Former Lakers coach dies in Spokane at 84 - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Former Lakers coach dies in Spokane at 84

Posted: Updated:

SPOKANE, Wash. - Former Los Angeles Lakers and Princeton University coach Butch van Breda Kolff has died at a nursing home in Spokane. He was 84. His daughter, Kristina van Breda Kolff, says her father died Wednesday afternoon.

Van Breda Kolff coached the Lakers from 1967-69, twice taking them to the NBA finals.

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. The Lakers lost to Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics both times in the finals.

Van Breda Kolff 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.

He also coached the Detroit Pistons from 1969-72 and the Phoenix Suns for part of the 1972-73 season in the NBA.

Van Breda Kolff coached at Princeton from 1962-67, where one of his players was Bill Bradley, a Rhodes Scholar who played for the New York Knicks. Bradley is a former U.S. Senator from New Jersey and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000.

In 28 college seasons, he 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 scarcer, and won seven conference titles.

Van Breda Kolff was in the Marine Corps during World War II and captained Princeton's basketball team in the 1946-47 season. He played professionally for the New York Knicks from 1946-1950.

Van Breda Kolff's son, Jan, is a former professional player and head coach at Cornell, Vanderbilt, Pepperdine and St. Bonaventure.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)