Dutch NBA Pioneers

Welcome to this English page on my website. I am a 37-year old journalist and sports author from the Netherlands. Here, you will find more information about the book I am writing about players, coaches and executives with Dutch roots who have been part of the NBA since 1946 (initially called the BAA).

Their stories paint an interesting picture of the history of the NBA as well as Dutch immigration in the USA since roughly 1880. Among them are NBA co-founder Mike Uline, former player and Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach, former Chicago Bulls center Tom Boerwinkle and current Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.

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Jelte Posthumus – jlp.journalistiek(a)gmail.com

 

About the book

More than 20 percent of all current NBA players were born outside the USA. But already from the early beginnings in the 1940’s, foreign and first or second generation immigrant players, coaches and executives have played an important role in the NBA.

Beenders3For example Daniel Biasone, who saved the NBA when he invented the shot clock in 1954, was Italian. NBA great Red Auerbach, who won nine titles as a coach, was one of four children of an immigrant from Belarus. And Hank Beenders (photo left), who reached the BAA Finals in 1948, was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Beenders was one of at least fifteen players, coaches and executives with Dutch roots who played a role in the NBA long before modern Dutch athletes like the Indiana Pacers’ Rik Smits (in 1988) and his fellow Dutchmen Fransisco Elon, Geert Hammink and Dan Gadzuric joined the NBA during the past few decades.

Their largely unknown stories not only paint an interesting image of the history of the NBA through the eyes of those directly involved; they also show a glimpse of Dutch immigration in the USA and the challenges those immigrants had to overcome.

 

Some of the individuals portrayed in the book

Johnny Bach played for the 1948/1949 Boston Celtics and as a coach he won three titles with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan (1991-1993). His paternal grandparents were Dutch immigrants.

Hank Beenders also played for the 1948/1949 Boston Celtics. In 1948 he was the first non-American to reach the Finals, with the Philadelphia Warriors. Beenders was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands.

Tom Boerwinkle played ten seasons for the Chicago Bulls (1968-1978) and is second to Michael Jordan on the Bulls all-time rebounding list. Boerwinkle’s paternal grandparents were born in Amsterdam and Friesland, the Netherlands.

Don Boven, the second of four sons of an immigrant couple from Groningen, the Netherlands, played in the NBA between 1949 and 1953. Boven later coached the men’s basketball team of Western Michigan University.

Magnus Brinkman - Sheboygan Red Skins 1950-1951 season - National Professional Basketball League - 602-52-5

Magnus Brinkman (photo left), the son of a Dutch cheese manufacturer, was president of the Sheboygan Red Skins when in 1949 Sheboygan and six other NBL teams merged with the 10-team BAA to become the National Basketball Association.

Richard DeVos is an American businessman and owner of the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team. All four of his grandparents were Dutch immigrants.

Swen Nater was born in Den Helder, the Netherlands in 1950 but moved to the USA as a child. He became the only player to lead the NBA as well as the ABA in rebounding and co-authored a book with legendary coach John Wooden.

Jon Spoelstra, who has been president and general manager for several NBA teams since 1977, and his son Erik Spoelstra, who is currently head coach of the Miami Heat, are also of Dutch descent. Jon’s father was a Dutch immigrant.

Mike Uline was born in the Netherlands and emigrated to the USA in 1890, when he was sixteen. He became a succesful business man, owning a range of ice plants in Ohio. In 1946 Uline, who also owned an ice hockey arena in Washington, became one of the founders of the Basketball Association of America. He hired the famous Red Auerbach to coach his Washington Capitols.

Pete Verhoeven spent six seasons in the NBA, between 1981 and 1987. All four of his grandparents came from the Netherlands. After his NBA career, Verhoeven played several seasons in Europe.