By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
K.C. Jones was best known for his success with the Boston Celtics, with whom he won eight NBA championships as a player in the 1950s and 1960s, then two more titles coaching Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in the 1980s. He passed away last week at the age of 88. He was undergoing treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Jones was a teammate of the legendary Bill Russell they both attended the university of San Francisco where they won 55 straight games and two NCAA championships playing for the University of San Francisco. He also won a gold medal playing with Russell for the United States in the 1956 Olympics. A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Jones is one of only seven players to have won an NCAA title, an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal.
Drafted in the second round in 1956, Jones played behind Bob Cousy before becoming a starter. In his nine years with the Celtics, Jones won eight NBA championships.
“People thought we were brothers,” Sam Jones, K.C.’s backcourt teammate with the Celtics, told the Washington Post. “But there was no relation, except a true friendship and the fact the newspapers would call us the ‘Jones Brothers.’
Jones coached the Celtics but first he coached the then known Washington Bullets from 1973 to 1976.
He had a regular season record of 155-91. It was a struggling franchise that had big name players that included Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier, Kevin Porter, Mike Riordan, Archie Clark and Nick Weatherspoon, among others.
Jones’s first Washington team — called the Capital Bullets in 1973-74 after it moved from Baltimore — won the Central Division with a 47-35 record before losing in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Knicks in seven games. His 1974-75 team, renamed the Washington Bullets, went 60-22 and beat the Celtics in a wild six-game series to win the Eastern Conference but was swept by the Golden State Warriors in the finals.
Hayes averaged 23 points, Chenier 21.8 and Riordan 15.4, with Unseld dominating the boards and Porter dishing the ball, in front of pulsating home crowds.
After Jones spent several years as an assistant, Red Auerbach hired him to be Boston’s head coach in 1983. The Celtics legend explained his reason simply: “He’s a winner.” Jones coached the Celtics for five years, winning NBA championships in 1984 and 1986 and falling in the Finals twice.
“The nicest human being I ever met,” said HOF Larry Bird after learning of Jones’s death. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, a player under Jones, “He was a class act, and yet he had this competitive edge that was fierce.”
Sam Jones released some thoughts : “He was so quick, a great defensive player who could score. What a great team we had. Russell, K.C., me, Willie Naulls and Satch Sanders, with [John] Havlicek coming off the bench. The starting five was the first all-Black starting five in NBA history. Red drafted guys who could get along and take criticism.
“Oscar [Robertson] called me today to talk about K.C. So did Jerry West. It was a time. We talked and remembered.” (Washington Post contribute)