Abraham joins Pa. Basketball Hall of Fame
August 20, 2004 Butler Eagle

By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor


Anyone who watched George Abraham coach can still envision him doing it.
Chair pushed back, arms and legs flailing, shouting at players during timeouts, baiting officials, telling jokes - he did all of those things.
Oh, yeah, and he won - often.
The latter point is why Abraham, 53, has been added to the Pennsylvania Basketball Hall of Fame. No induction dinner has been announced. There may not even be one.
Abraham doesn't care.
"I'm just thrilled my name is going in there," the former Butler coach said. "I won a lot of games, but they were spread out at a few places.
"I never thought I'd have a shot."
By gaining induction, Abraham's name will be alongside such basketball notables as Larry Brown, Chuck Daly, P.J. Carlesimo, John Chaney and George Karl
Abraham averaged 21 wins per season in a coaching career that spanned from 1984-2000 at Grove City High School, George Junior Republic and Butler.
He won four league titles, two District 10 championships and took Butler to the Western Final in 1995 and 1997. Abraham coached unbeaten teams at Grove City in 1988 and George Junior in 1993.
"That Grove City team was something else," Abraham recalled. "Our 6-foot-7 center, Jeff Minnich, blew out his knee in our first playoff game that year.
"We wound up losing in the state playoffs to Seton LaSalle by five points. Seton LaSalle went on to win the state title. Minnich went on to score 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds at West Chester University. Surely he would have been worth more than five points against Seton Lasalle."
Abraham was 55-2 in two years at George Junior and referred to those seasons as "the most gratifying years of my life."
"The kids really needed me there," he said. "I was their surrogate mother and father as well as their coach. That program turned around a few lives."
Abraham said he had the Sharon High School job for a week, but refused it while waiting to hear from Butler.
He finally did and was named Golden Tornado basketball coach on June 20, 1993.
"We got a late start putting our program in, faced Norwin, Woodland Hills, Penn Hills, Farrell and New Castle out of the gate and went 5-0," Abraham said. "I was proud of that.
"We beat New Castle six times in an era when they had four 1,000-point scorers. We were looking down the barrel at them for years."
Abraham kept the same assistant coaches - Jim and Dennis Gallagher and Gene Rodgers - during his years at Butler.
"You hear about coaches who hire friends as assistant coaches," Abraham said. "I hired assistant coaches who became my friends."
Gallagher said Abraham demanded discipline from his players during an era in which discipline was hard to receive.
"Our teams always received compliments from the officials," Gallagher said. "They said our players played hard and kept their mouths shut. That was a reflection of George.
"When he saw a player do something wrong in practice, he stopped practice right there and corrected it. Let a wrong move fester and it becomes a habit. George really believed that."
Abraham knew how to relate to kids and still does. He is busy almost daily throughout the summer, working with former Farrell point guard Albert Campman giving private lessons and clinics.
Abraham attends approximately 30 high school basketball games per season.
"I try to see the kids I work with during the summer," he said. "I've been working with kids from Mohawk, Middlesex, New Castle - all over."
"He could be screaming or hollering at a kid one second, have his arm around him telling him a joke the next," Gallagher said. "Kids respected him."
Rodgers took over Butler's varsity in 2000, days after Abraham stepped down because of health concerns.
Rodgers and Gallagher guided that team to the WPIAL Finals.
"We just used his system," Rodgers said. "George was a successful coach everywhere he went and he did it the old-fashioned way, through getting kids to work hard.
"He got his kids to play unselfishly, to play together as a team, to never miss open gym no matter how hot it was."
When Abraham stepped down from coaching, he was "99 percent sure" he wasn't going to step back into it.
"My blood pressure was way up. My cholesterol level was way up. I had to make some lifestyle changes," he said. "Coaching was the only stress in my life.
"I miss it a little, but not too much. Believe me, I'm plenty busy."
Abraham still teaches economics at Butler High School.
"I love that place, I love the kids there," he said. "I want to go to work every day. They'll have to drag me out of there before I'd quit."