BACK PEDAL: DAN ROUNDFIELD, R.I.P.
The basketball world lost a good guy. Former Central Michigan University power forward Dan Roundfield has passed away. Roundfield drowned trying to save his wife while the family vacationed in Aruba. He was 59.
Michael Cunningham of the AJC with the horrible news.
Roundfield played for the Chips from 1971 to 1975. In 1975, the Detroit native was named MVP of the MAC.
“I remember watching pro basketball on television as a kid and vowing I wanted to pattern myself after certain players. I would watch a Bill Russell or an Elvin Hayes, and I would tell my friends I wanted to be like them.” (Basketball Digest, December 1979)
Roundfield was drafted by the Indiana Pacers of the ABA in 1975 where he played for the Pacers for three seasons. Roundfield then signed as a free-agent with the Atlanta Hawks where his career took off. The power forward spent six seasons in the ATL.
I first recall seeing Roundfield play for the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. The Hawks had an interesting and fun team. Coached by Hubie Brown and Mike Fratello they had guys like Doc Rivers, Tree Rollins and Dominique Wilkins. Roundfield was a tough inside player with some hops. In a game that I watched live at MSG he had a couple of hard dunks. Roundfield could post you up, run the floor and shoot the mid-range jump-shot. Roundfield could defend very well and he was one of the better rebounders in the league. Roundfield was always a guy who was crashing the offensive glass when a teammate missed a shot. To me Roundfield was very underrated during his time with the Hawks. Roundfield brought his hardhat and lunch pail every night; a typical blue-collar guy from the city of Detroit.
Roundfield might not have been the most talented player with the Hawks but he was the backbone of the that team.
People weren’t always trying to get Roundfield to play basketball for them, however. He grew up in Detroit thinking he was going to be a baseball hero and didn’t even begin to play organized basketball until the 11th grade. “My first year was a total wipeout,” says Roundfield. “We lost every single game. I was the shortest center in our division, and we got killed every time.” By his senior year at Chadsey High School, Roundfield’s game was improving, but he was often overshadowed by a couple of other future stars from the Detroit area—Campy Russell and James McElroy, both now in the NBA with Cleveland and Atlanta respectively.
Roundfield was a three-time NBA all-star from 1980-1982. More from the SI story…
Only six or seven colleges bothered to recruit Roundfield, but he chose none of them, electing instead to go to Central Michigan after his parents urged him to apply for a basketball scholarship. Had his parents been less persuasive, Roundfield would probably be a bank teller today. Come to think of it, he is a bank teller today, working at the Fulton Federal Savings & Loan in Atlanta during the off-season.
Roundfield wound up leading Central Michigan to a 1975 Mid-American Conference title and impressed pro scouts by blocking eight shots in a loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Mideast Regional that year. He was drafted in the first round by Indiana, then in the ABA, for whom he sat on the bench most of his rookie season. Roundfield had always been a great leaper, but he wasn’t prepared for one experience. “My second year with the Pacers, Len Elmore got hurt,” says Roundfield, “and I started 61 games for them at center. That was the first year of the merger, so I had to go up against guys like Bob Lanier, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I learned a lot that year. I was quick enough to stay with those guys. but I wasn’t big enough to really do battle with them. I had to get by on quickness and jumping ability, which didn’t do me any good most of the time because those big guys would just push me out of the way.”
In 1980 Roundfield made first team all-NBA. In 82-83, Roundfield put up 19 PPG and 11RPG.
Roundfield was also a three-time member of the first team all-defensive team.
Roundfield finished out his career in Detroit and Washington.
His career numbers over 12 years in the ABA and NBA: 14 points per game and 6 rebounds per game.
When you talk old school players, Roundfield would be the guy you would want your players today to emulate.
While doing some research on Roundfield I came across this funny exchange between an NBA official and Roundfield’s coach Mike Fratello compliments of Sports Illustrated.
Earl Strom, NBA referee, complaining to Atlanta coach Mike Fratello after the Hawks’ Dan Roundfield protested a call: “I don’t think he has the right to yell at me just because I miss a call. I don’t yell at him when he misses a layup.”
Thoughts and prayers go out to the Roundfield family.