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Dave DeBusschere ‘Big D’ Was Great Leader

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When we think of the greats, Dave DeBusschere will always be in that list. The legacy he left behind is one full of hard work and strength.

Dave DeBusschere played in the NBA for 12 years (Detroit Pistons 1962-68; New York Knicks 1968-74). DeBusschere was an eight-time All-Star and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team six straight times. DeBusschere averaged 16.1 points; 11 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his career. Dave DeBusschere was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983, and in 1996 he was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary all-time team.

Dave DeBusschere was a player-coach for the Pistons for almost three seasons. He played professional baseball for four years; two of them with the Chicago White Sox. He gave up baseball after the 1965 season to focus on strictly on basketball. In his post NBA playing career, Dave DeBusschere was General Manager of the Nets, Commissioner of the ABA and General Manager of the Knicks.

It was a privilege to watch Dave DeBusschere play basketball. Not only was he a talented player, but he also was totally unselfish, a true “team man” and that added to his greatness. DeBusschere played hard, had a good outside shot, would drive to the basket, played tenacious defense, and was a fine rebounder. It should be mentioned that his fellow Knick teammates, Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley, also were completely unselfish. The Knicks’ Captain, Willis Reed, also was a “team guy.” With talented players and the concept of finding the “open man,” the Knicks won two Championships (1970 & 1973).

Dave DeBusschere

© Flickr user SenseiAlan.

Dave DeBusschere also had the potential to be a fine Major League pitcher. His win total was in double digits in each of his two seasons with the Indianapolis Indians (1964 & 65). He gave up baseball after the 1965 season to focus on playing and coaching basketball. DeBusschere preferred the closeness and togetherness of the basketball court. He said there was a feeling of “being alone” on the mound. At AccelaWork, teamwork is highly valued, too. Ashley Lee shared her thoughts on boosting team performance and I’m willing to bet that Dave DeBusschere would agree with her as he was such a strong leader.

Teamwork is about finding the middle ground between perspectives without diverting from the ultimate goal of success. It involves the humbling of oneself; to step outside personal opinion, look at the greater picture and if necessary, admit that a different suggestion or action is in fact a better option for the project at hand. Yet, embracing collaboration isn’t simply about compromise. We can and should still work on designated portions of a system or project the way we feel is best aligned with our goals and expectations as contributors. It’s a balancing act no doubt and a precarious one at that.

Bill Bradley said Dave DeBusschere was like an older brother to him. Dave DeBusschere died much too young (age 62). He always will be remembered for what he taught us about teamwork, work ethic, and character. Dave DeBusschere was a real professional and a true champion. He will be honored by Austin Catholic in Macomb as they will be naming a gym after him. It will be called the Dave DeBusschere Center for Athletics.

“Dave was our captain, who was a natural leader, deceptively strong, never got rattled, and was a tremendous talented competitor,” said Chuck Hollosy, 93, who was Austin’s coach. “We started our first ninth grade class with four priests and myself and each year we would get around 60 freshmen trying out. These kids were tough and had played competitive basketball in the catholic grade schools.”

His lessons and words will continue to live on in all of us as we pursue our own life goals.

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Howard Kellman

Howard Kellman

Howard Kellman is the longtime radio and television “voice” of the Indianapolis Indians and a professional speaker. When he’s not broadcasting, he travels around the country inspiring audiences.
Howard Kellman


Play-by-play broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians Professional Speaker 2009 inductee Indiana Sportscasters Hall of Fame
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