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He comes to games and sits alone, a couple dozen rows above the floor, generally limiting his interaction to greetings that convey his authentic decency.

He comes to most practices and sits alone on a balcony, sometimes joking with players or lending an ear to any coach seeking one.

He doesn't mind company for a few minutes, but he won't seek it. To anyone who might ask, he'll tell about the remarkable season of one of the unlikeliest championship teams in American sports history.

Al Attles will tell you about the 1974-75 Warriors, a miscellaneous collection generally perceived as ordinary -- and hardly gifted enough to have a realistic chance to win an NBA title.

But you have to ask, because Attles doesn't have a self-promotional cell in his body. He doesn't swagger or boast, and he rejects credit for coaching an unexceptional roster that achieved to the limit. This accounts for his relative lack of renown, much less glorification.

That will change, somewhat, should Attles be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, for which he is a finalist for the second time. He has worked for the Warriors for 51 years in various capacities -- player, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, franchise ambassador -- and is the only coach to deliver a championship.

Attles, 74, remains the enduring symbol of the organization's greatest success. The Warriors during Attles' 13-plus seasons made six playoff appearances in seven years, including three trips to the Western Conference finals.


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I don't know if Attles, listed as a contributor, will be on the list of inductees in April, but his accomplishments with and loyalty to one of the league's least decorated franchises are worthy of some kind of lifetime achievement award.

"It's an honor just to be nominated," Attles says in his bass rumble. "I would have never thought about it. But it's more for the people who have helped me along the way, like my high school coach, my teammates and players on my teams.

"Really, when it comes to the Hall of Fame, I'm never concerned about who's in. I'm more concerned about who's not in. There are a lot of people, like Guy Rodgers and Don Barksdale, who should be in. For me, being nominated is a great thing."

If not for Attles' core character, he might already have been voted in. He was the second black man, following Bill Russell, to become a full-time head coach in the NBA. Like Raiders legend John Madden, Attles retired from coaching while relatively young (46), as the franchise leader in wins (557) and never coached for another team.

Upon his retirement in 1983, Attles ranked third in NBA history in wins with a single franchise. Both men ahead of him -- Boston's Red Auerbach and New York's Red Holzman -- are in the Hall, along with more than a dozen men who played for them.

More to the point, Auerbach's Celtics and Holzman's Knicks routinely put four or five Hall of Famers on the floor at once.

Attles had one such player, forward Rick Barry, a bit of a maverick requiring occasional maintenance but a great teammate and one of the most skilled players ever.

"We had a lot of guys nobody thought much of as players," Attles recalls. "Guys like Butch Beard, who had been around the league a bit. Clifford Ray wasn't an All-Star. Jamaal Wilkes was supposed to be too skinny to play forward. Charles Dudley had been cut before. One guy, Charles Johnson, disappeared for a year -- I didn't know where he was -- came back and later started for us."

Those Warriors were 48-34 during the season, beat Seattle in the first round, Chicago in the conference finals and swept the Washington Bullets to win the championship.

The little team that couldn't did -- decisively. Attles established himself as a motivator and, by routinely using 10 or 11 or all 12 players, earned a reputation as unconventional.

Yet Attles could have had so much more after '75. There were other jobs in other places, offering significantly higher salaries and opportunities to further burnish his fresh credentials as a leader who could coax the best out of his men.

All he had to do was allow his ambition to sprout wings, his fame to go beyond those who know him and use wealth as his character compass.

He declined, mostly out of loyalty to owner Franklin Mieuli, who promoted Attles to coach, demanded he ignore the unwritten racial quotas prevalent at the time and in many ways treated him like a son.

"I had offers, but I couldn't leave Franklin," Attles says. "I was comfortable with the area, too, but being so close to Franklin, I had no desire to go anyplace else."

The rugged kid from tough Newark, N.J., stayed true to his heart. Attles is where he is because he achieved serenity with himself, his family, his career, his station in life.

He has his memories and, if he isn't enshrined, his ring -- which he never wears. It's in a safe place at the home in which he and his wife, Wilhelmina, have lived for about half their lives.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.