Boston Celtics Hall-of-Famer K.C. Jones speaks in Pittsfield
Now it's telling basketball stories.
Jones amused and delighted a crowd of about 200 coaches, players and basketball fans with a multitude of tales of his college and NBA playing and coaching career Thursday night at the Berkshire Hills Country Club. The event was sponsored by the Pittsfield Public Schools Athletic Department and the Pittsfield Hoop club. Proceeds to the event went to benefit both organizations.
In addition to Jones, the NBA championship trophy was on display, and following last night's program, fans were able to have their picture taken with the hardware.
Jones is the winningest player-coach in NBA history. He won eight consecutive championships with the Celtics from 1958-65; a pair of titles as an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972 and with Boston in 1981 and two more as a head coach of the Celtics in 1984 and 1986.
Jones' part in the event was less a speech than delivering a series of mostly funny anecdotes. His son, K.C. Jones Jr., moderated the event, taking questions from the audience and recounting his father's career. The elder Jones' favorite subject was former Celtic great Larry Bird, whom Jones coached from 1983-88.
"We're in Los Angeles and we get a message that someone is going to shoot Larry if he takes the floor," Jones recounted in one of several Bird-related tales. "So we call Larry back into the locker room from where he was warming up, and I say, 'We have a message that someone's going to shoot you if you play tonight. So get out of here. Get in a cab and go back to the hotel. You're not playing.' And Larry just shrugs and says, 'Ah, K.C., I'm sticking around. He's probably a terrible shot, anyway.' So I say, 'OK, but when it's time for the team to come to the sidelines (for time outs), you stay out on the court.' So what does he do? Every time I call a time out, Larry comes over to the sidelines and puts his arm around my shoulder. He says, 'Don't worry K.C. The guy's probably a bad shot.' "
In recalling his early days as a high school player in San Francisco, Jones conceded that he had no college aspirations upon graduation. But one of his teachers contacted Phil Woolpert, then the coach at the University of San Francisco, and urged him to give Jones a scholarship, which Woolpert did.
"I never knew she did that until a few years after she died," Jones admitted. "I was very touched by her support."
The team, called the Dons, played UCLA early in the 1954-55 season. The Bruins were heavily favored.
"They were ranked eighth," he said of UCLA. "We were ranked about 950th. We went into that game very nervous. But we played well, and only lost by six. That gave us some confidence. We never lost a game until after I (graduated)."
The Dons won the NCAA championship in 1955 and 1956, going 56-1 in the process.
Jones also had some insight into playing defense in the pros.
(Laker guard) Jerry West and (Cincinnati Royals guard) Oscar Robertson were the two toughest players to guard," said Jones. "In playing defense against them, I discovered that I had to match their egos. They both had so much creativity, that if I didn't match their egos, I would have to deal with my fears. And I couldn't allow that. I could not be intimidated."
Jones explained that his teammate in college and on the Celtics, Bill Russell, was an oddity coming out of college.
"He couldn't shoot," said Jones. "He was skinny. He wasn't that tall. All he did was block shots and run the floor. He was very different from NBA centers of the day. But he had determination. And you saw how successful he was."
The Celtics won 11 NBA championships in the 13 years Russell played.
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