971.

Life after basketball: Died May 7, 2001 in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 58.

Tom Meschery, 6-6 forward

1967-68: Before Xavier McDaniel, or Maurice Lucas, or Paul Silas, there was Meschery, the Sonics' first enforcer. Meschery averaged 14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and no guff from opponents.

Sonics career: Meschery averaged 12.5 points in four seasons for Sonics before retiring after the 1970-71 season.

Life after basketball: While he played with the Sonics, Meschery had become friends with poet Mark Strand, and took some of Strand's UW poetry classes. Meschery later wrote a book of poetry about his family, and taught English at Reno High School for 21 years, before retiring in 2005. He's undoubtedly the only member of both the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

Walt Hazzard, 6-2 guard

1967-68: Scored a career-high 24 points per game, and was the only Sonic to play in the All-Star Game.

Sonics career: Traded before the 1968 season to Atlanta for Lenny Wilkens. In 1972, the Sonics traded Wilkens for Butch Beard. In 1973, the Sonics traded Beard for ... Walt Hazzard, who was known by then as Mahdi Abdul-Rahman. He finished his NBA career by playing 49 games for the '73-74 Sonics.

Life after basketball: Hazzard coached his alma mater, UCLA for four seasons, and was fired after the 1987-88 season. Later, he worked as a scout for the Lakers.

Rod Thorn, 6-4 guard

1967-68: Thorn was the Sonics' third-leading scorer, averaging 15.2 points.

Sonics career: Thorn played four seasons for the Sonics before retiring, but his first year in Seattle was easily his best. He served as an assistant coach to Lenny Wilkens for one season.

Life after basketball: Thorn, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science at the University of Washington, has been president of the NBA's New Jersey Nets since 2000. He has been an assistant coach, head coach, general manager and NBA executive.

The bench

Bob Weiss, 6-2 guard

1967-68: Weiss, playing about 20 minutes a game, averaged 9.8 points and was the Sonics' best free-throw shooter, at 84 percent.

Sonics career: Weiss was selected by Milwaukee in the 1968 expansion draft and played nine more seasons in the league, mostly with the Chicago Bulls.

Life after basketball: Weiss was a head coach for the Spurs, Hawks and Clippers before joining the Sonics as an assistant coach in 1994. He was promoted to head coach last season, but was fired after a 13-17 start.

Tommy Kron, 6-5 guard

1967-68: Kron was selected by the Sonics in the expansion draft after playing his rookie season for the St. Louis Hawks. He averaged 9.7 points for the Sonics.

Sonics career: Kron played one more season in Seattle, scoring 5.1 points a game in a smaller role. Following that season, he signed with the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA and played one season. He had been one of the star's of "Rupp's Runts," the 1965-66 Kentucky team that lost to Texas Western in the NCAA title game.

Life after basketball: Kron, who had been diagnosed with bladder cancer a year earlier, died last Nov. 29 at age 64. Kron had been in the investment business in Louisville.

Dorie Murrey, 6-8 forward/center

1967-68: Averaged 7.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, backing up Rule and Meschery.

Sonics career: Murrey played three years, leaving after he was selected by Portland in the 1970 expansion draft. He finished his NBA career with the Bullets in 1972.

Life after basketball: Murrey sells real estate for John L. Scott in the Seattle area.

George Wilson, 6-8 center

1967-68: Averaged 6.1 points, 6.1 rebounds in his only Sonics season.

Sonics career: Wilson was selected by Phoenix in the 1968 expansion draft. He played three more NBA seasons.

Life after basketball: Returned to Cincinnati, where he had been a college star.

Bud Olsen, 6-8 forward/center

1967-68: Averaged 3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds in 73 games, playing 12 minutes per game.

Sonics career: He was selected by Milwaukee in the 1968 expansion draft, but never played for the Bucks. Enoch Eli Olsen III (no wonder he went by "Bud") played sparingly with Detroit and Boston that season, then with Kentucky of ABA in 1969-70.

Life after basketball: Olsen settled in Louisville, where he had gone to college. He was a co-founder of Bargain Mart, a shoppers guide he helped run for 20 years.

Plummer Lott, 6-5 guard/forward

1967-68: Seattle U. defensive standout was a fifth-round draft choice by the Sonics. He averaged 2.5 points in 44 games his rookie season.

Sonics career: Played just one more NBA season, 23 games with Sonics in 1968-69.

Life after basketball: Lott is now the Hon. Plummer E. Lott, Justice for the Supreme Court of Kings County in Brooklyn, N.Y. Lott graduated from the UW law school.

Henry Akin, 6-10 center

1967-68: Played in 36 games, averaging 3.1 points and 1.6 rebounds.

Sonics career: After one Sonics season, signed with Kentucky Colonels of ABA, played two games, then returned to Seattle where he took a job as a scout for the Sonics.

Life after basketball: Akin worked for 5 ½ years as a Sonics scout, then went to work for Boeing.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

More NBA headlines...

Print      Share:    Digg     Newsvine

UPDATE - 9:40 PM
Portland stops Orlando, which plays without suspended Dwight Howard

Chicago Bulls hand Miami Heat fourth straight loss | NBA

Local NBA connections: Catching up with Martell Webster

New Jersey earns 137-136 victory over Toronto in 3 OT in London

Ex-Washington Husky Nate Robinson has knee surgery | NBA

Advertising

Video

Marketplace

Advertising