Virginia Tech Flashback Friday: Allan Bristow

Jan 29, 2017; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Fans arrive outside of Cassell Coliseum prior to the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Boston College Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 29, 2017; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Fans arrive outside of Cassell Coliseum prior to the game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Boston College Eagles. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports /

To this day, Allan Bristow ranks among the best shooters in Virginia Tech basketball history.

The 6’7″ forward was a product of Henrico High School in Richmond where he earned all-state honors. He arrived in Blacksburg during the era when freshman were forced to compete on JV teams. This provided Tech with a major mismatch in its favor.

Bristow averaged 27.3 points and 17.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. His numbers wouldn’t fall off that much as a member of the varsity squad either.

As a sophomore, Bristow averaged 20.4 points and 13.1 rebounds during Howie Shannon’s final season as head coach. He also shot a career-high 48.4 percent from the floor.

The numbers went up during Don Devoe’s first season in charge. Bristow tallied career-highs in points (25) and rebounds (13.4).

During his senior year, Bristow finally had a team to match his talents.

The Hokies put together one of the best seasons in school history with a 22-5 overall record and the 1973 NIT championship. The Hokies knocked off Ohio State, Wake Forest, and West Virginia on the road during the regular season. They also defeated South Carolina, Florida State, George Washington, and the rival Mountaineers in Cassell Coliseum.

Tech headed to Madison Square Garden and knocked off New Mexico, Fairfield, and Alabama to qualify for the NIT title game. There, the Hokies took down heavily favored Notre Dame and their coach Digger Phelps in a 92-91 overtime thriller. Bristow finished that game with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

You can watch the entire thing from tip-off to Bobby Stephens’ famous buzzer-beater below. The video also features interviews with the team at the beginning including Bristow.

He finished his Tech career with averages of 23.1 points on 47.6 percent shooting with 12.7 rebounds over 78 games. Bristow holds several Tech records including the highest career scoring average as well as the most points and shots in a game. The win over George Washington mentioned earlier saw Bristow make 22 shots for 52 points. Bimbo Coles remains the only other Tech player to ever top the 50-point threshold in a single game.

He led the team in rebounding for all three of his varsity seasons, and led in scoring average during two out of three.

Bristow currently sits seventh on Virginia Tech’s all-time scoring list with 1,804 career points.

He was selected in the second round of the 1973 NBA Draft with the 21st overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. Bristow played two seasons there before being waived. He then played one season in the ABA with the San Antonio Spurs before they joined the NBA in 1976.

His career also took him to New Orleans —then Utah via a franchise move— and Dallas where he retired as a Maverick after 695 games over 10 professional seasons.

While Bristow’s professional playing career was far from as dominant as his Tech days. Still, he found great success in his second career as an NBA executive and coach.

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Bristow served as an assistant coach for the Spurs during the 1983-84 season. He moved on to Denver where he worked as an assistant for six seasons before moving to the executive ranks.

The move into the front office came in 1990 when the fledgling Charlotte Hornets hired Bristow as the team’s Vice President of Basketball Operations. He was put in charge of scouting, draft picks, and trades. The following season, Bristow moved back onto the court as the third head coach of the Hornets.

He was the first coach to have success for Charlotte, guiding the Hornets to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1992-93. That run included a first round upset of the Boston Celtics.

Bristow’s club won 50 games for the first time in the 1994-95 regular season. They were matched up with Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs however. Jordan averaged 32.3 points during the series and Charlotte lost three games to one.

After missing the playoffs the following season, Charlotte bought out the remaining year on Bristow’s contract. He finished his time in charge with 207 wins, which is still the franchise record after 27 seasons.

After a brief stint in the Denver Nuggets front office, Bristow spent time away from the NBA before rejoining the then New Orleans Hornets as assistant general manager for 2003-04 season. He was elevated to general manager, but he abruptly resigned in the fall of 2005.

“The stress and strain of the last month took a serious toll on various health problems that I was already facing before the hurricane, Bristow said at the time. “After consulting with my physician, it became clear that stepping down was the only decision that made sense for me and my family.”

Given the totality of his career both in college and the NBA, it was a no-brainer to retire his number 44 in 1997.

“He was the best passer and shooter I ever coached,” Don Devoe once said of his star pupil.

His legacy in Blacksburg is matched by few on the hardwood. He will forever be the star of the first Hokie hoops squad to win a national title, back when the NIT was a big deal.

Bristow was a big deal too.