William Charles "Bill" Fitch (born May 19, 1934) is an American former National Basketball Association (NBA) coach who has been successful in making teams playoff contenders throughout his coaching career. Before entering the professional ranks he coached college ball at the University of Minnesota, Bowling Green State University, the University of North Dakota, and his alma mater, Coe College. Fitch's teams twice qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Fitch was a U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor, a fact that Larry Bird credited in his book Drive: The Story of My Life as an important reason for Bird's own strong work ethic.
Pro Coaching career
During his 25-year pro coaching career Fitch repeatedly was hired in an attempt to improve failing teams. As of 2004 Fitch ranked fifth among all NBA coaches in all-time number of victories (with 944) but also ranked second in all-time losses (with 1,106) behind Lenny Wilkens.
With Boston Celtics (1980–83), and Houston Rockets (1984–88)
He was awarded as the NBA's Coach of the Year Award twice and he guided Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and the rest of the Boston Celtics to the 1981 NBA championship, defeating the Houston Rockets 4 games to 2 in the finals. From Boston, Fitch went on to coach the Rockets where he led a team featuring Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson to the 1986 NBA Finals where they were defeated once again by Bird's Celtics, 4 games to 2, for the NBA championship. Fitch also coached the Cleveland Cavaliers from its inception in 1970 to 1979, as well as New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. In 1996 Fitch was named one of the NBA's Ten Greatest Coaches of All-Time.
The Miracle of Richfield Cavs' season (1975–76)
During his first year with the Cavaliers, the team lost its first 15 games. By the 1974–75 season the team would be led by its 1971 number one draft choice out of Notre Dame, Austin Carr. Carr had become the team's leading scorer and the franchise was flirting with its first-ever playoff berth when Carr came down with a serious knee injury, which all but vanquished its playoff hopes and its hopes for its first non-losing season, however, the team did still show promise posting a near-winning finish at 40–42.
The very next season, on a now fabled team known as "The Miracle of Richfield", and led by team captain Carr, scoring small forward Campy Russell, shooting guard Bobby "Bingo" Smith, and a supporting cast of largely unknown players such as starting center Jim Chones, and an aging Nate Thurmond, Fitch coached the overachieving Cavs to its first winning season, an almost unexpected playoff berth and the Central Division title with a record of 49–33, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals against a heavily favored Boston Celtics team led by future Hall of Famers Dave Cowens, shooting guard John Havlicek, and All-Star point guard Jo Jo White. Perhaps because of a leg injury that sidelined Chones in Game 5, the Cavs would succumb to the eventual champion Celts, losing the series 4–2.
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Bill Fitch – championships, awards and honors