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Van Lier in 1971
April 1, 1947|
East Liverpool, Ohio
|Died||February 26, 2009
|Listed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Listed weight||173 lb (78 kg)|
|High school||Midland (Midland, Pennsylvania)|
|College||Saint Francis (PA) (1966–1969)|
|NBA draft||1969 / Round: 3 / Pick: 34th overall|
|Selected by the Chicago Bulls|
|Number||23, 2, 4|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Points||8,770 (11.8 ppg)|
|Rebounds||3,596 (4.8 rpg)|
|Assists||5,217 (7.0 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Norman Van Lier was born in East Liverpool, Ohio to Helen and Norm Sr., who worked in a steel mill for 31 years. He was raised, along with three brothers and a sister, in Midland, Pennsylvania. Van Lier had three other brothers who died after birth; he named one of them Elgin Baylor Van Lier I. Van Lier would look back fondly to his childhood playing tackle football with a taped coffee can for a ball due to their circumstances. He would later credit this upbringing in forming his famed work ethic later in life.
Van Lier was a member of the 1965 Midland High School Leopards, considered by many to be one of the greatest high school basketball teams of all time, finishing 28-0 and easily winning the Pennsylvania State Championship. One of Van Lier's teammates was future NBA player Simmie Hill. During weekends, Van Lier would hitchhike to the playgrounds in Harlem, once even playing with Billy Cunningham.
Van Lier was also a co-captain of his football team, where he played both quarterback and safety. He was recruited to play for several colleges, but none allowed him to play his desired position of quarterback. Van Lier had received offers to play professional baseball as well, after starring on his high school and county all-star teams.
On June 21, 2008, he was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame. "Western Pennsylvania is football country, but my years are considered the golden era of basketball not only in the state but maybe the country," Van Lier said that night. "Uniontown, Midland, Schenley and Ambridge could play with anybody, anytime and in any era in the country."
Van Lier's modest 6'1" stature and his emphasis on defense kept him under the radar of stardom, and he was not recruited by major basketball powers. He attended Saint Francis University of Pennsylvania, where he eventually emerged as a standout point guard. He graduated from Saint Francis University in 1969.
The Chicago Bulls selected Van Lier in the third round of the 1969 NBA draft, but immediately traded him to the Cincinnati Royals, with whom he led the NBA in assists in 1971. The Bulls then reacquired Van Lier during the 1971–72 season, and he remained with the Bulls until 1978, appearing in three All-Star games (1974, 1976, 1977) over the course of six seasons.
Nicknamed "Stormin' Norman" for his tenacity and aggression, Van Lier was one of the most popular Bulls players of the 1970s. During his ten-year career, Van Lier was named to three NBA All-Defense First Teams and five NBA All-Defense Second Teams. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 1974. Van Lier was waived by the Bulls in October 1978.
After playing briefly with the Milwaukee Bucks, he retired in 1979 with career totals of 8,770 points and 5,217 assists.
Van Lier served as a color analyst on Bulls radio broadcasts from 1980 to 1982. In 1989 he was the assistant coach of the Worcester Counts in the World Basketball League. From 1992 to 2009, he was a television pre-game and post-game analyst for Chicago Bulls games. He frequently appeared on other Chicago television programs to discuss the Bulls, and at one point co-hosted a sports talk radio show.
Van Lier was the head basketball coach for the Worcester Vocational Technical High School team during part of the 1989–90 season. His team reached the Massachusetts Division II championship game.
On February 25, 2009, Van Lier was unexpectedly absent from his scheduled television appearance on Comcast SportsNet following a Bulls game. On February 26, 2009 he was found dead in his apartment on Chicago's Near West Side. Fellow Bulls broadcaster and former Bulls head coach Johnny "Red" Kerr also died later that day.
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