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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

New England Sports 366, #81: K. C. Jones

KC Jones wasn’t the first black head coach to win an NBA title. He wasn’t the first black head coach to win an NBA title with the Boston Celtics. Heck, he wasn’t even the first black head coach who had won back-to-back NCAA titles and then 1956 Olympic basketball gold and then eight+ NBA titles as a player to win an NBA title on the bench. When you’re Bill Russell’s running mate, you tend to be the second guy past the post.

But Jones should be recognized as more than Robin to the mid-century hoops Batman. Jones was an equal partner on those San Francisco NCAA champions, and on the Melbourne Olympic squad. And in his nine professional seasons with the Celtics, he won eight titles, third in league history behind teammates Russell and Sam Jones. He was the hell-on-wheels defensive shutdown guard on those teams, the guy who gave the other team’s scorer nightmares.

My memories of Jones aren’t of him as a player, of course, but as a coach. The coach, in truth. He was on the Celtics bench from 1983 to 1987, winning division titles all five seasons and going to the Finals three times, winning twice. This was the guy coaching the Celtics at their zenith when I was a kid, stacked with Bird and McHale and Parish and DJ and Ainge, laying waste to the rest of the league. And Jones on the sideline, adding to his pile of rings.

Jones almost became the head coach of the UNH basketball team back in the mid-90s. We were opening the new Whittemore Center, and there was an opening with the Wildcat men’s hoops team with the retirement of Gib Chapman. There was some thought that the star power of Jones could potentially put fans in the seats of the new arena, and he was a serious contender for the job. In the end, UNH decided to go with an up-and-coming assistant from Stanford, and we didn’t get to see KC roam the sidelines in Durham. He probably wouldn’t have added to his pile of rings there anyway. To be fair, how many does one guy need? He’s only got ten fingers and they’re all taken.

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