Legendary Boston Celtics player, coach KC Jones dies at 88

KC Jones, who personified victory as an obstinate point guard and then coach of the Boston Celtics during a career in the Hall of Fame, died, the Celtics confirmed on Friday. He was 88 years old.

KC was Jones’ Christian name, although some joked that “C” meant championships. It was easy to see why.

He has played nine seasons in the NBA, all with the Celtics, and has won titles in eight of them – the third most in league history, behind only teammates Bill Russell (11) and Sam Jones (10). That success extended to his coaching days, when he won three titles (one as an assistant, two as a head coach) during Boston’s 1980s success with Larry Bird & Co.

Jones was not flashy and his game days were not full of gaudy statistics; he averaged just 7.4 points in his career. But the six-foot guard was the consummate player of the team, whose defense made attacks on opposing stars like Jerry West and Oscar Robertson and whose moves made the Celtics engine run.

“I just didn’t see how a man who shot as badly as KC could stay in the NBA,” recalled Bob Cousy, the famous Celtics point guard Jones initially supported and then replaced as a starter when “Cooz” retired in 1963. ” I really didn’t think his other skills would be enough to keep him around. But I was wrong. The man turned out to be incredible in defense and ended up learning to score enough that rival teams could not afford not to protect him.

Jones was part of title-winning teams with the Celtics from 1959 to 1966, an eight-year race unlike any other in professional sport. The only season in which he did not win a championship was 1966-67, and Jones, aged 34, retired shortly thereafter.

But Jones remained in the game, first as a coach at Brandeis University outside Boston and then as an assistant or head coach in the NBA or ABA before returning to the Celtics as an assistant to Bill Fitch in 1977. Fitch left the team four years later, and Jones replaced him, inheriting a group led by Bird and his Hall of Fame companions Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Three weeks after Jones took over, the Celtics decided to acquire Dennis Johnson.

Together, they reached the NBA finals on four consecutive seasons (1984-87), winning titles in 1984 and 86. Jones’ stripped training style was criticized by some, but his players welcomed him.

“He has our respect as a coach and as a person,” Bird said once.

Jones left the Celtics bench after the 1987 season, moving to the Celtics board before ending his career as a coach in Seattle and Detroit.

His 25th was retired by the Celtics and he was nominated for the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Born in Texas, Jones starred alongside Russell at the University of San Francisco, winning consecutive NCAA titles in 1955 and 1956. In the summer after their second title, the two led the US team to a gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics.

To this day, Jones is just one of seven players to win college basketball and NBA titles, as well as Olympic gold, joining Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Jerry Lucas, Quinn Buckner and Clyde Lovellette.