Monday, February 27

Zollie Volchok Passes Away

To those reared on Payton, Kemp, and Karl, the name Zollie Volchok might not ring any bells, but Zollie Volchok, who passed away Sunday night, was an integral part of the early days of Sonic history, and also played an important role in the championship years as well.

Volchok, who was 95 years old and was born Zalmon Marcola Volchok, came to the Sonics in the 1969-70 season as the team's interim Supervisor of Operations and remained with the club in various positions for many years afterwards. He was brought back to the Sonics by owner Sam Schulman for the 1977-78 season as the team's Executive Vice President/General Manager and remained with the club through the 1982-83 season. Ironically, he was named the NBA's Executive of the Year in 1983, the first such award in the franchise's history (he was joined by Bob Whitsitt a decade later as the only two winners in Seattle's history).

Volchok's role was a unique one, and completely different than the one expects from an NBA GM in today's game, as he left the on-court talent business to Bill Russell or Lenny Wilkens while he handled the business side of things. In Wilkens' book "Unguarded," there are numerous stories of trades that didn't happen (Fred Brown for Earl Tatum or Tom Burleson for George Jonson) or draft picks that didn't get picked (Ernie Grunfield instead of Jack Sikma), and Volchok routinely let Wilkens handle that side of the Sonics' affairs, trusting that a former NBA player and coach would no more about basketball talent than a guy who spent his formative years in vaudeville.

Volchok's background was in the entertainment business, everything from roller derbies to Frank Sinatra and few things in between, and he did considerable work for the Variety Club. Despite a lack of basketball knowledge, Schulman trusted that Volchok's ability to get people to attend events would prove useful with the Sonics.

Schulman's trust proved accurate, as Sonic attendance increased and Volchok eventually wound up owning a 5% share of the club. He is survived by his wife of 72 years, Sylvia, and sons Gary, Michael and Tony.

No comments: