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Ex-Purdue Star Hoffman Dies

November 13, 1998

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Paul Hoffman, known for his physical, tenacious style of basketball at Purdue in the 1940s and later with the Baltimore Bullets, is dead. He was 73.

Hoffman died Thursday. He had spent two weeks at the Baltimore Medical Center’s Gilchrist Center hospice after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Hoffman, who graduated from Purdue in 1947, was selected this year by his alma mater as one of the Boilermakers’ best 12 all-time basketball players.

In 1948, the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the NBA, selected him Rookie of the Year.

``Paul was a bull on the court,″ said former team owner Jake Embry. ``When he had the ball, no one got in his way. He was a big, strong boy who looked like a linebacker.″

He was nicknamed ``The Bear.″

His aggressive, relentless style won the 6-foot-2 and 200 pound Hoffman the assignment of guarding the opponent’s leading scorer.

Hoffman almost missed the 1948 championship series because his first wife, Mitzi, frowned on his playing professional basketball. He sat out the 1949-50 season.

``I asked the owners to raise my salary to $7,500,″ he has said. ``They said they couldn’t afford it, so I went back to Indiana and made more money as a salesman for Montgomery Ward.″

He returned to the Bullets from 1951 until 1955, when the team went bankrupt. He finished the season in Philadelphia. He played a total of 317 games, averaging 10.2 points.

When pro basketball returned to Baltimore in 1963, taking over the Chicago Zephyrs franchise, Hoffman was the team’s general manager and played a part in reviving the nickname Bullets.

Hoffman told the owner, Dave Trager, ``we’ve got to use the name Bullets,″ The (Baltimore) Sun reported Friday.

``Michael Fox, an auctioneer, owned the copyright to the name. When I asked if he’d allow us to use it, Fox said, `Sure, but my prices is four season tickets,‴ he said. ``And that’s how we kept the name alive until they changed it to Wizards.″

At Purdue, he set several school records, including a conference mark of 917 career points. After his pro career, he served briefly as baseball coach and assistant basketball coach.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, the former Audrey Jeanne Witcher, four children, a sister and nine grandchildren. A memorial service was scheduled for Saturday at 8 a.m. at Evans Chapel of Memories in Parkville.

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