By Michael Schwarze, Business Manager
“Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do.”
While simple and succinct, these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson have echoed throughout the career of Pat Croce, as he explained in Stokes Auditorium on the evening of January 27. Whether confronting an angry crowd of reporters as a rookie President for the Philadelphia 76ers or acquiring a black belt in taekwondo, Pat Croce has spent a lifetime facing and mastering his fears.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1977 with a degree in Health and Rehabilitation Services, Croce joined the Philadelphia Flyers as a physical trainer and rehabilitation coach. Soon after, he joined the Philadelphia 76ers, and was tasked with helping to improve the conditioning of the team. With his experience working with professional sports teams, Croce started Sports Physical Therapists in 1984. His business spread across 40 states, and he worked with Philadelphia’s most renowned athletes including Mike Schmidt, Charles Barkley, and Dr. Julius Erving. In 1993, after ten years of helping athletes, Croce sold his business for roughly 40 million dollars. Shortly after selling his business, Croce, along with his business partners at Comcast, brokered a deal to purchase the Philadelphia 76ers from Harold Katz.
In 1996, Croce took over as President of the Philadelphia 76ers. At the time, the 76ers in last place, and Croce quickly began to revitalize the team. The transformation began with the selection of Allen Iverson as the number one overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. While undersized at 6’0″ and 165 pounds, Iverson dominated with the 76ers, winning the Rookie of the Year, an MVP in 2001, and leading the 76ers to an NBA finals in the same year.
While unable to win an NBA Championship during his tenure as President, Croce reinvigorated the Philadelphia basketball community and restored faith in a once floundering team. Following the 2001 season, Croce stepped down as President; however, he maintained minority ownership with the team.
Croce went on to do a variety of other things, including becoming a New York Times best seller, commentating at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, and opening a pirate museum in Key West. Through his enterprises, Croce has amassed a net worth of over 300 million dollars.
Croce’s ambitions have led him to work relentlessly to achieve his goals, but he has always carried with him the notion of putting others first. In his talk, he referenced the timeless phrase, “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you”. This practice of treating clients, partners, friends, family and everyone in between with the utmost respect has played a crucial role in his success.
Although Croce was an ambitious person in his younger years, he has recently chosen a different route. Before beginning to speak to the large crowd in Stokes Auditorium, Croce asked the audience to meditate with him and focus on being present. In recent years, he said, he meditates 20-30 minutes a day in order to help him stay present and in the moment. While Pat’s success was the result of hard work, generosity, and providing service to others, his new found passion for mindfulness and meditation has aided in his continued success.