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Lakers Moments: Fred Schaus, the first L.A. coach

April 11, 2011 |  4:40 pm

Kxpcxknc In the beginning: Lakers coach Fred Schaus with players Gail Goodrich, left, and Walt Hazzard in 1965.

The first man to coach the Lakers upon their move to Los Angeles, Schaus was a professional player with the Fort Wayne (later Detroit) Pistons and New York Knicks. He retired as a player in 1954 and began his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater, West Virginia. He led the Mountaineers to the NCAA tournament five straight times and to the finals in 1959, when they lost to California, 71-70. The star of that West Virginia team? None other than Jerry West.

Schaus reunited with West the following year in Los Angeles and the first-year NBA coach and his highly touted rookie went 36-43 and lost in the Western Division finals. However, over the next two seasons, the team won 54 and 53 games, respectively, and twice reached the finals, only to lose to the Boston Celtics. Schaus led the Lakers to the postseason in each of his seven seasons and guided them to four Western Division championships.

In 1967, Schaus left the bench and joined the Lakers’ front office. He proved a successful general manager, assembling the team that won a franchise-record 69 games on its way to the 1971-72 NBA championship.

Read more about Fred Schaus and his seven years as coach in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times’ interactive database of all things purple and gold.

Join the Lakers at L.A. Times Facebook page.

-- Steve Galluzzo

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times