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Charley Eckman
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Detroit Pistons: 1957-58

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Coaching the Detroit Pistons: 1957-58

Coaching the Detroit Pistons
In 1995 Charley was asked by a writer to explain the Fort Wayne Piston move to Detroit, Michigan. 
In the fourth year of his coaching reign, the wheels fell off Eckman's Piston Express. Charley didn't want to move.  He loved Fort Wayne.  But, the NBA wanted to go to the bigger markets and Zollner had to go with the league.  TV was coming on strong as a financial resource for the NBA and everybody was making moves. All the small basketball towns were out of the picture ...Waterloo... Moline... "Charlie Eckman and Nat Clifton - Two of Piston's Top Attractions Make Bow" Rochester .... Syracuse were all finished.

 Charlie Eckman and Nat Clifton - Two of Piston's Top Attractions Make Bow. The Wayne Collegian, Detroit, MI, Meet Sports Celebrities. 
Sports fans will have an opportunity to meet guests from many of Detroit's athletic teams at the fourth annual Sports Day. Newest member of the local sporting scene, the Detroit Pistons, will be well represented.  On hand will be center Nat 'Sweetwater' Clifton, Coach Charlie Eckman and General Manager Fred Delano. Charley Eckman is regarded as one of the most colorful figures in the NBA.

Veeck, DeLano, Eckman

July 18, 1957 -  Pistons All: Veeck, DeLano, Eckman. Veeck to Spark Pistons. Detroit Free Press by George Puscas. Bill Veeck's appointment as special public relations counsel was revealed by Pistons general manager Fred DeLano at the grand opening of the club's new offices at Olympia. Veeck is a former president of the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns.  He is remembered as the showman who introduced fireworks and give-away's to major league ballparks.

Pete Waldmeir writes:  Piston General Manager Fred DeLano said:  This is no small-time operation.  We're willing to spend a quarter of a million dollars, to bring pro basketball to Detroit and we're certain that we'll be successful.

"Big Mitt of Detroit Pistons Sweetwater Clifton

Big Mitt of Detroit Pistons Sweetwater Clifton (left) is sized up by coach Charley Eckman as the two get together at Olympia.  Sweetwater wears a size 14 glove, when he can find a pair.  The six-foot-two former Harlem Globetrotter is regarded as one of pro basketball's toughest front-line players.

Big Shakeup On Pro Five ...Eckman promises lots of new faces for Detroit.  Charlie Eckman who pilots the Pistons, yesterday promised Detroit fans as many as eight new faces among his hoopsters.  The peppery mentor is still boiling over the way his Pistons finished in the NBA.  He began his spring cleaning when he swapped Mel Hutchins and first draft rights to New York for Harry Gallatin, Sweetwater Clifton and Sweetwater Clifton, star recently acquired by the Detroit Pistons, checking over his contract with Coach Charley Eckmanoptionee Dick Atha. Baltimore News by Seymour S. Smith.

Happy Fella:  Sweetwater Clifton, star recently acquired by the Detroit Pistons, checking over his contract with Coach Charley Eckman at Olympia.  

NY Post.... Knicks Deny Deal With Hawks, But...The deal with the Pistons involves some of the biggest names in pro basketball.  Gallatin has played 668 consecutive games, a unique record, since coming to the Knicks in 1948-49. He's been a consistent All-Star, this year's top Knicks scorer and a great rebounder.  He's 29 years old.  Clifton, first famous as a Harlem Globetrotter, joined New York in 1950. Hutchins, a star on Brigham Young's NIT champion of 1951, started his pro career with Milwaukee and was sold to Fort Wayne in 1953 for a unprecedented $30,000.  His rebounding, defense and outside shooting helped the Pistons to Western Division titles in 1955 and 1956. 

September 4, 1957,  Eckman May bring Detroit Pistons Here for Benefit Game for North Arundel Hospital Fund. Charley will not move his family to Detroit when the Pistons move this year.  Arundel Observer, Glen Burnie, MD

"Coach Charley Eckman watches as two of his Piston giants practice in preparation for the opening of the NBA season

Coach Charley Eckman watches as two of his Piston giants practice in preparation for the opening of the NBA season.  In the foreground with his hands on the ball is veteran Harry Gallatin.  Jumping up with him is Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton.  Both are expected to be mainstays of the newest Detroit professional team.

From left are Gene Shue, Sweetwater Clifton, Coach Charlie Eckman, Harry Gallatin, Dick McGuire, Dick Atha

Old Home Week: A quintet of former New York Knickerbockers took over new surroundings as the Pistons came to town yesterday.  From left are Gene Shue, Sweetwater Clifton, Coach Charlie Eckman, Harry Gallatin, Dick McGuire, Dick Atha.

"Lakers' 'Skyscraper' Traded to Pistons"

Lakers' Skyscraper Traded to Pistons" by Pete Waldmeir.  The Detroit Pistons finally have obtained the NBA's tallest player, seven-foot Walt Dukes, from the Minneapolis Lakers.  In exchange for the former Seton Hall All-American, the Pistons sent center Larry Foust to the Lakers along with an undisclosed amount of cash. Dukes had spent only two seasons in the NBA.  After college, he signed for $25,000 with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1953 and played two seasons with them.  He was sold to the NY Knickerbockers in 1955 and traded to the Lakers at the end of that season. Foust is a nine-year NBA veteran.

The Casey Stengel of Basketball.... 'The Press Box' by Doc Greene, Detroit paper.      "Charley Eckman intends to make basketball a great thing here in the same manner that Casey Stengel employs his people. "The Yankees do it with their bench," offered the always vocal Eckman.  "I'm going to stir up basketball in this town the same way.  I'll have a bench as good as Stengel's is in baseball in my game-basketball." Charley attended the Tiger-Yankee game the night before and the one yesterday.  "When he had trouble," allowed Eckman, "Casey had bench strength that worked perfectly.  I've got the same kind.  And I can't wait to show it.  I'll win a title for Detroit or be close."   Eckman promises us a Yankees for the winter."

Coach Charles Eckman gives the signalHello Detroit - Coach Charles Eckman gives the signal, sending five of his Detroit Pistons into action for the first time since the team came here from Fort Wayne.  From left the cagers are:  Walt Dukes, George Yardley, Harry Gallatin, Dick McGuire, Chuck Noble"

Detroit Pistons begin practicing in their new home Detroit, Michigan, October, 1957.
Charley Eckman, the bouncing tiny bundle of electricity who coaches the Detroit Pistons, manages to make up in enthusiasm what he lacks in stature.  Detroit Newspaper

Veteran Okie Johnson VVeteran Okie Johnson (right) who has won three Class A state basketball titles in four years wishes Charley Eckman well on the eve of the Pistons' debut.  Johnson was honored as "Michigan's high school coach of the year.

October 23, 1957 -The Detroit Free Press, by George Puscas.  Pro Basketball Is Here....Let's Go NOW, Pistons!...The Pistons are ready to go. They bring professional basketball-which is something like hockey in sneakers-to Detroit tomorrow night.  A doubleheader featuring the Pistons and the world champion Boston Celtics in the second of the two games, will introduce us to the NBA.  The first of the two games will send the Western Division Champion St. Louis Hawks against the New York Knickerbockers at 7:15 pm.  The Piston-Celtic game is set for 9:30.
There are strong possibilities that the Pistons' debut will be an unhappy one. Although off-season trades have made the former Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons a stronger club, they are not yet rated in a class with the Celtics. Piston coach Charley Eckman left no doubt that his club is aiming for Boston.  "Our club is waiting for them," Eckman said.  "We've got a few scores to settle with the Celtics and we aren't going to wait long to start evening things up.

Opening night for the Detroit Pistons in their new Olympia home has been sold out. 

October 24, 1957 - OPENING GAME.  The Detroit Times, by George Maskin.  Pistons Draw Cheers Despite Loss In Opener.  Cage fans like what they see ....but Slippery Floor Hurts.
It hurts when you give everything to get your team off on the winning track in the first game before the new home folks...and then defeat comes...you feel kinda sick...when you should feel pretty proud.  Despite the setback, the Pistons made a tremendous stand.  They caused a lot of buzzing among fans, who although living in what generally is hailed as the greatest sport town of all, heretofore have shown a coolness toward basketball.

Eckman didn't alibi, nor did he take anything away from the brilliance of Bill Russell.  But after some relaxation in the wee hours of this morning (the game didn't end until 12:20), Eckman said: "We're going to do something about Olympia's slippery floor.  It hurt all the teams tonight  but it hurt us the most. That's because we are a run-shoot team.  We try to do a lot of cutting, and we were sliding all over the place. Sure, that Russell was marvelous.  He showed everyone why he was All-American. But the fact we were handicapped trying to move the ball made it possible for him to do the job of goal-tending he did.  Russell was the difference.  We could have beaten any other team in the league tonight."

"A shout of encouragement." A shout of encouragement. The Detroit News, "Press Box" by Doc Greene.  That new coach in town named Charles Eckman, who presented a new sport, called professional basketball last night, probably doesn't realize it, but the venture was successful. There were nearly 11,000 on a rainy night. But Eckman acted like a coach. He made light of his 105-94 defeat.  "I bet a horse called Cagey Move at Garden State this afternoon," he reported.  "He won and paid $9.40.  The day wasn't a total loss."  
But at 5 A.M. this morning he was walking the dampened streets of his adopted village with a couple of friends from Fort Wayne who had come up to give him a vote of confidence on his opening.  He lost gracefully publicly.  Privately he was a nocturnal pedestrian ....continuing to review the game. But he's a coach and as he says, "The ultimate end of a coach is that he'll get fired." This won't happen to Eckman soon.  He'll just keep walking the streets at dawn - worrying. Probably win some games, too.

October 23, 1957, The Detroit News, Meet The Pistons....Doug Bolstorff - Rookie, Walter Dukes - 7 ft, Gene Shue - from Maryland, Dick McGuire - few better playmakers, George Yardley - averaging 21.5 points per game, Bob Houbregs - his hook shot ranks with the best, Richard Atra - graduate Indiana State, Nat Clifton - 6' 7" center, Bill Thieben - appears headed for greatness, Harry Gallatin - 6' 6" forward and terrific rebounder and Charles Noble - his one handed set shot has few equals.

If everybody in town knew him, you'd need rubber walls on the Olympia tonight, but he hasn't had time to get that far around yet

The Detroit News, "Press Box" by Doc Greene. ..As an added starter there is Charley Eckman, a coach who never coached until he started making champions of the Pistons.  He brings color, intelligence, talent and a lust for affection to the town.  If everybody in town knew him, you'd need rubber walls on the Olympia tonight, but he hasn't had time to get that far around yet.

I've been making a basketball team, I think, is his apology for you not knowing him. It's going to be a great basketball show and nothing has been spared to attract the wistful voyager. But for nine months, DeLano, Eckman and everyone else including Fred Zollner, a solid guy who brought the franchise here, have been beating one another on the back in a hail-fellow manner while asking; will basketball go in Detroit?  It never has.  But it never has been approached with the fervor that this new aggregation brings.