The Career of Rudy Tomjanovich


Rudolph Tomjanovich or Rudy Tomjanovich is a retired basketball player and coach. Before he became a coach, Tomjanovich spent his decade long playing career with the Houston Rockets. During that time, he became a five-time NBA All-Star forward. After he retired from being a basketball player, Tomjanovich became Houston Rocket’s assistant coach, and after eight years, he was promoted as the team’s head coach up until 2003. In this article, we are going to learn more about the iconic career of Rudy Tomjanovich.

Playing Career

Rudy Tomjanovich 1970

During the 1970 NBA draft, Rudy Tomjanovich was selected by the San Diego Rockets as their second overall pick. San Diego Rockets, which later became the Houston Rockets, was Tomjanovich’s first and last team on the entirety of his NBA playing career. During his eleven-year career as a player in the NBA, Tomjanovich managed to have a rebounding average of 8.1 and scored 17.4 points. And in the process, he also earned five All-Star Game selections in 1974–1977, 1979. Tomjanovich is the Houston Rocket’s third-leading scorer, and he followed Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Calvin Murphy. Tomjanovich’s last name was so long that the back of his jerseys would read “RUDY T.” rather than his full 11 character surname.

On December 9, 1977, Tomjanovich was punch by Los Angeles Lakers player Kermit Washington while they were in the middle of a game. The punch was so intense that it shattered Tomjanovich’s face and imposed life-threatening spinal and head injuries; in fact, it even left Tomjanovich sidelined for five months. Luckily, he got fully recovered and was even selected for the NBA All-Star Game in the 1978-79 season. In 1981, Tomjanovich announced his retirement; in turn, the Houston Rockets retired Tomjanovich’s #45 jersey.

Coaching Career

After Tomjanovich retired in 1981, he became a scout for about two years before accepting the Rocket’s assistant coach’s job. Nine years later, he was promoted as the Rocket’s interim head coach after Don Chaney resigned. Tomjanovich nearly led the Rockets to a playoff berth, which is why he became the team’s permanent coach.

In his first season as the permanent coach, Tomjanovich helped the Rockets to the Midwest Division title. This made him the first head coach to take a team from lottery to a division crown during his first season as coach. In 1994 and 1995, Rudy Tomjanovich led the Houston Rockets to a back-to-back NBA championship. Under Tomjanovich, the Houston Rockets became the only team other than the Chicago Bulls ever to bag two championships in the ’90s.

However, from the 1998-1999 season to the coaching tenure of Tomjanovich, the Houston Rockets failed to make it to the playoffs. After the 2002-2003 season was finished, Tomjanovich left his coaching career because he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which marked the end of Tomjanovich’s 33-year association with the Houston Rockets.

Tomjanovich was able to recover from bladder cancer, that is why in 2004, he decided to sign a five-year coaching contract to be the new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. This said contract worth a whopping 30 million dollars. However, after 41 games, Tomjanovich resigned as the team’s coach, citing physical and mental exhaustion. The Lakers even paid Tomjanovich a $10 million settlement, so some people speculated that the team terminated his contract. But Tomjanovich still guided the Lakers as a consultant. In 1998, Rudy Tomjanovich volunteered to be the U.S men’s senior basketball team coach during the FIBA World Championships.

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