NBA legend KC Jones, winner of 12 championships as a player or coach, died this week at age 88. Longtime agent Guy Zucker reminisces on his first interaction with the then head coach of the Boston Celtics.
In early 1987, I was a freshman at Boston University. Having been a journalist in Israel prior to my arrival in the U.S., I continued to cover sports for various media outlets there during my studies.
The Celtics were the reigning NBA champions at the time.
I approached KC Jones, the head coach, after one of the games at the old Boston Garden, and asked him for a short interview. “Give me your number,” he said, ” Someone from the Celtics will be calling you.”
I was quite certain that he was just being polite and did not expect a call. However, within two days, I got a call from a staff member who told me to be ready at 3 pm the next day to be picked up to go see KC.
“Are we going to practice?” I asked Wayne Lebeaux (the Celtics equipment and road Manager), the man who picked me up the next day. “No, we’re going to KC’s home,” he said.
I couldn’t believe it.
Once inside KC’s home, he couldn’t have been nicer. Although I was young and a foreigner, he treated me with incredible interest and respect. There wasn’t even a trace of the inflated egos that are so commonly found in pro sports.
“What are you studying,” he asked (politely, I thought) before we started the interview.
“Actually, I’m writing a term paper about the evolution of leaders in street basketball.”
“Yes, I’ve been observing streetball for the past six weeks and I’ve discovered some patterns that seem to repeat themselves in every situation. It seems that it takes no more than 5-10 minutes for leaders to emerge, despite the fact that the players usually don’t know each other prior to playing together.”
As I was saying this I noticed that KC was listening, seriously. Then he said: “Can you make me a copy, once you are done?”
“Sure,” I said. “What do you need it for?”
“It sounds really interesting,” he said, “Maybe I could learn something from it.”
I was totally floored. Here was the head coach of the NBA champion Boston Celtics asking for my sociology paper because he thought he could learn something new from it!
And so, once I was done, I made KC a copy, which I gave to him after another Celtics game. He thanked me. He also never forgot to say hello whenever he saw me afterwards. He once spotted me in a summer league game, when he was the Seattle Supersonics head coach. He came over, sat next to me and we watched an entire half together.
I never forgot KC’s graciousness, humility, and curiosity. It taught me a great lesson. When I read of his passing, a few days ago, I decided to share this story, for the first time.
Thank you, KC Jones!