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The Dentist: Terry Dischinger

Terry Dischinger
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Terry Dischinger is a 6'7" Small Forward/Shooting Guard drafted by the Chicago Zephyrs (now the Washington Wizards) as the 10th pick in the 1962 NBA Draft. Before joining the Zephyrs, he played three seasons for the Purdue Boilermakers. Dischinger played Center for all three seasons since no one on the team was taller than him.


College Years (1959-62)

Unfortunately, the Boilermakers would not make the NCAA Tournament while Terry Dischinger was there since everybody besides him was, to put it lightly, not good. In his first season (1959-60) with the Boilermakers, they would go 11-12 (42.9 W/L%) and were the sixth seed in the Big Ten Conference. Not a single player outside of Dischinger scored more than ten points.

Here are the stats between Dischinger and the second-best player's, Jerry Berkshire's stats:

  • T. Dischinger: 26.3 Points and 14.3 Rebounds (54.6 FG% and 78.1 FT%)

  • J. Berkshire: 9.0 Points and 6.0 Rebounds (37.2 FG% and 73.3 FT%)

Thankfully, Terry Dischinger would start to get teammates that would average more than 10 points over the following seasons! In the second season, the Boilermakers went 16-7 (71.4 W/L%) and went second in the Big Ten Conference. In the third season, the team would get a better record, going 17-7 (64.3 W/L%), but ended up seeding worse, going third.

In his final season, he averaged:

30.3 Points and 13.4 Rebounds

53.7 FG% and 83.4 FT%

Once Dischinger left the Boilermakers, the team went from third to the last seed in the Big Ten Conference, going 7-17 (29.2 W/L%). He would leave the team with three Consensus All-Americans and All-Big Ten selections.

During his second season (1960) with the Boilermakers, Terry Dischinger was selected to play for USA's Olympic Basketball team. Besides points, his stats during the Olympics are unknown. He ended up averaging 11.5 points and was the fourth-leading scorer behind NBA greats like Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, and Jerry West. The team would end up winning Gold!

First Three Seasons in the NBA (1962-65)

In Terry Dischinger's first season in the NBA (1962-63), he played for the Chicago Zephyrs. While playing for the Zephyrs, he was still at Purdue University, finishing his Senior year to get his Chemical Engineering Degree. What's crazy is that he was playing 40 MINUTES per game as a rookie! The Zephyrs' previous draft pick (1961), Walt Bellamy, also played 40 minutes per game!

The Zephyrs were a new team, starting in 1961, so they were VERY reliant on their younger players. There was not a single player above the age of 30.

In his first season, Dischinger averaged:

25.5 Points, 8.0 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists

51.2 FG%, 77.0 FT%

40.2 Minutes

The only player that was better than Dischinger was Bellamy, who averaged 27.9 points and 16.4 rebounds on even better efficiency (52.7 FG%)! However, despite the youngsters' impressive performances, the Zephyrs' regular season was not the best. They finished with a 25-55 (31.3 W/L%) record and were the last seed in the Western Conference.

Going back to the positives, Dischinger would be selected as an All-Star, received one first-place vote for MVP, and won Rookie of the Year over future Hall of Famers like Zelmo Beaty, Dave DeBusschere, John Havlicek, and Chet Walker! All these players would be a part of the 1962-63 All-Rookie First Team. Funnily enough, the only non-Hall of Famer of the five is the Rookie of the Year award winner, Terry Dischinger!

In the 1963-64 NBA season, the Zephyrs would relocate to Washington D.C., becoming the Washington Bullets. The team's regular-season record would improve, going 31-49 (38.8 W/L%), but the team would still end up being the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

Terry Dischinger ended up averaging:

20.8 Points, 8.3 Rebounds, 2.0 Assists

49.6 FG%, 77.6 FT%

35.2 Minutes

Dischinger ended up playing worse because of some new additions to the team. In the 1983 NBA Draft, the Bullets drafted Rod Thorn at the 2nd pick and Gus Johnson at the 11th pick. Thorn and Johnson became Hall of Famers by the end of their careers. While Thorn played Dischinger's primary position, Shooting Guard, Johnson played Dischinger's back-up position, Small Forward.

Wanting to develop both players, Dischinger's minutes went down by five minutes. Thorn ended up playing 34.6 minutes per game while Johnson played 36.5 minutes per game, more than Dischinger. This change definitely benefited Thorn and Johnson as both would be selected to the All-Rookie First Team.

Despite playing fewer minutes, Dischinger would still be selected as an All-Star.

In his third season (1964-65), the Washington Bullets ended up trading Terry Dischinger, Don Kojis, and Rod Thorn to the Detroit Pistons, betting on Gus Johnson to be the new Small Forward (which definitely ended up working for the Bullets as Johnson would be an All-Star and was selected to All-NBA and Defensive teams multiple times).

The Detroit Pistons were not very good. In the 1964-65 NBA season, the Pistons went 31-49 (38.8 W/L%), the same record as the 1963-64 Washington Bullets. What makes this worse is that the Bullets ended up making the playoffs; the same season Terry Dischinger was traded away.

For the Pistons, he averaged:

18.2 Points, 6.0 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists

49.3 FG%, 75.5 FT%

33.7 Minutes

Once again, his stats went down. This was a career-low in each stat for Dischinger so far. There isn't a reason for his decrease in stats besides that he played 1.5 fewer minutes. However, even with these stats, he would be selected as an All-Star. Sadly, this would be his third and final All-Star appearance.

After his third season, Dischinger left the NBA for military service in Hawaii for two years. As quoted by Dischinger, military service harmed his basketball career, but he discovered dentistry while serving, hence, the unofficial nickname (I just gave it to him, lol), the Dentist. He still played basketball while serving, but the competition was nowhere near as elite as in the NBA (obviously).

The Detroit Pistons and Failure (1967-72)

After his military service, Terry Dischinger would head back to the Detroit Pistons and play for them for the following five seasons. However, he was nowhere near as good as before he did his military service. In his first season back (1967-68), he averaged:

13.1 Points, 6.2 Rebounds, 3.1 Assists

49.4 FG%, 76.2 FT%

24.8 Minutes

Despite him playing worse, the Pistons would end up going 40-42 (48.8 W/L%) and were the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons were just able to secure their spot in the playoffs. Dischinger may not have been playing at an All-Star caliber level anymore, but while he was gone, the Pistons ended up acquiring All-Stars like Dave Bing, Happy Haiston and developed existing players like Dave Debusschere.

This would be the only time Dischinger would play in the playoffs. The Pistons would match up against the Boston Celtics, who eventually won, 4-2. During the matchup against Boston, he averaged:

9.3 Points, 4.8 Rebounds, 1.5 Assists

37.5 FG%, 73.7 FT%

25.7 Minutes

This was an extremely disappointing playoff performance by Dischinger. Never in his career has he shot less than 47.6% from the field, so to shoot 37.5% was a travesty. In Game 5 of the matchup against the Celtics, he played 27 minutes and only ended with four points and seven rebounds while shooting 16.7% from the field!

The 1968-69 season took a massive turn for the worse for Dischinger. He averaged:

8.8 Points, 4.3 Rebounds, 1.2 Assists

51.5 FG%, 73.0 FT%

19.4 Minutes

This was the first time that Dischinger has played less than 20 minutes in five seasons. This was also the first time he averaged less than 10 points, five rebounds, and two assists. In addition, the Pistons were not looking great either. They went 32-50 (39.0 W/L%) and finished sixth in the Eastern Conference.

The following season (1969-70) was very uneventful for Dischinger and the Pistons. Once again, the Pistons were terrible, but Dischinger did end up having a slight comeback season, averaging 11 points and five rebounds while shooting 52.6% from the field.

The 1970-71 NBA season was also uneventful for Dischinger, but not for the Pistons. Dischinger ended up having a very similar stat-line as the previous season. As for the Pistons, they would end up going 45-37 (54.9 W/L%), the best record they have had since Dischinger re-joined the Pistons. However, the Pistons did not make the playoffs even with this record.

Instead of an Eastern and Western Conference, the NBA in the 1970-71 season had the Atlantic, Central, Midwest, and Pacific Conference. Each conference had four teams. The conference that the Pistons were a part of was the Midwest Conference, undoubtedly, the best conference in the league. Every team in the conference had a positive record, all of them better than the Pistons:

  • Milwaukee Bucks: 66-16

  • Chicago Bulls: 51-31

  • Phoenix Suns: 48-34

As a result, the Pistons were the last seed in the Midwestern Conference. The Pistons would have made the playoffs if they were in the Central or Pacific Division, and they would have been the first seed if they were in the Central Division! The best team in that division was Terry Dischinger's former team, the Washington Bullets, with a record of 42-40.

Terry Dischinger's last season with the Detroit Pistons was in the 1971-72 NBA season. Again, nothing eventful happens. Dischinger gets worse, and the Pistons have one of their worst seasons in a while (26-56). Dischinger did coach two games for the Pistons, but both games ended up in a loss.

The Last Season (1972-73):

On July 31st, 1972, Terry Dischinger would be traded to the Portland Trailblazers for Fred Foster. The 1972-73 Trailblazers was the worst team that Dischinger had been on throughout his nine-season career. The team went 21-61 (25.6 W/L%) during the season and were the last seed in the Pacific Division.

Dischinger would also have his worst season with the Trailblazers. He averaged:

6.1 Points, 3.0 Rebounds, 1.6 Assists

47.6 FG%, 66.7 FT%

15.4 Minutes

This was a career-low for every stat besides assists. Being 32, it made sense that Dischinger was no longer playing well or receiving that many minutes.

To end Dischinger's career on a high note, his best game with the Trailblazers was on February 13th, 1973, against the Buffalo Braves. The Trailblazers would win, 120-100. He put up:

25 Points, 5 Rebounds, 4 Assists

10/20 FG, 5/7 FT

37 Minutes

After nine seasons in the NBA, Dischinger would retire and become a dentist. Unfortunately, he never had a nickname while playing in the NBA, but "The Dentist" sounds somewhat cool and relatable to him.

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