Fitch, who had coached at a number of collegiate posts before joining the NBA as coach of the Cavs, was a former Marine drill instructor whose rigorous approach to training made him popular with incoming rookie Larry Bird, who credits the Iowan with helping instill his high-energy work ethic. The Davenport native would win an NBA championship with the Celtics at the end of the 1980-81 season and would win his second league Coach of the Year honors for the season prior with the team.
Fitch would resign at the end of the 1982-83 season after being swept in the East Semis by the Milwaukee Bucks in four games after amassing a 242-86 regular-season record and a 26-19 postseason record, good for .738 and .578 winning records, respectively.
April, 1973; Atlanta, GA, USA; FILE PHOTO; Boston Celtics guard Paul Westphal (44) shoots over Atlanta Hawks forward Jim Washington (12) and guard Herb Gilliam (3) during the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals at The Omni. Mandatory Credit: Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports
Today is also the date of the Charlie Scott – Paul Westphal trade, which sent Westphal to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Scott.
Westphal, a point guard who had been drafted by the Celtics out of USC with the 10th overall pick of the 1972 NBA draft, and averaged 7.3 points, 1.7 points, and 2.1 assists per game with the team.
Scott, also a guard, had actually been drafted by Boston in the 1970 NBA draft but had already signed with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association, where he played two seasons before joining the Suns.
Scott would play two seasons with the Celtics, winning a championship with the team in 1976 and averaging 17.5 points, 4.2 boards, and 4.4 assists per game before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1977.
Boston’s Dave Cowens goes for the basket as Curtis Perry of Phoenix falls backward in third period NBA championship action on May 23, 1976, at Boston Garden. The Celtics beat the Suns, 98-87. (AP Photo)
In 1976 on this date, center Dave Cowens went off in Game 1 of the Finals against the Suns with a 25-point, 21-rebound explosion as the Celtics defeated Phoenix 98-87.
It would end with the Celtics winning their 13th NBA championship four games to two.
Philadelphia 76ers Andrew Toney slips by Boston Celtics Robert Parish for two during National Basketball Association playoff action Sunday night at Boston Garden, May 23, 1982. The 76ers downed the Celtics 120-106 in the last of the best of seven series. The 76ers now go on to meet the Los Angeles Lakers for the world Championship. (AP Photo).
Eight years later in 1982, the “Beat L.A.” chants were born as the Philadelphia 76ers were poised to eliminate the Celtics 120-106 and face Boston’s rival Lakers in the Finals of that season.
Robert Parish led the team with 23 points, and Larry Bird added 20 points, 11 boards, and 9 assists in the losing effort.
And unfortunately for both teams, the 76ers did not, in fact, beat L.A.