Alex Hannum, 78; Took 2 NBA Teams to Titles
Alex Hannum, a former USC men’s basketball standout and the first to coach two different National Basketball Assn. teams to championships, has died. He was 78.
Hannum’s death Friday at his home in San Diego was announced on the Web site of the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the NBA teams he coached, but no details were given.
One of Wilt Chamberlain’s favorite coaches, Hannum was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, two years after he was selected one of the NBA’s 10 greatest coaches.
He had a record of 471-412 in 12 seasons with four teams, and coached four seasons in the old American Basketball Assn., compiling a 178-152 record.
Hannum first coached Chamberlain with the San Francisco Warriors, who lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the 1964 NBA Finals. Hannum was voted coach of the year.
Chamberlain was traded to the 76ers during the 1964-65 season, and Hannum joined him in Philadelphia for the 1966-67 season. The team finished 68-13, an NBA season record that lasted until the Lakers finished 69-13 in 1971-72.
It was Hannum who convinced Chamberlain, then the NBA’s greatest offensive force, to share the ball more and pay more attention to defense. The transformation helped the 76ers win the 1967 championship, ending the eight-season reign of the Boston Celtics.
Hannum coached the 76ers one more season before jumping to the Oakland Oaks of the fledgling ABA. He guided the Oaks to a 60-18 record and the title in 1968-69, earning coach-of-the-year honors.
He returned the following season to the NBA with the San Diego Rockets, and coached the Denver Nuggets of the ABA from 1971 through 1974, his final three seasons as coach.
Born July 19, 1923, in Los Angeles, Hannum was a 6-foot-7 center during his playing days.
He moved to USC after a stellar career at L.A.'s Hamilton High and was with the Trojans for the 1942-43 seasons before spending more than three years in military service. Hannum returned to USC for the 1946-47 season and became team captain and an All-Conference selection in 1947-48, his senior season.
Hannum had a nondescript nine-season playing career in the NBA, but was named player-coach of the St. Louis Hawks in 1956-57 and led the team to the finals. As their coach the next season, he guided the Hawks to their only title, beating the Celtics in six games in the finals.