Hall of Fame basketball coach Pete Newell dies at 93

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the same scene was repeated year after year at the open practices at the Final Four.

In a corner of each arena where the college basketball season ended that season, a group of coaches attending the national convention sat spread out over several rows.

Bob Knight was always in the group, as was Mike Krzyzewski and several others.

But the man at the center was always Pete Newell, who even then was already retired from coaching for almost three decades. He, like Knight and Krzyzewski, won an NCAA title and an Olympic gold medal.

Newell, who died Monday at age 93, was the man the others were listening to.

"Nobody contributed more to the game and its history than Pete," Knight said.

The Hall of Fame coach won an NCAA championship at California in 1959 and Olympic gold in 1960, then became a tutor to some of the game's best big men.

His death was confirmed by the University of California. Newell, who had been living near San Diego, had a serious lung operation in 2005.

"I just don't think anybody has contributed more to my life in more ways than Pete Newell did," Knight said. "Jerry West and I had a very tearful conversation about an hour after Pete had passed away this morning and I think Jerry felt exactly the same about Pete as I did."

Newell died in Rancho Santa Fe at the home of retired Dr. Earl Shultz, who played for him at Cal and had watched over him for the last several years.

Shultz said Newell had a meeting scheduled with West and a writer who was working on a book about West, who played on the 1960 U.S. Olympic team.

"Pete was a second father to both Jerry and myself and while I think that we're awfully saddened by the passing I think that we can both feel extremely good about the relationship that we had with this basketball giant over most of our entire careers," Knight said.

Newell coached for 14 years at San Francisco, Michigan State and California before doctors advised him to give it up because of the emotional toll. His final coaching job came in the 1960 Olympics, when he took a U.S. team led by Oscar Robertson, West and Jerry Lucas on a dominant run in Rome.

Newell later returned to prominence with his famous "big men" camps. He instructed some of the game's greatest stars, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Shaquille O'Neal and Ralph Sampson.

Newell was born in Canada but grew up in Los Angeles. He attended what is now Loyola Marymount University and served in the Navy during World War II.

"He's 93. He had a wonderful life, and it was just old age," Shultz said. "His health was not good, because they had removed two-thirds of his lung and he had smoked for many years. It was starting to be a real struggle for him physically. He was getting more weak and dwindling away a little bit."

In 1946, he began working at the University of San Francisco, coaching basketball as well as baseball, golf and tennis. The Dons won the NIT in 1949, when it was considered at least the equal of the NCAA tournament.

Newell's best season at Michigan State was 1952-53, when the Spartans went 13-9 overall and finished third in the Big Ten.

In 1954, Newell was hired at California and the Bears won four consecutive conference titles and made two trips to the Final Four, capturing the NCAA tournament in 1959 and losing in the title game the next season.

Emotionally high strung, Newell lived on coffee, cigarettes and little else during the season. He was told by doctors to leave full-time coaching, which he did in 1960 at age 44. His overall record was 234-123, and he beat UCLA's John Wooden the last eight times they met.

"He probably impacted more people when he left coaching," said Jeff Fellenzer, the former tournament director and president of the Pete Newell Challenge. "He really reinvented himself. He never took a dime working those camps. He wanted to send a message to the NBA players it wasn't about money."

Newell served as athletic director at Cal from 1960-68, a turbulent era on the Berkeley campus. He worked for several NBA teams in a variety of capacities. He was general manager of the Rockets when they were in San Diego and orchestrated the trade that brought Abdul-Jabbar to Los Angeles when he ran the Lakers. He later was a consultant to the Warriors and a scout for the Cavaliers.

Newell is in part to credit for coming up with the "Golden State" name for the Warriors when they moved across San Francisco Bay to Oakland.

"This is obviously a very sad day for the game of basketball, whether you are associated with the NBA, college or high school ranks," said Warriors coach Don Nelson, who knew Newell for more than 50 years.

"Pete was a great coach and a great man who had the ability to relate to players and people on every level. A countless number of coaches and players benefited from Pete's tutelage over the years — including those who attended his specialized camps each summer — and will be indebted to him for the expertise and wisdom that he provided."

Newell is survived by sons Pete Jr., Roger, Tom and Greg, and four grandchildren.

AP Sports Writers Bernie Wilson in San Diego and Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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