Dr. Benjamin Paolucci, a former longtime team physician with the Detroit Pistons from the early 1970s until his retirement in 2015, has died at 84, the team announced Wednesday.
Paolucci, a Cleveland native who was raised in Detroit, was with the franchise during its two most fortuitous eras — the “Bad Boys” team in the late ’80s and early ’90s that won two championships, and the “Goin’ To Work” team that brought home the 2004 NBA title.
“Dr. Paolucci formed meaningful and long-term relationships with many players and staff members across multiple eras of Detroit Pistons basketball,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem said in a statement. “We are grateful for his years of service to the organization as he devoted much of his time and energy ensuring each player was provided with the best possible care. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
“We were fortunate and lucky to know and love Dr. Paolucci,” former Pistons star Isiah Thomas said. “Being a former great athlete himself, he understood our bodies and was able to inspire us and push us beyond our beliefs.”
A former football player, Paolucci attended Cass Tech and Wayne State and was inducted into the latter’s athletic Hall of Fame in 1992. He graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry in 1958 and was selected by the Detroit Lions in the eighth round of the 1958 NFL draft. He spent two seasons with the Lions.
Following a six-month stint with the Army in 1960, Paolucci attended medical school at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. He then became a general surgeon, beginning his own private practice and working with several local hospitals before joining the Pistons.
“Dr. Paolucci was truly a great man and loved by everyone in the Pistons organization,” former Pistons star and ex-general manager Joe Dumars said in a statement.