What better person to assemble our annual pro basketball preview, which begins on page 42, than a 5'8" former forward and guard for Pennsylvania's Wyoming Seminary who was taught to dribble by Mendy Rudolph's father. Senior Editor Sandy Padwe was a natural, if only because he can recite the names of the 1954-55 Syracuse Nats ("Wally Osterkorn, Red Rocha...").
Padwe's lifelong passion for the game began in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where Harry Rudolph held court. Rudolph ran the sports program at the Jewish Community Center, served as commissioner of the Eastern Basketball League and owned a newsstand in town—all that apart from siring a famous referee. When Padwe wasn't dribbling around bowling pins for Harry, he was either at the newsstand poring over NBA box scores in the New York papers or watching the Wilkes-Barre Barons play the Scranton Miners. Padwe cherishes his memories of the EBL. "There were some great players in that league," he says. "It was the only place the guys involved in the fixing scandals could play. Sherman White was as good as any big center in the NBA at the time."
In prep school Padwe learned a lesson in humility as captain of the basketball team. Wyoming Seminary had to play state-champion contender Swoyersville, and Captain Padwe wound up trying to guard 6'4" Charlie Sieminski, later a tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. Padwe played brilliantly in holding the score down to 76-24.
When it came time to matriculate at Penn State, Padwe had already realized that his future was at the press table and not out there on the court. "I was caught between eras," he says. "I had mastered the two-hand set shot just when everybody started using the jump shot." As sports editor of the Daily Collegian, Padwe refused to be snowed under by Penn State football. "The school never took basketball, seriously," he says. "The players used to have to wait for the gymnastics team to finish before they could use the floor. That's how low on the rung they were."
After college and the Army, Padwe went to work for United Press International, first in Pittsburgh, then New York. From there his career continued to bounce: in 1964 he joined the Newspaper Enterprise Association as a sportswriter, and in 1967 he became a sports columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Six years later he became assistant sports editor at Long Island's Newsday, and last fall he came to SI to take charge of horse racing, swimming and, this year, pro basketball.
Padwe's one regret is that there's little room in a sports magazine for ballet, his other great love. "Dancers are the ultimate athletes," he says. "I have seen moves by dancers that match some of the things Julius Erving does.
"And talk about depth. A lot of dancers in the New York City Ballet could step out of the corps right into the top roles." Spoken like a true basketballetomane.