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Chevette to Corvette No. 16: The 1949-50 Fort Wayne Pistons

Facts

  • Actual record: 40-28
  • Pythagorean record: 38-30
  • Points Per Game: 79.3 (11th of 17)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 77.9 (8th of 17)
  • Arena: North Side High School Gym
  • Head coach: Murray Mendenhall

Playoffs

  • Lost NBA Central Division Finals (2-0) versus Minneapolis Lakers
  • Won NBA Central Division Semifinals (2-0) versus Rochester Royals

Leaders

  • Points per game: Fred Schaus (14.3)
  • Assists per game: Curly Armstrong (2.7)

Top player

Fred Schaus

Schaus’s numbers — 14.3 points per game on 35 percent shooting — hardly seem impressive by today’s standards, but in the 1949-50 season, he accounted for nearly 20 percent of the team’s offense. He was also a solid defensive player who helped Fort Wayne improve by 18 wins over the previous season. Schaus didn’t have a long playing career, but had quite a memorable coaching career, including coaching Jerry West in college at West Virginia. He was also the first coach of the Lakers in Los Angeles after they moved from Minneapolis in 1960. West considered Schaus a mentor. From the Los Angeles Times:

“He was the first coach to show interest in me,” West said.

Key transaction

Selected Fred Schaus in the third round of the BAA Draft

In their first season in existence, the Fort Wayne Pistons had no player average in double figures. They had only one player who appeared in more than two games shoot better than 35 percent from the field. The team was last in the league in scoring. Schaus, an All-American at West Virginia and the first Mountaineer to score 1,000 points in his career, immediately helped turn the fortunes of the team around.

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Playoff mainstays

The 1949-50 season would mark the first of 14 straight playoff appearances for the Pistons, the longest playoff streak in franchise history.

Why this season ranks No. 16

Curly Armstrong, an Indiana legend after starring locally at the high school level in Fort Wayne and then collegiately at Indiana, helped the Pistons to their first 40 win season with his presence at the point guard position. Armstrong certainly wasn’t a great shooter (28 percent), but his winning mentality was an important component for the team’s early success. Armstrong led his high school and college teams to championships and he even won three world championships as a softball player.???

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