SPOKANE, Wash. -- Butch van Breda Kolff, who coached the
Los Angeles Lakers to two NBA finals appearances and won 482 games as a college coach, has died after a long illness. He was 84.
Van Breda Kolff died Wednesday afternoon at a nursing home in
Spokane, his daughter, Kristina van Breda Kolff, said. His son,
Jan, also played professionally and coached at Cornell, Vanderbilt,
Pepperdine and St. Bonaventure.
Butch van Breda Kolff posted a 482-272 coaching record in 28
college seasons, and was 287-316 in 10 seasons as an NBA and ABA
coach. He took six teams to the NCAA tournament at a time when
tournament berths were much more scarce, and won seven conference
Willem Hendrik van Breda Kolff was born Oct. 28, 1922, in
Montclair, N.J. He attended Princeton University, but his college
career was interrupted by duty with the Marines in World War II.
He returned from the war to become captain of Princeton's
basketball team in the 1946-47 season. He played professionally for
the New York Knicks from 1946-1950.
Van Breda Kolff began his coaching career at Lafayette College
from 1951-55, and also coached there from 1984-88. He coached
Hofstra from 1955-62, and also from 1988-94. He was coach at
Princeton from 1962-67, where one of his players was Bill Bradley.
He also coached the University of New Orleans from 1977-79.
In the professional ranks, he coached the Los Angeles Lakers
from 1967-69, twice taking them to the finals. He also coached the
Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, the Memphis Tams of the ABA, the New
Orleans Jazz and the New Orleans Pride of Women's Basketball
"Although it was many years ago, and before my ownership of the
team, Butch van Breda Kolff was an important part of the Lakers'
success during our early years in Los Angeles," Lakers owner Jerry
Buss said in a statement issued by the team Thursday. "We're sorry
to hear of his passing and would like to send our condolences to
his family and friends."
As coach of the Lakers, he posted records of 52-30 and 55-27
with a team that included Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin
Baylor. They lost to the Boston Celtics both times in the finals.
He was fired after Chamberlain took himself out of the seventh game
of the 1969 finals with an injury. Replacement Mel Counts played so
well that van Breda Kolff declined to put Chamberlain back in, but
the Lakers ended up losing the title game.
"I am very sorry to hear about the passing of Butch Van Breda
Kolff," Baylor, the vice president of basketball operations for
the Los Angeles Clippers, said in a statement issued Thursday by
the team. "We had a very good relationship that extended beyond
the court. Butch enjoyed life and he was always fun to be around.
He will be missed."
West called van Breda Kolff "a real basketball purist who
believed in a team-oriented game."
"I enjoyed playing for him very much," West said in a
statement issued by the Lakers. "Not only did I have two of the
best seasons of my career while he was our coach, but our team
enjoyed a high level of success as well, even though we
unfortunately lost to the Celtics in the NBA finals both years.
"I'm saddened to hear that he's passed away and send my deepest
sympathies to his family."
Van Breda Kolff was married to Florence. The couple had two
other daughters, Karen and Kaatje.