Boston Celtics Hall of Famer player and coach K.C. Jones passed away on December 25, 2020 at the age of 88.
Jones was a member of the Celtics as a player from 1958 through 1967. Jones then went on to coach Boston from 1977 to 1988, first as an assistant then head coach. Jones was elevated to head coach in 1983 and led Boston to four straight NBA Finals from 1984 through 1987, winning titles in 1984 and 1986.
Jones played the entirety of his nine-year NBA career in Boston after being drafted by Boston in 1956. Jones made his NBA debut in 1958, following a two-year military commitment. Jones won NBA championships in the first eight years of NBA career from 1959 through 1966.
At the University of San Francisco, Jones teamed with Bill Russell to lead the Dons to NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. Jones also won an Olympic gold medal alongside Russell at the 1956 Summer Olympic Games.
For his career, Jones averaged 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Jones was known as one of the NBA’s best defenders during his career. His backcourt defense was the complement to Russell’s frontcourt dominance both in college and the NBA.
Following his playing career, Jones was the head coach of the Capital, then Washington, Bullets. He led the Bullets to the NBA Finals in 1975.
Jones re-joined the Celtics in 1977 as an assistant coach. He took over as Celtics head coach starting with the 1983-84 season. In that first season, he led Boston to the NBA championship. Jones surprisingly retired following the 1988 season. He returned to the sidelines to coach the Seattle SuperSonics from 1990 to 1992.
In 1996, Jones returned to Boston as an assistant coach to finish out his NBA career with his original franchise.
The University of San Francisco retired Jones’ #4 jersey. Jones #25 jersey was retired by the Celtics. In 1989, in honor of his playing and coaching career, Jones was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2006, Jones was inducted in the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Along with Russell, Jones is only one of two African-American head coaches to win multiple championships. His eight NBA championships as a player is third all-time, and he’s one of three players to go undefeated in the NBA Finals (8-0).
Larry Bird once joked “K.C. Jones is the kind of person I’d like to be, but I don’t have the time to work at it.” For his part, Jones said his secret to success was “Honesty and effort. Those are the two most important ingredients to achieving success.”