Hey! Whatever Happened To Tom Gugliotta?

By Brian Taylor

It was the summer of 1992 in the D.C. area, and I was lucky enough to be one of the kids to attend John Thompson’s annual basketball camp. One day we had a rest period in between practice sessions and we all gathered around the big screen to watch David Stern’s Powerball (a.k.a. the NBA Draft). This draft was one of the biggest and most interesting, because G-Town’s own Alonzo Mourning was expected to go behind the grand prize that year, Shaquille O’Neal.

When Zo’s name was called, we all gave high-fives with each other and the coaching staff, but there were a few of us who waited to see what the Bullets’ train-wreck pick was going to be (lately, our draft picks either got injured, didn’t even make the team, or were named “LaBradford Smith”). At the sixth pick of the draft, from North Carolina State, Stern pulls out a name he can hardly pronounce. Tom Gugliotta.

“Tom Gugliotta? Tom Goooooogliotta?”

I knew I could kiss the playoffs goodbye for yet another year, but in reality, Tom turned out to be a pretty good player.

Back at Carolina State, Tom was a beast, in an ACC that had Walt Williams and Christian Laettner (who went 3rd in 1992, hindsight is 20/20 ain’t it?). Even though he started as a scrawny freshman, Jim Valvano saw he was going to not just be good, but great.

After getting picked up by the Bullets (Wes Unseld could hardly pronounce his name), “Googs” immediately made an impact, drawing the inevitable comparisons to Larry Bird (Jordan actually said this to him in their first meeting). In a home game against Karl Malone’s Jazz, Gugliotta lit up the Mailman for 43 points. Pretty soon, with “Never Healthy” Pervis Ellison shelved, Gugliotta took control of the team, even turning away Bernard King from a Bullets’ practice.

All the good stuff changed for Googs in 1995, when the Bullets facing pressure from management traded Tom to the Golden State Warriors for manchild Chris Webber, who’d been having problems in Oakland. Tom was crushed as he realized the NBA was a business, and that loyalty didn’t have much value. In the Bullets’ first game after the trade, Tom went nuts and the Warriors won, with Webber getting injured (and booed) in the process.

Another trade that same season landed Gugliotta in Minnesota, with a young Kevin Garnett. It was in the Twin Cities that Tom got his due as an NBA’er, making the All-Star team in 1997. Immediately after his All-Star appearance, the Wolves shipped him to Phoenix, to team up with Jason Kidd. It was in Phoenix that Gugliotta got a wake up call about his health.

December 17th, 1999. Tom wasn’t able to get any shuteye after games, so he turned to a sleeping aid to help him get some Z’s. After taking the GBLs to help him relax, Googs got on the phone with his wife and college sweetheart. It was in mid conversation that Tom collapsed, prompting his wife to call Rex Champan’s wife to get help. Rex Champan found an antidote in Gugliotta’s Suns issued gym bag, which helped doctors save his life.

After his time in the desert, Gugliotta went on to fill a blue-collar role with the Jazz, Hawks and Celtics before calling it a career in 1995.

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9 thoughts on “Hey! Whatever Happened To Tom Gugliotta?

  1. GOOGS!!! I was a huge of his when he played for Minny and I thought they had a great trio in KG, Googs and Marbury to build around. I’m still a little bummed that Starbury’s ego warped out of control and turned him into Marbury.

    If Steph’s ego hadn’t of mushroomed out of control and if he had stayed in Minny I think that KG would have had a ring by now.

  2. Yeah, I’d 2nd what Ryan said. I was in MN when we had Googs. Those were the fun days, back when the Gophers didn’t play in the Final Four because they didn’t write their own papers. Doh!

  3. @brian

    “After his time in the desert, Gugliotta went on to fill a blue-collar role with the Jazz, Hawks and Celtics before calling it a career in 1995.”

    Or was it 2005?

  4. Yeah Googs is one of my all-time favorite players. He could do it all, score, rebound, pass and play defense. His greatest asset to the teams he played on was his ability to draw the defenses attention, this opened up a lot of room in the offense for his team mates. He also made some of the greatest moves I have ever seen, in one game against Denver in 01, Phoenix was on a fast-break and Jason Kidd dished it to Googs on the wing about 10-12 feet from the basket. Googs set his feet caught the ball, up faked his defender high up into the air, and then went by him for the slam. That move brought every one in America West Arena to their feet.

    A couple of knocks though. Like Christian Laettner he never lived up to his potential. People were making comparison of him to Larry Bird for a reason, he had enormous talent. I felt he never stood up for himself and demanded the ball more, like a star player should. He seemed ready to play the role players game, and that was beneath him. When he put his mind to it he could go out and score between 25-35 points, 8-12 boards, 3-6 assists and 2-4 steals a contest. What he needed was more of the killer Bird instinct.

  5. Googs is probably my fav player ever. I have 335 different trading cards of his and have been a fan of his since 1992. I liked him cause he was one of the most all around players ever, he could do anything, just look at his stats. It’s too bad he became so injury prone during his time with the suns, he missed tons of games and was lost in the shuffle. He really started to make a nice comeback in his stint with the Hawks in 2005, got more playing time, shot more 3s and really turned it up. I wish he could make a brief comeback and just get to 10,000 career pts.

  6. I had a chance to actually meet him and get his autograph a few years back in Dallas when he was a T-Wolve. Nice guy,but injury prone. What a shame,he deserved better.

  7. Yeah Googs is my favorite player ever! If anyone has any of his replica or authentic jerseys they want to sell, I would be interested!

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