BOSTON – Basketball Hall of Famer K.C. Jones, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time NCAA champion who won eight straight NBA titles during the Celtics' Bill Russell era and then coached the Boston teams with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to two more championships in the 1980s, has died. He was 88.
The Celtics said Jones' family confirmed that he died on Friday at an assisted living facility in Connecticut, where he had been receiving care for Alzheimer's disease for several years.
“K.C. was the nicest man I ever met. He always went out of his way to make people feel good, it was such an honor to play for him," Bird said in a statement. “His accomplishments are too many to list, but, to me, his greatest accomplishment was being such an outstanding person to all who had the privilege of knowing him, I will miss him dearly.”
Jones is one of seven players in history to have won an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA championship and an NBA title. He won two more NBA crowns as an assistant coach and was the Celtics head coach when they went to the NBA Finals four straight years from 1984-87, winning it all in ‘84 and again two years later with a team that won a then-record 67 regular-season games and went 15-3 in the postseason.
Only Russell and fellow Celtics teammate Sam Jones won more NBA championships as players.
“Where K.C. Jones went, winning was sure to follow,” the Celtics said in a statement before their Christmas Day game 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.”
Jones is the third Hall of Famer from the 1965 NBA champions to die this year: John Thompson, who went on to greater success as the coach at Georgetown, died in August, and Celtics player and coach Tommy Heinsohn died last month. Two days after observing a moment of silence for Heinsohn before their season opener, the Celtics had another for Jones on Friday.