WWII and Refereeing
Coaching Pistons: 1954-55
Coaching Pistons: 1955-56
Coaching Pistons: 1956-57
1958 - 1963
1964 - 1967
1968 - 1974
1975 - 1979
Coaching the Fort Wayne Pistons: 1954-55
At 32 years old, Charley Eckman signed a three-year, five figure contract as Coach of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons in the National Basketball League. This was the first basketball team he has ever coached in his life! The three year contract was signed April 20, 1954 for $10,000 a year plus additional compensation.
The contract read: 'Compensation consisted of $1000 for team finish in play-off bracket, $1000 for team win in each play-off series and $1500 per series win. Eckman specifically waived the right to participate in players' play-off pool. Eckman is to be paid the sum of $400 on Apr 20, 1954 and $800 per month thereafter.'
Many asked how a common referee could become coach of a professional NBA team?
After Charley signed the contract, Fred Zollner, the owner of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons gave the press his story of Charley's hiring.
When I decided to let Paul Birch go this past spring, it was like a popularity contest with all sorts of names being pushed before me, Jim Pollard, Bob Davies, Al Cervi, former Pistons, and such
'Unknown to others,
I called Eckman and asked him about taking the post.
I was heading for Miami that day and said that I was sorry I couldn't see Charley personally that day. He said 'Never mind that, I'll get down there!'
'Charley did not ask for any expense money like a lot of other fellows might have done. He hustled right down and we agreed. I gave him a three-year contract. He is the complete boss on the playing field and in choice of players. I get the money up. We are getting along fine.'
'As a matter of fact, regarding referees,' went on Zollner with a smile 'the choice of Eckman was not exactly new, even to me. A few years back, I was ready to give the job to Pat Kennedy, then head of the NBA officials. I liked a lot of things about Pat.'
'A funny thing happened at the major league meetings last March, when all owners and coaches were arguing over officials for the playoffs. All wanted Eckman. He couldn't be in the East and West at the same time.'
'Maurice Podoloff, league proxy, threw up his hands and said, 'Gentlemen, I have only one Eckman.' (I smiled to myself, saying, at the time, little do you know, Maurice'...you haven't any Eckman.).
'Eckman treats his players as he would want to be treated were he a player.'
Upon hearing of Charley's new job, Maurice Podoloff, President of NBA Officials sent the following letter, dated April 19, 1954:
'Now I have heard every thing '.Congratulations. I am looking forward with more than a little anticipation to recovering by way of fines some of the excessive fees paid to you. If you so much as say 'BOO' it will cost you 25 dollars. Imagine what will happen if you utter a few familiar four letter words.'
The Press had a field day with the announcement of Charley as coach:
The Evening Sun, Baltimore, MD by Walter Taylor, April 19, 1954
'CHARLIE ECKMAN TO COACH ZOLLNER PRO CAGERS' .Charlie Eckman, whose razzle-dazzle tactics with voice and whistle have made him the best referee in the NBA, today signed a three-year contract to coach the Fort Wayne Zollner's. The quick talking, wise-cracking Anne Arundel countian, however, made no move to seek the Ft Wayne post after Paul Birch's ouster. He didn't have to. Zollner told him he had been thinking about Charlie as a replacement for Birch for some time, and as soon as the Zollner's were out of the playoffs, their owner wrote to Eckman about the matter.'
Letter by Bud VanderVeer, Syracuse Herald-Journal, April 20, 1954:
' Dear Chuck, '.Allow me to join the many who must be congratulating you upon your new assignment. By now, you must know your greatest task will be to handle boys, who, in most cases, believe they are men.'
Baltimore News American, Art Janey, April 20, 1954
' Ft Wayne team owner Zollner said: 'Eckman was my first choice from the very beginning. He meets all our qualifications for the position. He has a thorough knowledge of basketball as it is played in the NBA because of his first-hand association with all the teams in the league. Zollner said Eckman enjoys the 'respect of the players and owners in the league because of his exemplary service as an official. For the same reason he is highly regarded by fans throughout the league.'
Personal letter from referee Woogie Smith, April 24, 1954
''..Only a wheel like you could pull a stunt like that! Maybe I'll get a chance to work a game for you. Bet you will be a dandy on the bench. It wouldn't surprise me if you would wind up in a suit. Abe (Pollen) also sends his best wishes.'
Charley knew very little about the basics of coaching, practice sessions, etc., so he began looking to college coaches for advice! Maryland Mount Saint Mary's College Coach Bill Clark, Jr., sent thoughts of draft prospects, play drawings and pre-season conditioning exercises.
September 20, 1954 '“ Letter from Ben Kerner, General Manager of Milwaukee Hawks,
'Dear Charlie, After I hung up the phone, I thought of something. I know you need another big man. I definitely will not make a deal for Share '“ he is either going to play with me or he can keep on selling houses. However, I still have Mattick, who (Bob) Pettit tells me is not too happy with Phillips.' 'I will trade you Mattick for Meinecke, however, if you like you have my permission to call Mattick - you can reach him at Barttelsville or wherever he might be, and then if you feel that you have a chance to sign, we can consummate the deal if you so desire. Best Wishes, Ben Kerner'
The Fort Wayne Pistons 1954-55 Season
Charley had a wonderful relationship with Maurice Podoloff, President of the NBA, as shown in the following two personal letters dated October 25, 1954:
'Dear Charley, Not only have you become a tycoon with a secretary, but also you have attained the dignified status of having your letter signed by an amanuensis. The contents of your letter meet with my approval. Your devotion to the good of the NBA touches a warm spot in my heart. As to our recent visit in Chicago, I can say quite frankly that I found it all too short. Let's do better next time.'
'Dear Charles: Harold Rosenthal of the New York Herald Tribune, wants to do a column on the ebullient and idiosyncratic Charles Eckman, and has asked me to ascertain when you will be in this neighborhood at a time other than when you come for a game in New York. Please advise. Sincerely, Maurice'
In a undated newspaper article: 'Today's Sports Parade: Eckman Tabbed 'Merry Midget' Among Giants'.....' A fast man with the 'needle,' Charley dotes on digging at his former boss, Podoloff. It was Eckman who tagged Podoloff with the nickname of 'Poodle.'
'That,' intoned Podoloff, a short man who loves long words, 'will cost you exactly $150-$25 a letter - the next time you are fined.' 'It will too,' Charley grinned. 'He's a man of his word, and he doesn't know any little ones.' Podoloff proved that when, in introducing Eckman around, he asserted that 'there is a dearthly dearth of humorous stories' concerning the game of basketball. Eckman, 'Poodle' insisted, soon will take care of the shortage. He will, too. And, the way Eckman has been moving up, Podoloff better look out for his job. Charley might even take that, too.'
On October 26, 1954 The Herald, Dayton Ohio Paper, commented:
'Zollner Coach Riding High'.Monk Meineke and Mel Hutchins, six-foot, seven-inch stars
of the Fort Wayne Zollner's give five-foot, nine-inch coach Charley Eckman a 'big boy'
view of the world. Eckman is a spanking new hand at coaching basketball, having
moved up from the ranks of officiating.' Ed Johnsey photo
The Pistons began the 1955 season on November 5th at Syracuse, NY. The team returned to Fort Wayne the next day for opening night against Minneapolis . Twenty four home games were scheduled along with 48 games on neutral or foreign courts. It was a very interesting year especially with two new rules which changed the game dramatically.
24 second clock - 'Two new large clocks at either end of the playing floor will indicate the elapsed time each team has possession of the ball. It is called the 24 second clock.
Six Personal Fouls: This concerns the situation whereby a team is limited to six personal fouls per quarter. Additional fouls beyond the limit of six in each period will award the fouled team an additional free throw.
November 1955 - 'Not Much To Brag About Yet'
Baltimore was flying high as one of their favorite sons began his new career. On November 19, 1954, The Baltimore News-Post announced:
'Eckman Night': Plans are underway for one of the biggest nights of the season when the Fort Wayne Pistons roll into town to play the Bullets. It has been officially proclaimed
'Charley Eckman Night' in honor of the NBA referee-turned coach.
Approximately 300 Anne Arundel county children will be guest of the Glen Burnie Merchants'' Association at the game that night.'
'Zollner pulled every trick in the book to put together a 'winning' combination. He bought, borrowed and drafted talent. (His spending tactics have been more than extreme at times, causing an over-balance of salaries in the player department) said Jimmy Powers, 'The Powerhouse'' of the Daily News, on December 3, 1954.
Hilliard Gates wrote in 'Gatesway to the Pistons,'' in December that 'When Eckman was selected coach of the Pistons, those who were most surprised at the choice readily admitted that he certainly had a keen knowledge of the playing personnel in the NBA. Charlie's calling upon that knowledge during these days as coach and his manner of substituting has indicated that he has learned his personnel well.'
'Coach and Son - Charley Eckman and Barry try a basketball for size in
Pistons' dressing room before a recent game.'
On December 20th, TIME Magazine '....in first place in the Western Division, and given a good chance to win the east-west playoffs. The red-hot Ft. Wayne Pistons, who at week' end led both divisions with a .773 percentage and had won nine of their last ten games. The Pistons'' owner, Fred Zollner, a millionaire piston manufacturer, has spent gobs of money for playing talent, including Captain Andy Phillip, a backcourt ace, and for his coach this year hired Charley Eckman, an NBA referee with no previous coaching experience. On the bench, novice Coach Eckman comports himself like a cross between a whirling dervish and a man with the seven-year itch. He says he wins games not be telling his proficient players what to do, but by putting them in and pulling them out at the right time.'
'Pistons' Coach and Captain.. A talent for ins and outs'
'Their Wish Came True ...Nearly 2,000 fans took advantage of the Zollner Piston 'Wishbone Night' offer Thursday evening. At halftime Captain Andy Phillip and Coach Charley Eckman met before one of the barrels of wishbones and made a wish that they would win
that one for the season's best turnout thus far. The wish came true. Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel
'Peppery Charley Eckman, a former ref who never coached before, has whipped his stars into a sound team. 'I don't tell them how to play the game. My job's to keep 'em happy.'
'Charley Eckman Talking to the fans,' was most important to Charley and his column in the Pistons Program was named thusly. This December he wrote:
'I imagine a lot of the fans who saw last week' game with Boston are wondering about Red Aerobic's big debate near the end of the game. Red, who was really riled up, tried to convince us that it was possible to throw the ball in bounds and not have any time elapse. He was mad because the clock went from four seconds to three while his team moved the ball in bounds and then called time out. Actually it didn't make any difference because we had a three-point lead and had no intention of fouling which we did not do. But Red, like all of us, hates to lose and he was really grabbing at straws.'
'the horse laugh that's heard throughout the NBA belongs to Charlie 'the cheerleader' Eckman. His Ft. Wayne team is leading both the East and the West in games won....and this is the first team he's ever coached in his life! HA! Eckman has a stock answer when he is asked 'have you any favorite plays?' 'South Pacific and put it in the basket.'
' Charley Eckman was named to lead West in Fifth Annual NBA All-Star Game. Eckman, who was in NY city last night for a meeting of coaches and officials, was not especially excited about the prospect of coaching the Western All-Stars. He said: 'Sure, it'd's a great honor, but I can get more excited about my own club!'' And he can!' New York paper.
The new year finds Charley saying: 'Wow! What a road trip we had! I could be in this job 'til I'm ninety and still be amazed by the way this team reacts when it's trailing.'
Two weeks later in January''.The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak! I think that'd's about the best way to describe what's happened in the last 10 days. With the loss of two key players in George and Andy - we have been hurt. However, one thing for certain, this club does not quit. It hasn't quit this season and it never will.'
'Eckman Tabbed 'Merry Midget' 'Among Giants' writes Oscar Ferry of the Ft Wayne Sentenial. Eckman, slightly worn by the demands of his All-Star coaching role and his six game lead in the NBA field has shrunk to four.
Leonard Lewin carries this fantastic story even further. 'They laughed as Fred Zollner poured money into his Ft. Wayne basketball franchise. They laughed even harder when the Indiana millionaire signed Charley Eckman, the comical referee to coach his team to its first NBA title. So what'd's so funny now? The Pistons are the early season pistols of the league, an All-American team loaded with championship potential which has suddenly jelled into one that might go all the way. If it does, it will simply be 'Frosh' owner Fred Zollner, plus frosh Coach Charley Eckman, equaling success. The Pistons are the highest salaried club in the league.'
'The Pistons travel in class, having their own plush airliner, which carries them to their stops along the NBA map'
'Keeping up with the news is Coach Charlie Eckman of the Fort Wayne Pistons. Charley, formerly a referee, has molded the Pistons into a great team. here Charley relaxes at the Hotel Manger after arriving for tonight's game with the Knicks.'
'Charley's a TAKE CHARGE GUY'. 'A story about Eckman. Seems a disk jockey runs a show from the grill room of a downtown hotel in Rochester . Someone told him Eckman was in the restaurant and he asked the Fort Wayne coach if he'd mind saying a few words. An hour and a half later the disk jockey got the mike back under control and as he wiped his brow he wasn't sure who ran the show and if Eckman had his job or not!
Before the Rochester Royals defeat of the Pistons game at Edger ton Park Sports Arena in Rochester Saturday, I tuned in on a delightful half hour of conversation from Charley Eckman, the boss man of the first place Zollner's. Charley, who was for years one of the top basketball officials in the league before Fred Zollner stunned the pro basketball world by naming his coach of the Pistons, is rapidly becoming one of the best known and best liked sports figures in the country.' Rochester NY Newspaper
'Dugie will get Sharman or Cousy!' ---That's what Charley Eckman, kneeling at right, was saying recently when six of his NBA Western Division All-stars posed with him while talking about next Tuesday night's classic in New York. The Piston coach, who got the division assignment on the strength of his club on top on Jan 1, has indicated he's counting mainly on his three Piston selections, three Minneapolis veterans and Rochester's Bobby Wanzer in the early stages. Then he hopes that he can toss the two Milwaukee rookies, Bob Pettit and Frank Selvy, into action against a tired Eastern Division squad. Chances are his five starters will be picked from the players above, left to right: George Yardley, Dugie Martin, Larry Foust, Jim Pollard, Andy Phillip and Vern Mikkelsen.' Fort Wayne News-Sentinel photo
January 18, 1955 ' Charley Eckman coached the West NBA All Star team in Madison Square Garden, NY . Members of the All Star Team received a $100 bond for playing in the game'.
Dave Warner of the Rochester , NY Newspaper dubbed Eckman 'The Tongue.' 'He can carry on conversations with three reporters, accept congratulations from passersby, hurl friendly insults at his players as they warm up for the game and meet new friends without slowing down the conversation. He's the closest thing to Casey Stengel in a conversation I've met'
'The same Ft. Wayne players who couldn't win for Birch are soaking up nothing but success under Eckman. And along with the wins, they get many a laugh. Charley's his own gag writer, and as long as the club wins, the gags should click.'
'Eckman mixes and mingles with his guys in their off-hours on the road. One the bench, where Eckman generates the extra hustle that has become a Ft. Wayne trademark, the man is a show by himself. He'd's got nicknames for all of his guys, and they seem to love it. Andy Phillip is 'the Whizzard', George Yardley is 'the Big Bird', Larry Foust is 'the big ''un.', Paul Walther, who wears homburg hats and severe cutaways is 'The Broker' or 'Prime Minister,' Don Meineke who was marked as a disappointment last year, is labeled 'New Look.' Dick Rosenthal, the newcomer out of Notre Dame is 'rookie' or 'Golden Domer.' by George Beahon,
'Put Us On The Map! Fort Wayne's Zollner Pistons, Piston Appreciation Day, Jan 23rd, 1955'
January 24, 1955. The Fort Wayne Pistons and Fans hold 'Appreciation Night' for the players, coach and families. Wilma, Charley's wife, made a matching dress for her and a shirt for Charley. This shirt became Charley's 'Good Luck Shirt.' Hilliard Gates, while broadcasting a Piston road game, stated when the Zs were building that first victory string: 'It looks like Coach Charlie Eckman is not going to change that sport shirt as long as the team is winning. It looks like the same shirt.' Mrs. Eckman sitting at home, nearly ran a needle through her finger at that. She was right then in the process of making another duplicate of the lucky shirt. And she will have the world know Charlie does change his shirts.'
The Original POCKET News Weekly Magazine of February 7, 1955 writes 'TEMPO and QUICK' - 'Before the Game ...Eckman, a soft-spoken man, not only taught his players to relax, but gave them the kind of confidence that makes them feel they are unbeatable. He has traded shrewdly and is getting great mileage out of stars. It had taken Santa Claus sometime to drop down the Zollner Piston chimney with a load of victories but his 1954 bag of wins was overflowing. The Big Z's were creating a sensation that hadn't been seen in the league since 1949 when the Washington Caps were out sprinting everyone in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in the early furlongs.'
'The 'new look' by Eckman and Co., apparently is a face-lifting job that would be a credit to the world's foremost plastic surgeons. There is no letup in the blistering pace that the Pistons started out with early in the season.'
(Whooping) 'Charley Keeps Them Up'.. 'Nothing great was ever produced without enthusiasm, wrote Emerson...and explains the lift given the Pistons by ex-whistle tooter Charley Eckman!
(with background assist to fan and boss Fred Zollner)....Can't help but get a rise outa him'
by Murray Olderman.
The Yuma Daily Sun, Yuma, Arizona loved to discuss Charley's career. An article dated Feb. 7, 1955: 'ECKMAN'S WHOOPING SPARKS PISTONS....The hot dog slopped over with mustard and the bottle of beer weren't providing much balm for effervescent Charley Eckman. The Ft. Wayne Zollner's had blown a 99-90 duke to the Philadelphia Warriors, and the Piston skipper was as quiet as cheerleader Charley can be “ a half staccato chatter."
'But maybe it's my fault. I've got to juggle the boys around to pair them off against that Philadelphia height. I guarantee you they don't go on beating us.' Three times since that night, the Warriors have met the Zollner's, and three times the Zollner's have WON."
'A year ago, Charley was a whistle-tooter in this league, and one of his old conferers was wondering what the magic was that converted Eckman into the winningest coach in pro basketball.'
'Fellas, you ain't gonna win unless you get rebounds off these guys. If they get in your way, kick the ----out of them.' 'I never enjoyed basketball like this before,' says Zaslofsky.'
'Eckman whose previous coaching experience was limited to amateur softball, paces in front of his team at a game in New York. In the foreground: Piston center Larry Foust.'
February 19, 1955, Stanley Frank of The Saturday Evening Post Magazine provided a new outlook on coaching titled: 'Coaching the Pros is a Cinch, He says, 'Eckman has been the most intriguing feature of one of the pleasantest sports surprises of the year. Nobody thought that the team from Fort Wayne , which is by far the smallest town in the NBA, would run wild for any part of this season. Eckman's light touch is such a refreshing switch from Birch's browbeating that the Pistons are giving him the full measure of their effort and capabilities. Eckman lets the players cut loose and do what comes naturally. He roots so strenuously for the team that he looses his voice in every game. At New York , he leaped to his feet after a spectacular play against the Knickerbockers and missed the bench on the descent. He landed on the floor and went on screaming ecstatically, 'Go, Go, Get more!'
Of course there remains the disagreements between Charley and Boston ''s Red Auerbach. On March 8, Harold Kaese of the Boston Daily Globe, rubbed Eckman's nose at Auerbach.
Eckman Lists 'Don'ts for Rival Hoop Coaches. Charlie Eckman wants to write the chapter for Red Auerbach's book on basketball that the Celtics coach forgot. The title of the chapter, says Eckman, would be, 'How to Win.'' That Eckman is qualified to write this chapter is beyond dispute. In his first year of coaching, his Ft. Wayne Pistons have finished on top in their division for the first time. They have as good a chance as anybody to win the championship.'
'Eckman's chapter, which would be required reading for all coaches, and particularly those in the NBA whose hair is red, would include these don'ts:
- Don't loose your temper.
- Don't worry about the referees, because if you do you may forget your players.
- Don't incur technical fouls by yammering from the bench.
- Don't be afraid to substitute.
- Don't forget that spirit wins a lot of games.
'I hold my temper says Eckman. Bad calls trouble him, but not once this season has he cost his team a point through a technical foul. He tells the referees about the bad calls. 'You can't improve a referee's judgment,' says Eckman, 'but you can improve his position during play, and you can expect common sense. I enjoyed officiating. I had fun at it. I'm not sorry I didn't turn to coaching earlier. I'm lucky to be coaching now.'
' Fort Wayne Pistons Win Western Division Championship with a 43-29 record . Charley finished the season with a reward bonus of $4,500 and a new Oldsmobile.'
On April 8, 1955, Rand Hooper of The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, MA wrote of 'Charley Eckman's Rise-Basketball's Top Story' 'Win or lose in the current best-of-seven NBA championship playoff series against the Syracuse Nationals, Charley Eckman and his Fort Wayne Pistons rate as pro basketball's story of the year.
The wise cracking Eckman has let his team run loose. When Eckman got a three-year contract the whole league was dumfounded. The Pistons are a happy lot mainly because Charley uses all 10 men in every game. By shuffling them in and out, Fort Wayne has fresh men in the lineup most of the time.'
Sport Magazine praised Charley stating: 'Pro Basketball's Fun at Fort Wayne . The Pistons have a free-spending boss in Fred Zollner and a rah-rah coach in Charley Eckman. Now they're going after a pro title.'
'The Fort Wayne Pistons loose to Syracuse in the final of seven playoff games, 92-91'
It was written that 'The 1954-55 NBA league race will be long remembered as the keenest ever staged in the history of the game and, for that matter, as sharp a race as any sport has ever known.'
'The return of the Ft. Wayne Pistons after loosing to Syracuse by one point in the NBA finals. Over four thousand fans welcome the Fort Wayne Pistons home.' The Fort Wayne ROCKET Magazine
''...Charley Eckman whose chatter sounds like a machine gun.' Post Standard, Syracuse, NY.
The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, reported 'ROUSING WELCOME GREETS PISTONS AFTER PLAYOFF LOSS. ' Fort Wayne's hard-fighting Pistons, tired and dejected returned home last night to the cheers of approximately 4000 persons at Baer Field. As they stepped from the plane some were able to smile, some were near tears, and Charley Eckman, coach of the Pistons, who lost a heartbreaker to Syracuse 92-91, spoke for all of them, when he said with emphasis, 'What should have happened today will happen for sure next year.'
'We take our hats off to Fred Zollner and Charley Eckman. Their tremendous effort has swollen the heart of the community with pride.' Zollner said: 'Players do things for Charley that they probably wouldn't do for their own family.'
1955 Basketball Year Book: 'Basketball's new world champions are the Syracuse Nationals, who defeated the Fort Wayne Pistons in the best of a seven-game series. George King's foul shot with 10 seconds remaining of the final game decided the issue, 92-91.'
The Christian Science Monitor,
Boston, MA. April 8, 1955
'Cheerleader Charlie Eckman, The new Fort Wayne Coach led the Pistons to the Western Division Championship. The former basketball official is the youngest coach in the NBA. It was his ability to handle men that prompted Zollner (Piston's Owner) to hire Eckman as coach. Charlie give his team a big boost by shouting encouragement from the bench.' by Bill Pevear
International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, Vol 4, Nr 40..
'1955 - Pax-Torials -- Charlie Eckman, Maryland's contribution to the pro league, and surprise coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons, will be a cinch to win the 'Pro Coach of the Year' if his team continues to click as it has from the start of the season.
'Charley Eckman named NBA Coach of the Year for 1954-55'
'As far as the other coaches are concerned, the appointment of Eckman (as coach of the Pistons) was a bad joke.' 'But the joke was on everyone else' Leonard Koppett, Championship NBA. Nothing great was ever produced without enthusiasm' wrote Emerson “ and explains the lift given the Pistons by ex-whistle tooter Charley Eckman"
Sport Magazine's April 1955 article explains why the Pistons and Charley were so great this year. 'Charley, says Fred Zollner, is a pistol' and that is as good a way as any to describe the Inoquacious leader of the Pistons. Eckman, who never coached before and admits he could never hold down a college job “ I'd have to know too much' is kinetic, popgun-talking character with the instincts of a psychologist and the energy of a cheerleader.'
'The intricacies of basketball don't worry or bother Charley. He figures that pros are so good that there isn't much a coach can teach them, except that they have to play as a team. What does Eckman think makes him a winning coach? 'I get along with the fellows,' is his quick explanation. 'We have a spirit and a feeling that we're a good club.' This feeling, most critics believe, wasn't there last year, though the personnel was. Charley say: 'These are pros. I don't have to tell them when to take a shot. They know that better than I do. What I have to do is keep them happy.' Between Eckman and Zollner the team is kept real happy.'
'When asked why Zollner chose Charley.. 'As Zollner explained it, his mind was made up as far back as 1951 when he and Charley got together during a post-game party in Milwaukee . 'There were these prima donnas there, Fred said, 'telling Charley what a great referee he was.' Charley just shrugged. 'I want to be a coach', he said. 'I never forgot that statement. Whether it was a stroke of rich man's genius or just luck finally turning good for a fellow who tries is something you will have to decide'.But one thing is certain making Eckman coach changed fortunes quickly for Zollner and his Pistons.'
'The team had never finished higher than third in its division in its first six years. George Yardley, who the year before, looked like a fellow who could just about keep his job, joined the league's scoring leaders.'
'Max Zaslofsky, a nine-year veteran of the pro leagues and supposedly fading badly, had more good nights than bad ones. Rookie Dick Rosenthal of Notre Dame was playing a store corner game. Both 31 yr old Brian and 32 year old Phillip were scoring, running and passing well. Mel Hutchins and Larry Foust, who had been standouts for the Pistons before, continued to make their points and control the boards. And most of all they were playing like a team.'
'Throughout the early successes “ and in the losing games too “ there was Eckman leading the cheers on the bench. 'Go get ''um, gang', 'Nice and easy, big Mel' , 'Make him work, Zas, Some chatter, gang and on and on'
Thus ends the 1954-55 Fort Wayne Pistons year.....on to