“K. C. Jones, was a great coach to play for. 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 KC as a coach. He had this gentleness and kindness that at the right time he knew what to say. He was a great leader of men.” Danny Ainge.
Kudos to Danny Ainge, he got it right. K. C. Jones got a bad and rotten deal here with the Washington Bullets in 1975. A red hot Golden State Warrior team led by Coach Al Attles swept the Bullets in 4 games to win the NBA championship. The meeting between these two tuff guys was historical, it marked the first time in NBA history two black coaches had met in a NBA Final.
K. C. was sold out by his assistant Bernie Bickerstaff and several players who were looking to blame anyone but themselves. Bernie was telling people including NBA referees around the league he was responsible for the Bullets’ winning season, but when they lost to the Warriors he pointed his finger at K. C. Bernie was the worst kind of backstabber, K. C. gave him his first NBA job without any NBA player or coaching experience. K. C. Jones’ problem, he trusted folks around him, he was a winner. He was a confident man, as a high school athlete, college All-American and on to the NBA Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the NFL as a defensive back. He had not played the position since high school. He never saw a wide receiver, shooting guard, college or pro he could not check! He chose the NBA, lucky for Jerry Rice.
K. C. was a secure black man and he trusted those around him–that was his problem with Bernie Bickerstaff, he could not be trusted. During the regular 1974-75 season he allowed Bickerstaff to handle most timeouts and huddle with the team. Bickerstaff used the timeouts to tell friends, family, and NBA referees he was coaching the team.
Bernie successfully backstabbed and kiss enough ass to become a head coach, General manager, head scout and get his son into the league as a head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. What price for success?
Abe Pollin the owner got caught up in the BS and Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes didn’t back K. C. Dave Bing a native Washingtonian and NBA Hall of Fame player came back home on the way out of the league, and he continued the backstabbing of K. C. I have known Bing since he was a teenager in NE DC.
I met with Dave in his apartment at the Marlborough House in Hillcrest Heights, Md on his arrival back in DC. Just out of nowhere, he says, “K. C. is overrated as a coach and he is a drunk”! I was floored to hear those words coming out of Dave’s mouth. I jumped right into his ass with both feet. He really pissed me off, I remember saying, “Dave if you feel that way why don’t you have a face to face with K. C. and try to resolve the issue. He has great respect for you.” My advice fell on deaf ears. I should not have been surprised. He and teammate Bob Lanier did a Mutiny on the Bounty and ran NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd out his head coaching job with the Detroit Pistons in 1971.
Bing left the door open for Pollin to fire K. C. and bring in the overrated Dick Motto (he had a losing record as a NBA Coach). Dave claimed Motto wanted him to change his game and he left for the Boston Celtics. He lasted there for a year before retiring. Motto won a NBA Championship with the team K. C. Jones left behind for him.
K. C. was a winner, he won 11 of 12 championships with the Boston Celtics, eight as a player. Red Auerbach gave K. C. a second chance and hired him as an assistant. He won a championship ring as an assistant coach, and two as a head coach. As a player, he is tied for third for most NBA championships in a career. He is one of three players with an 8-0 record in a NBA final series. He is the only black player other than Bill Russel to win multiple NBA championships. On top of all that success, he was a kind and gentle soul, and he was loyal.
Unlike Bing, if K. C. gave you his word you could carry it to the bank. Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports benefited from his participation as a player and coach. I will truly miss my Big brother, he had my back. RIP K. C. you deserve it.