Friday, December 25, 2020

Celtics Hall-of-Famer K.C. Jones passes away at 88

Basketball Hall of Famer and Celtics legend K.C. Jones has died at the age off 88, per multiple sources.

Jones was 12-time NBA champion and one of only seven players in history to win championships in college and the pros along with an Olympic gold medal.

According to the Celtics, the Jones family confirmed Friday that K.C. died at an assistant living facility in Connecticut, where he had been receiving care for Alzheimer's disease for the past several years.

Jones is the third former Celtics player to pass away this year, as two of his former C's teammates also died in 2020: John Thompson, 78, and Tom Heinsohn, 86.

He was an excellent defensive point guard who teamed up with Bill Russell in college to lead San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA championship titles in 1955 and 1956. The duo also played on Team USA that won the gold medial in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

Jones reunited with Russell three years later in Boston and they went on to win eight straight NBA titles from 1959-66. Upon retiring in 1967, Jones began coaching, first in college at Brandeis and Harvard before joining the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant, where he won another championship ring in 1972.

Jones was also an assistant coach on the 1981 Celtics championship team before taking over heading coaching duties from Bill Finch two years later. He guided Boston led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to the 1984 and 1986 NBA championships. Jones' No. 25 jersey was retired by the Celtics in 1967 and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 1989.

Only Celtics teammates Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10) have more championships as players in league league history.
"Where K.C. Jones went, winning was sure to follow," the Celtics said in a statement before their Christmas Day matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.

"K.C. also demonstrated that one could be both a fierce competitor and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He made his teammates better, and he got the most out of the players he coached," the team said. "Never one to seek credit, his glory was found in the most fundamental of basketball ideals — being part of a winning team."
Members of the Celtics and NBA extended family reacted to the sudden news via social media, including Russell, who twitted out his condolences and the last picture taken of him and Jones together, along with the caption "Friends for life."

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge recalled what it was like playing under Jones as his head coach.
"K.C. was a great coach to play for," said Ainge. "He was a class act, and everybody knew that. And yet he had a competitive edge that was fierce. You wanted to do all you could to please K.C. as a coach, but he had this gentleness and a kindness that the right time he knew what to say. He was a great leader of men." 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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