Paul Hoffman ‘47 Overlooked Sig All American
I wonder how many Sigs, who attend Purdue basketball games, recognize that the #32 banner hanging from Mackey Arena’s rafters represents the accomplishments of All-American Paul Hoffman ’47, Delta Delta’s first brother to earn these honors.
Early Indiana Basketball Standout
“Until Oscar Robertson came along in Indianapolis, I always considered Paul Hoffman the greatest high school basketball player I ever saw, said Cabby O’Neil, who coached Hoffman at Jasper High School. “Paul could do more things on the court than any player of his era.”
Hoffman, a 1943 Jasper High School graduate, enrolled at Indiana University to play for Branch McCracken. But soon after enrolling at IU, McCracken left to join the military and Hoffman remarked, “I was 17, and I decided that if Branch was going into the service, so was I.” Hoffman joined the Merchant Marines but was released within a year after sustaining an injury. Prior to becoming West Lafayette mayor, Joe Dienhart had coached Hoffman’s older brother, Bernie, and several other Jasper high school graduates on the St. Joseph’s College basketball team. When St. Joe College suspended its athletic programs during the war, Dienhart joined the Purdue football coaching staff. Learning of Paul Hoffman’s situation at IU, he contacted him and encouraged him to come to Purdue.
Nicknamed “the Bear”
Paul Hoffman ’47 was a bruising forward for the Boilermakers who played from 1943 – 1947. Nicknamed “the Bear”, Hoffman at 6’2” 205 lbs., was a muscular, offensive minded player. He had a mixed bag of shots, from outside one-hander to taking it up in heavy traffic under the basket.
At Purdue Hoffman led Purdue in scoring all four seasons and set the conference mark of 917 career points. He became the only four-time first team All-Big Ten selection in Boilermaker history and was a three-time second team Helms Foundation All-American. He won the MVP award for his performance in the 1947 All-American All-Star game at Madison Square Garden.
1st NBA Rookie of the Year
Hoffman was the #1 pick in the 1947 professional basketball draft by the Baltimore Bullets of the Basketball Association of America (the forerunner of the NBA). With the Bullets winning the 1947-1948 league championship, Hoffman was the near unanimous choice as the NBA’s first Rookie of the Year. Sammy Kaye, the famous bandleader, made the presentation of the Rookie of the Year award to Hoffman on March 1, 1948, in the Baltimore Coliseum.
After playing for five seasons with the Bullets, the team disbanded in November 1954, fourteen games into the 1954–55 season. Hoffman was selected by the New York Knicks in the dispersal draft. He only played for the Knicks for less than two months before being sold to the Philadelphia Warriors. Hoffman retired from playing basketball after the season. He averaged 10.2 points, 2.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds over his career.
Career Path Leads Back to Purdue
After his pro career he returned to Purdue in 1956 as the head baseball coach, replacing Hank Stram, and the freshmen basketball coach. Paul was 53-48-2 as Purdue’s baseball coach from 1956-1960, and also coached Purdue basketball standout Terry Dischinger. He returned to Baltimore where he served as general manager for the Baltimore Bullets from June 1963 through May 1965.
Selected as one of Purdue’s 12 all-time best basketball players, Hoffman was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977 and into Purdue’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1999, along with fellow Sigs Bob DeMoss ‘49 and Jim Everett ’85.
Paul James Hoffman entered Chapter Eternal on November 12, 1998, at the age of 73.
Sources: Newspaper articles on Paul Hoffman and Wikipedia.