Jack McKinney (basketball)

John Paul McKinney (July 13, 1935 – September 25, 2018)[1] was an American college and professional basketball coach. As a head coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Los Angeles Lakers, he introduced an up-tempo style of play that became known as Showtime. However, his only season with the Lakers ended prematurely after a bicycle accident. McKinney joined the Indiana Pacers, where he was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1981. He also coached the Kansas City Kings (now known as the Sacramento Kings). In addition, he served as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jack McKinney
Personal information
Born(1935-07-13)July 13, 1935
Chester, Pennsylvania
DiedSeptember 25, 2018(2018-09-25) (aged 83)
Bonita Springs, Florida
Listed height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Career information
High schoolSt. James (Chester, Pennsylvania)
CollegeSaint Joseph's (1954–1957)
Coaching career1959–1984
Career history
As coach:
1959–1960St. James HS
1960–1965Saint Joseph's (assistant)
1965–1966Philadelphia Textile
1966–1974Saint Joseph's
19741976Milwaukee Bucks (assistant)
19761979Portland Trail Blazers (assistant)
1979Los Angeles Lakers
19801984Indiana Pacers
1984Kansas City Kings
Career highlights and awards

Early lifeEdit

McKinney was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, to Paul McKinney, a police detective, and Jen McMahon, a homemaker.[2] He attended St. James High in Chester, where he played basketball under coach Jack Ramsay. He graduated in 1953.[3][4]

College careerEdit

McKinney went to college at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He played three seasons for the Hawks, who were also coached by Ramsey, and led the team to the Big 5's inaugural title and the school's first ever postseason in the 1956 National Invitation Tournament (NIT).[3] He was also a member of their track and field team.[4]

Coaching careerEdit

McKinney coached one season at St. James in 1959–60, leading them to a 17–11 record.[3] After five years at his alma mater St. Joseph's as an assistant under Ramsay, McKinney was the head coach at Philadelphia Textile for one season in 1965–66. He returned to St. Joe's in 1966, replacing the departed Ramsay as head coach.[5] McKinney is a member of the Saint Joseph's and the Big 5 Halls of Fame.[3] He was also named the Eastern Coach of the Year by Philadelphia sportswriters for his 1973–74 season when the Hawks, predicted to have a poor year after graduating Mike Bantom to the NBA and Pat McFarland to the American Basketball Association (ABA), had a stellar season again winning their conference and qualifying for postseason play.[6][7] However, he was fired after a first-round loss in the 1974 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament, and his dismissal prompted a demonstration by over 500 students.[2][7]

McKinney was an NBA assistant coach with Milwaukee and Portland, and won an NBA championship with the Trail Blazers under Ramsay in 1976–77.[2] He received his first NBA head coaching job in 1979–80 with the Lakers. Owner Jerry Buss, who had recently acquired the team, wanted games to be entertaining, and hired the coach to install a running offense.[8][9] McKinney had 6-foot-9-inch (2.06 m) rookie Magic Johnson, who some thought should play forward, be a point guard, even though incumbent Norm Nixon was already one of the best in the league.[10][11][12] On November 8, 1979, the Lakers were 9–4 after 13 games, when McKinney suffered a near fatal head injury after falling while bicycling.[2] Assistant coach Paul Westhead, who also worked under McKinney at St. Joseph's, was named the interim head coach.[12] However, the length of the recovery and lingering doubts about the complete return of McKinney's mental faculties, combined with the team's level of success under Westhead, ultimately meant that McKinney would never get the chance to return to the job. Westhead continued to use McKinney's offense, a creative and spontaneous offense that came to be known as Showtime,[12][13][14] and the team finished the season with a record of 60–22.[2] The Lakers advanced to that year's NBA Finals, when McKinney was fired mid-series on May 13, 1980.[15][16] The Lakers won the series for their first of five NBA titles in nine seasons, and hired Westhead to permanently replace McKinney.[17]

Pat Riley, who replaced Westhead as Lakers coach, won four titles with the team and became the coach most synonymous with the Showtime Lakers.[2][18] However, Norm Nixon credited McKinney with creating Showtime. "That should never be forgotten", said Nixon.[19] According to Riley, McKinney "might have won five or six titles for the Lakers in the '80s" were it not for his accident.[2] McKinney was deferential. "I just put in some ideas that were accepted, and the rest was up to Paul and Pat and some great players", he said.[2]

McKinney joined Indiana the following season in 1980–81.[19] He was hired at the insistence of a guilt-ridden Buss, who was business partners with Pacers owner Frank Mariani.[19][20] In his first season, McKinney was named the NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Pacers to their first playoff appearance since the former American Basketball Association (ABA) team joined the NBA during the ABA–NBA merger of 1976. Over the next three seasons, however, the team's performance regressed, and McKinney was fired after the Pacers posted the league's worst record in the 1983-84 season. He was soon hired as the head coach the Kansas City Kings, but resigned from the position on November 18, 1984 after the team started with a 1–8 record in the 1984-85 season.[21]

Later yearsEdit

In 2005, McKinney co-authored a book about his experiences at Saint Joseph's, and donated 10 percent of its proceeds to the school.[3]

McKinney died on September 25, 2018, at a hospice in Bonita Springs, Florida, at the age of 83.[2]


  • Jack McKinney with Robert Gordon, Jack McKinney's Tales from the Saint Joseph's Hardwood: The Hawk will Never Die, Sports Publishing (2005) ISBN 1-58261-929-8


  1. ^ A Biographical Directory of Professional Basketball Coaches
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sandomir, Richard (September 26, 2018). "Jack McKinney, N.B.A. Coach Trailed by a 'What if?' Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Toohey, Terry (September 26, 2018). "St. James and Saint Joseph's great Jack McKinney dead at 83". The Delaware County Daily Times. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Clayton, Skip (2016). Philadelphia's Big Five: Celebrating the City of Brotherly Love s Basketball Tradition. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 9781613218532. Retrieved September 27, 2018. Jack graduated from St. James High School in 1953 and had played under Ramsey.
  5. ^ McKinney, Jack; Gordon, Robert (2005). Jack McKinney's Tales from Saint Joseph's Hardwood: The Hawk Will Never Die. Sports Publishing. pp. 15, 100. ISBN 9781582619293. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  6. ^ Spiewak, Pete (January 18, 2010). "GAME DAY FEATURE: Jack McKinney". SJU Athletic Communications. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "St. Joseph's Accepting Applications". Lebanon Daily News. UPI. March 23, 1974. p. 10. Retrieved September 29, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. 
  8. ^ Medina, Mark (August 13, 2010). "Lakers owner Jerry Buss sets the standard for winning". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012.
  9. ^ Ostler, Scott; Springer, Steve (1988). Winnin' times : the magical journey of the Los Angeles Lakers. Collier Books. pp. 104–107, 225. ISBN 0-02-029591-X.
  10. ^ Helin, Kurt (March 5, 2014). "The Extra Pass: Talking "Showtime" Lakers with author Jeff Pearlman". Pro Basketball Talk. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  11. ^ Ramsay, Dr. Jack (2004). Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball. John Wiley & Sons. p. 98. ISBN 9780471469292. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Elderkin, Phil (April 8, 1980). "The no-name who's making his name with the Lakers". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  13. ^ Markazi, Arash (July 28, 2008). "Methods to the madness". SI.com. Archived from the original on December 8, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  14. ^ Ostler, Springer 1988, pp. 110–11, 144–5.
  15. ^ Galluzo, Steve (February 12, 2011). "Jack McKinney". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  16. ^ Livingston, Bill (May 14, 1980). "Lakers coach McKinney dropped by owner Jerry Buss". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. E-1. Retrieved September 27, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. 
  17. ^ Elliot, Helene (February 9, 2012). "Jack McKinney's bike ride changed Lakers' history". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  18. ^ Feldman, Dan (September 26, 2018). "Former Lakers, Pacers coach Jack McKinney dies at age 83". Pro Basketball Talk. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  19. ^ a b c "The Los Angeles Lakers' 80s Dynasty: Excerpt From Jeff Pearlman's Showtime". Parade. March 8, 2014. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  20. ^ Heisler, Mark (2008). Madmen's Ball: The Continuing Saga of Kobe, Phil, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Triumph Books. p. 44. ISBN 9781617499067.
  21. ^ Juliano, Joe (September 26, 2018). "Jack McKinney remembered as a gentleman and 'a terrific basketball coach'". philly.com. Retrieved September 28, 2018.

External linksEdit