Hall of Fame Coach Bill Fitch Dies at 89

Former NBA coach and Hall of Famer Bill Fitch passed away Wednesday at the age of 89.

Fitch, who coached in the league for 25 years, led Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics to the NBA championship in 1981.

A two-time coach of the year, who was named to the Top 10 Coaches of All-Time list during the league’s 50th-anniversary celebration, Fitch coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, Celtics, Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, and LA Clippers.

“Fitch’s deep knowledge of the game, toughness, and dry wit made him a perfect fit for Boston and the Celtics,” said the Celtics in a press release Thursday. “Fitch had already built a reputation as a turnaround artist, and his ability to get the best out of his players paid immediate dividends as Fitch orchestrated what was at the time the best turnaround in NBA history, vaulting to a 61-21 record.”

“He gave one of the best non-speeches I’ve ever heard,” said former Celtic Cedric Maxwell, per The Boston Globe. “He said, ‘Guys, you’ve got nothing to lose. Nobody believes you’re going to win this game.’ And it took all the pressure off us. We played like a championship team and became a championship team.”

Fitch started his career in 1970 with the expansion Cavaliers, taking the team to the playoffs three times and earning his first NBA Coach of the Year title in 1975-76 after the team won just 15 games their inaugural season.

Turning teams around would become Fitch’s coaching trademark.

He joined the Celtics in 1979, winning Coach of the Year again, and led that team to a title the following season in 1981.

Later he would lead the Houston Rockets to the Finals in 1986 and helped turn around the Nets and Clipper franchises into playoff contenders.

Fitch retired with 944 wins and 1106 losses, and he was elected into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.

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