Celtics legend K.C. Jones dies at 88

K.C. Jones looks to shoot as Frank Selvy of the Los Angeles Lakers goes for the block in a 1960s game.
K.C. Jones was among the first of the NBA's Black head coaches. (Robert Riger/Getty Images)

Another pillar of the NBA’s greatest dynasty has died.

K.C. Jones, a Boston Celtics legend who won eight championships as a player and four as a coach, has died, the team announced Friday. He was 88.

Jones is the third member of the Celtics’ dynasty to die in the past two years, following John Havlicek in 2019 and Tommy Heinsohn earlier this year.

K.C. Jones won everywhere he went

A college teammate of Bill Russell’s at the University of San Francisco, Jones followed the big man to Boston and took part in an unmatched period of dominance. Jones’ first eight seasons in the NBA ended with a Celtics championship, and his playmaking and defense were major reasons why.

Only Celtics teammates Russell and Sam Jones have more rings as a player in NBA history. Add in his NCAA championships at San Francisco and gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics, and Jones is one of only seven players to win the so-called “Triple Crown,” per the Celtics.

Russell mourned his friend of many decades.

After his playing days, Jones went on to another decorated career as a coach. He won a championship as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972, then served as head coach of the San Diego Conquistadors in the ABA and later the Washington Bullets.

Jones landed back with the Celtics as an assistant in 1978, then took over the big job in Boston. He would lead the Larry Bird-era Celtics to two championships in 1984 and 1986, making the NBA Finals in four of his five years as head coach.

Jones announced his surprise retirement in 1988, but wasn’t away from the court for long. He spent a year in the Celtics’ front office before taking an assistant coaching job with the Seattle Supersonics, then the head coaching job.

Add up Jones’ eight rings as a player, two as a head coach and two as an assistant, and only Red Auerbach (16) and Phil Jackson (13) have more combined championships. He and Russell remain the only Black head coaches to win multiple NBA championships.

From the Celtics:

“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. Never one to seek credit, his glory was found in the most fundamental of basketball ideals — being part of a winning team. The Celtics family mourns his loss, as we celebrate his remarkable career and life.”

He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.

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