Hall of Fame coach Bill Fitch has died at 89.
"I am sad to announce that [Naismith Memorial Basketball] Hall of Famer Bill Fitch passed away Wednesday evening," Indiana Pacers coach and president of the National Basketball Coaches Association Rick Carlisle said, via Marc Stein. "He died peacefully surrounded by his loving family in Lake Conroe, Texas."
The NBA mourns the passing of Hall of Fame coach Bill Fitch, an NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and a two-time Coach of the Year. Bill served 25 seasons as an NBA head coach and mentored countless players and coaches. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/39TOkCTOwQ— NBA (@NBA) February 3, 2022
Fitch won an NBA championship as the coach of the Boston Celtics in 1981. He coached the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1970 to 1979, the franchise's first nine seasons, and won the Coach of the Year award in 1976, the "Miracle at Richfield" season in which they not only made the playoffs for the first time but advanced to the conference finals. Fitch was named Coach of the Year again in 1980, his first year with the Celtics -- and Larry Bird's rookie season. Kevin McHale arrived the following year.
After four years in Boston, Fitch resigned and went to Houston, where he would coach a rookie Ralph Sampson and, a season later, a rookie Hakeem Olajuwon. Fitch and the "Twin Towers" made the NBA Finals in Olajuwon's second season, but lost in six games to the legendary 1986 Celtics.
Fitch coached the New Jersey Nets from 1989 to 1992 and the Los Angeles Clippers from 1994 to 1998.
In 1996, Fitch was named one of the 10 best coaches in NBA history as part of the league's 50th anniversary celebration. The voting panel included players, executives and media. In 2013, Fitch received the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2019, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"He was one of the early guys using video, to teach players and for scouting," Carlisle told CBS Sports in 2015. "He was a pioneer in that area. He's one of the most well-thought of competitors in the history of our game."
Fitch hired Carlisle as an assistant coach in 1989 in New Jersey. Joining him on Fitch's coaching tree are Phil Jackson (who played for Fitch at North Dakota), Lenny Wilkens, Bird, McHale, Sam Mitchell, John Lucas, Lionel Hollins and Flip Saunders, among others.
In 25 seasons, Fitch coached 2,050 NBA regular-season games, which ranks third in NBA history.