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Lakers Moments: Coach Bill Sharman brings a championship to L.A.

May 2, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Sharman Say it loud: Lakers Coach Bill Sharman yells at players during a game in 1971.

William Walton Sharman has been the only coach to win championships in three professional leagues: the American Basketball League in 1962, the American Basketball Assn. in 1971 and of course the NBA with the Lakers in 1972. He is also credited with instituting the “shoot-around,” a light workout session the morning before a game — a practice commonly used today.

After coaching two years in the college ranks, he left for the ABA and was co-coach of the year with the Los Angeles Stars. In 1970-71, the franchise moved to Utah and Sharman coached the Stars to the championship over the favored Kentucky Colonels. Thus the stage was set for his arrival in Los Angeles, where he inherited one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

Even though Elgin Baylor retired nine games into the 1971-72 season, the Lakers had Wilt Chamberlain, Jim McMillian, Happy Hairston, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich. As a former player, Sharman seemed to know all the right buttons to push to get the most out of his super-talented team.

The Lakers went 69-13 — still the second-best regular-season mark in league history behind that of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who finished 72-10. The Lakers beat the New York Knicks in five games in the finals for the franchise’s first championship since moving to Los Angeles. To top it off, Sharman became the Lakers’ first NBA coach of the year.

Read more about Bill Sharman and his five years as coach in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times' interactive database of all things purple and gold.

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— Steve Galluzzo

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times