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Dan Issel

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Title: Dan Issel  
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Subject: Denver Auditorium Arena, List of American Basketball Association awards and honors, Julius Erving, 1969 NCAA Men's Basketball All-Americans, Kentucky Colonels
Collection: 1948 Births, American Men's Basketball Players, Baltimore Claws Players, Basketball Players from Illinois, Denver Nuggets Assistant Coaches, Denver Nuggets Executives, Denver Nuggets Head Coaches, Denver Nuggets Players, Detroit Pistons Draft Picks, Kentucky Colonels Draft Picks, Kentucky Colonels Players, Kentucky Wildcats Men's Basketball Players, Living People, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees, National Basketball Association All-Stars, National Basketball Association Broadcasters, National Basketball Association General Managers, National Basketball Association Players with Retired Numbers, Parade High School All-Americans (Boys' Basketball), Power Forwards (Basketball), Sportspeople from Kane County, Illinois
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Dan Issel

Dan Issel
Personal information
Born (1948-10-25) October 25, 1948
Batavia, Illinois
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight 235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school Batavia (Batavia, Illinois)
College Kentucky (1967–1970)
NBA draft 1970 / Round: 8 / Pick: 122nd overall
Selected by the Detroit Pistons
Pro career 1970–1985
Position Center / Power forward
Number 44, 25
Career history
As player:
19701975 Kentucky Colonels (ABA)
19751985 Denver Nuggets (ABA and NBA)
As coach:
19921994 Denver Nuggets
19992001 Denver Nuggets
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 14,659 (20.4 ppg)
Rebounds 5,707 (7.9 rpg)
Assists 1,804 (2.5 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Daniel Paul "Dan" Issel (born October 25, 1948) is a retired American Hall of Fame professional basketball player and coach. An outstanding collegian at the University of Kentucky, he was twice named an All American en route to a still school record 25.7 points per game. The ABA Rookie of the Year in 1971, he was a six-time ABA All-Star and one-time NBA pick.


  • Collegiate playing career 1
  • Professional playing career 2
  • Coaching career 3
  • Head coaching record 4
    • NBA 4.1
  • Retirement 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Collegiate playing career

A jersey honoring Issel hangs in Rupp Arena

Issel played college basketball at the University of Kentucky under legendary coach Adolph Rupp. Issel was at UK 1966-1970 and scored 2,138 points (an average of 25.7 per game) while being named an All American for two of the three seasons he was eligible for the award. His career points total remains the highest among UK men's players.

On February 7, 1970, Issel scored 53 points in a 120-85 victory over Mississippi, breaking Cliff Hagan's single-game Wildcat record of 51. Issel's mark held for almost four decades, finally falling to Jodie Meeks' 54 in a win against University of Tennessee on January 13, 2009.[1] A three-year starter for the Wildcats, Issel led his team to three Southeastern Conference titles and set 23 school records in the process.

Professional playing career

Upon Issel's graduation in 1970 he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons of the NBA and the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA. Issel signed to play basketball for the Colonels and the ABA.

In his first season, Issel led the ABA in scoring with an average of 29.9 points per game, and pulled down 13.2 rebounds per game. He played in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game and was selected to the All-ABA Second Team. Issel shared ABA Rookie of the Year honors with Charlie Scott of the Virginia Squires.

The following season, Issel played in 83 of 84 games and raised his scoring average to 30.6 points per game. He was named the MVP of his second All-Star Game for scoring 21 points and collaring nine rebounds. Issel made the All-ABA First Team of that season.

Led by dominating 7'2" center Artis Gilmore, the 1974–75 Kentucky Colonels won the 1975 ABA championship, with key support from Issel and sharp-shooting guard (and fellow ex-Kentucky Wildcat) Louie Dampier. In six seasons, Issel led the league in total points three times (including a record 2,538 in 1971-72) and was an All-Star each year.

Prior to the 1975-76 season, the Colonels traded Issel to the Baltimore Claws (formerly the Memphis Hustlers) for Tom Owens and cash. With Claws folding before the season's start, Issel was subsequently traded to the Denver Nuggets for Dave Robisch and cash.

Issel remained with the Nuggets following the ABA-NBA merger in June 1976, and represented Denver in the 1977 NBA All-Star Game. He remained productive, topping 20 points per game five of his remaining eight years. Retiring following the 1984-1985 season, he received the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1985 for his outstanding service to the community.

Wearing number 44, Issel is the Nuggets' second all-time leading scorer. He accumulated over 27,000 points in his combined ABA and NBA career, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving upon his retirement. Issel currently ranks #9 on the all time combined ABA/NBA scoring list. He missed only 24 games in 15 seasons, earning him the moniker, "the Horse". He was part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 1993.

Coaching career

After his playing career Issel retired to his Courtland horse farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. He spent a year doing color commentary for Kentucky basketball games then became a Nuggets broadcaster from 1988-92.

Even with no coaching experience, Bernie Bickerstaff recruited him as Nuggets head coach in 1992. In 1994, Issel led his team to the playoffs with their first winning record in four years, after only winning 44 games in the previous two years. That year, the Nuggets pulled off the biggest upset to that date in National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff history, knocking off the Seattle SuperSonics in five games (the first ever 8th seed to beat a 1st seed in the first round). He resigned 34 games into the 1994-95 season after facing criticism for his coaching style, saying he didn't like the person he'd become.

He returned in 1998 as president and general manager, naming himself head coach again in December 1999, yielding his general manager's title to Kiki Vandeweghe. His second tenure was far less successful; the Nuggets did not post a winning season during this time. He was hampered in part by a drawn-out effort to find a new owner; two deals to sell the team collapsed at the last minute. Just before the start of the 1999-2000 season, he told reporters that there were several decisions he simply couldn't make due to the unstable ownership situation.[2]

In 2000, Issel faced a team mutiny after angering his team for criticizing them after a winless four-game Eastern road trip. The Nuggets' team captains called a boycott of their next practice, prompting interest from CNN and other news outlets. The team saw some improvement later in the season, but missed the playoffs with a 40-42 record.[3]

His tenure ended on a rather sour note in December 2001. On December 11, after a close loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Issel heard a fan taunting him as he walked off the court at the Pepsi Center. Issel taunted back, "Go drink another beer, you Mexican piece of shit."[4] The incident was captured on Denver's NBC affiliate, KUSA-TV. Issel was suspended four games by the team. Issel publicly apologized the next day, and on Friday met with Hispanic chamber representatives, who accepted his apology.[5] However, several members of Denver's Hispanic community thought the suspension was insufficient punishment, and called for him to be fired. Hours before he was due to return, Issel took a leave of absence to decide whether he wanted to return. Issel decided to resign on December 26.

Head coaching record


Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
DEN 1992–93 82 36 46 .439 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
DEN 1993–94 82 42 40 .512 4th in Midwest 12 6 6 .500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
DEN 1994–95 34 18 16 .529 (Resigned)
DEN 1999–2000 82 35 47 .488 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
DEN 2000–01 82 40 42 .427 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
DEN 2001–02 26 9 17 .346 (fired)
Career 388 180 208 .464 12 6 6 .500


Issel filed for bankruptcy in 2009, claiming a $4.5 million debt to at least 34 creditors. To defray his debts, he sold off his 1969 Look All America Kentucky All Star Ring, 1970 Kentucky class ring, a 1975 25th anniversary ABA All-Star ring, and a 1989 NBA All-Star ring.

In 2011, Issel lived in Los Angeles where he was executive director at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church.[6] As of 2014, he lives in Windsor, Colorado, employed in the oil and gas business.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Kentucky downs Tennessee behind Meeks' 54 points ESPN. Retrieved on January 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Nuggets roster moves put on hold. ESPN, 1999-11-11.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Spears, Mark (March 4, 2011). "Issel finds peace after turmoil of NBA". Archived from the original on Aug 1, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Moss, Irv (Feb 3, 2014). "Colorado Classics: Dan Issel, former Denver Nuggets player, coach". Denver Post. Archived from the original on Aug 15, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 

External links

  • Dan Issel stats at Basketball-Reference
  • Legends profile: Dan Issel
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