Charley Eckman, a sports broadcaster, former NBA referee and coach known for his colorful ways and truisms, died Monday after a long bout with colon cancer at 73.
“Charley said he only knew two plays: put the ball in the basket and South Pacific,” said his friend, John Steadman, a veteran sports columnist for The (Baltimore) Sun.
During the 1950s, Eckman, known as “the coach” during his broadcasting career, coached the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons, then the Detroit Pistons when the team moved to Detroit in 1957.
Eckman, who had a lifetime coaching record of 123-118, led the Pistons to two Western Division championships when they were in Fort Wayne but his stay in Detroit was brief. He was fired after a 9-16 start their first season in their new home.
Stedman said Eckman even put a colorful spin on his own dismissal. Team owner Fred Zollner called Eckman one day and said there were going to be some changes in his department.
“Charley said: ‘Since I was the only one in my department, I guess I knew I was fired.”’
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