6.19.2008

KC Jones a Winner in First Year

He's a Cutty and water man, a self tyled crooner, a father and husband, and one of the most polite, cooperative and kind souls ever to grace the Boston sports scene.

Maybe it's time to start pointing out that K.C. Jones is also a winner. In fact, you could argue a case for Case as the man who's been associated with more basketball greatness than any person who ever lived.

Sound outrageous? Consider the following: K.C. was an integral part of college basketball's second-longest winning streak. He was a starting guard when the University of San Francisco won 56 consecutive games and two national championships. He was a member of the US' gold-medal team in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. In nine years with the Celtics, he took home eight championship rings. He was an assistant coach with the Lakers when LA won an NBA-record 33 straight games and a world title in 1971-72.

Jones became head coach of the expansion San Diego Conquistadors in 1973. That proved to be the only sub-.500 season of K.C.'s life, but his team still made the playoffs. He became head coach of the NBA Bullets a year later. In three years in Washington, K.C. compiled a .630 winning percentage, and the Bullets won more games than any NBA team. From there, he joined the Celtics and was an assistant with Boston's '81 champs.

He's proudest of his new ring. Resurrecting the ruins of the 1982-83 Celtics, K.C. led the Green Team to a league-high 62 victories and Boston's 15th world championship in his first year at the helm.

Jones' low-key approach and humble manner conceal his talents, but can it be a coincidence that wherever K.C. goes, winning follows?

"In this business, winning makes you feel a lot better," says Jones.

K.C. concedes that he was able to get his playing career off to a nice start because he was constantly accompanied by the fiercest competitor and winner in basketball history - Bill Russell. Jones teamed with Russell at USF, in Melbourne and in Boston with the Celtics.

Jones learned from Russell, and Russell learned from Jones. In their earliest days together, they could distinguish winners from losers.

Here's Russell talking about K.C. during the USF era (From Russell's book, "Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man."):

"Gradually, K.C. and I created a little basketball world of our own. Other players were lost in our conversations because we used so much shorthand that no one could follow what we were saying. Most of the players weren't interested in strategy anyway. Basketball talk was mostly an ego exercise in which they flapped the breeze and pumped themselves up over their last performance or in preparation for the next one. The prevailing strategy was that you went out, took your shots and waited to see what happened. It was not considered a game for thinkers. K.C. and I were thought to be freaks because of our dialogues on strategy, which were fun for us but dull to everyone else . . . We were inspired, rocket scientists in sneakers."

Jones still carries those thoughts with him. Ask K.C. about winners and losers, and he says, "The main thing is understanding between players. Not everyone is going to like everyone else on your team. That's where the understanding comes in.

"I remember when Sam Jones would start missing shots, we always wanted him to keep shooting. One time Sam missed five in a row and stopped shooting. Russell went up to him and said, Sam, you got to keep shooting. You're our shooter.' A loser would say, Hey, quit shooting and let me get some shots.' But we knew we had to have Sam to win."

Taking the reigns of the Celtics was a dream job for Jones. "I've wanted this job ever since I was black," he joked.

He proved to be the perfect selection. The veteran Celtics had tired of Bill Fitch's overcoaching, overpreparation and regimentation. The Celtic players like K.C. Jones and respect him. At times, the season took on the look of a crusade to prove that K.C.'s laid-back style was better.

Jones introduced music to the pre-practice stretching, opened up closed areas of Fitch paranoia and communicated with his players. Never a self- serving quote machine, K.C. is destined to remain unappreciated, but the Celtic players will tell you that the biggest difference between this season and last was the coach.

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