John Kundla, a Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA titles before the team moved to Los Angeles, died on Sunday. He was 101.
Kundla, the original coach of the Lakers NBA franchise, had been in a Minneapolis assisted living facility in recent years.
“On behalf of the entire Lakers organization, I’d like to express our sadness at the passing of John Kundla,” Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss said in a statement.
“John played an important role in the history of the Lakers organization. Not only was he a Hall of Fame coach, he was our first head coach and led the organization to five NBA championships.
“In addition to his numerous contributions to the Lakers and our legacy, John was a wonderful man and will be remembered fondly.”
Kundla was only 31 years old when he guided the Lakers in 1948 as they signed center George Mikan, the star who powered the club to five NBA crowns from 1949-1954.
It was Kundla and Mikan that began the tradition of success which evolved through the move to California, such stars as Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and later Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Kundla was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 and in 1996 for the NBA’s 50th anniversary was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches.
Kundla had a career record of 423-302 with the Lakers before resigning in 1959, the year before the team moved to Los Angeles. He went on to coach at University of Minnesota after that, going 110-105.
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