By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Dave Piontek, who led Xavier to its first National Invitation Tournament in 1956, died Wednesday.
Piontek, who also played for the Cincinnati Royals, passed away at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Piontek, 69, suffered a major stroke according to his brother Rich Piontek, also a former Xavier player.
Dave Piontek scored 1,287 points from 1953-56 at Xavier. His 12.1 rebounds-a-game average was the third highest in Xavier history. He was later inducted into the Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame.
"He's a great Xavier guy," said Jim Boothe, who played with Piontek at Xavier. "It's a big loss for all his teammates."
After graduating from Xavier in 1956, Piontek was drafted in the third round by the NBA's Rochester Royals, where he played the 1956-57 season.
The next season, the Royals moved to Cincinnati, where Piontek played until he was traded to Saint Louis in 1960.
Piontek played in Chicago the next season and finished his career in Cincinnati in 1962-63.
In Cincinnati, Piontek was teammates with Jack Twyman, a NBA Hall of Fame player who played at the University of Cincinnati.
"I talked to him two or three times a year," Twyman said. "We always bet on the Xavier-UC game. He'd call me, and we'd kid each other about the outcome."
In seven NBA seasons, Piontek averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. But with his 6-feet-5, 230 pound frame, he was more known for his defensive prowess.
"He always took the tough guy on defense," Twyman said. "We called him spark plug because he always sparked us defensively."
Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, who was then the freshman basketball coach at Xavier, recruited Piontek in 1952.
Bunning went on to a Hall of Fame pitching career in major-league baseball before entering politics.
Thursday, Bunning called Piontek, "One of the most talented basketball players I ever recruited. One of the best friends in my life."
Following his basketball career, Piontek worked in radio broadcasting. He first ran a small radio station in Newport, Ky., and then spent several years doing sports radio and television in Indianapolis. There he met his wife Maureen, who survived Piontek.
They married in 1984 when Piontek was 49.
"He always said he was going to get married before he turned 50," said Piontek's brother Rich.
Eventually Piontek ventured into advertising sales and moved to New Jersey. He handled Mitsubishi Corporation's advertising for the eastern United States until retiring in the early 1990s.
Then Piontek and Maureen moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., for their retirement. The couple did not have children.
Piontek is originally from Bethel Park, Penn., near Pittsburgh, but he will be buried in Indianapolis, where his wife's family lives.
There will be a visitation in Scottsdale today and a service at Feeney-Hornak Mortuary in Indianapolis either Saturday or Sunday.
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