While the Los Angeles Lakers are most often recognized and lauded for a long list of historic NBA players and the late Jerry Buss, the franchise additionally boasts an impressive collection of head coaches.
Championship winners include John Kundla, Bill Sharman, Pat Riley and of course Phil Jackson. There were also less-successful attempts to coach by franchise legends Jerry West and Magic Johnson.
Coincidentally, the two eventually went on to make a mark in the Lakers front office, with Johnson still working on his legacy as an executive. Meanwhile, one coach who tends to get lost in the shuffle is Jack McKinney.
It’s understandable in the sense that McKinney’s opportunity to make a lasting impact with the Lakers — at least directly — was cut short due to tragedy. Sadly, McKinney’s brief tenure is now being remembered under unfortunate circumstances as the former Lakers head coach passed away, via ESPN
Former Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers and Kansas City Kings coach Jack McKinney, whose career was almost derailed by a devastating bicycle injury, has died, St. Joseph’s University confirmed.
The Lakers hired McKinney in 1979 for what was his first opportunity to work as an NBA head coach. He was at the helm for just 14 games before suffering a head injury in a motorcycle accident.
McKinney was replaced on the bench by Paul Westhead, who in turn convinced Pat Riley to leave the broadcast booth where he worked with Chick Hearn in favor of a job as Lakers assistant coach.
Westhead was fired two years later and replaced by Riley. He of course went on to win four championships with the “Showtime Lakers.”
McKinney latched on with the Indiana Pacers prior to the 1980-81 season, and 328-125 over four seasons. He was named Coach of the Year in his first season with the team. McKinney’s time as a head coach ended with the Kansas City Kings when he resigned after a 1-8 start to the 1984 season.