Pete Newell dies at 93; Hall of Fame basketball coach guided Cal to 1959 NCAA title
As the Lakers' general manager, Newell, who retired from coaching at 44, brought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to L.A. in 1975.
Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Newell won an NCAA championship and an Olympic gold medal, and coached the Bears at University of California to a national title in 1959.
Newell, a resident of Rancho Santa Fe, died at the nearby home of Dr. Earl Shultz, one of his former Cal players who had been caring for him. Newell had been in poor health since lung surgery in 2005, his son Roger said.
By winning the then-prestigious NIT with the University of San Francisco in 1949, guiding Cal to the NCAA title and winning the 1960 Olympic gold medal with a roster that included Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Jerry West, Newell became the first coach to claim all three titles.
The only others are Dean Smith and Bob Knight.
West and a writer had planned to meet with Newell on Monday to do an interview for an upcoming book, Roger Newell said.
"He was my Olympic coach," West said later Monday. "He was my mentor. When you are around a guy like him, you realize how beloved he really is. He was a great teacher. He loved basketball. He loved to teach young kids how to play basketball."
"In his time, I think he was one of the better coaches the game has ever seen," former UCLA coach John Wooden, a close rival of Newell early in his career, said in 2005.
"When I think of the outstanding teachers of the game, he ranked up there with the very best," Wooden said.
Knight, a generation younger than Newell, considered him a mentor.
"From a personal standpoint, no one had a greater influence on what I do or try to teach than Pete Newell has had," Knight said.
"The influence he had in basketball has been something that carried on for over 60 years, beginning when he was coaching at the University of San Francisco."
Hall of Fame
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979, Newell was elected not as a coach but as a "contributor," because his brief but stellar career was a year short of the 15-year requirement for coaches.
He retired from coaching in 1960 at only 44 -- in part because of the self-induced stress that contributed to his chain-smoking, chugging coffee and going without food before games, and in part, he later suggested, because of his discomfort with the adulation surrounding him.
Though he left the bench early, by the end of his life, Newell's effect on the game had extended almost five decades after his retirement as a coach.
As general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1972 to '76, Newell made the trade that brought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers in 1975 -- a watershed in the history of L.A. sports -- after Abdul-Jabbar let it be known he wanted to leave the smaller-market Milwaukee Bucks for either New York, where he grew up, or L.A., where he played college ball for UCLA.
Newell sent Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman to Milwaukee to acquire Abdul-Jabbar along with Walt Wesley.
In the late 1970s, Newell began an annual clinic that came to be known as the Pete Newell Big Man Camp, a summer training ground for more than 250 NBA players over the years -- with a list of alumni that included Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, James Worthy, Scottie Pippen, Sam Perkins, Jermaine O'Neal and the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, who was 17 when the 89-year-old Newell first tutored him.
Guards not invited