February 22, 2007

Former Clippers Coach Dennis Johnson Dies Suddenly

Austin, Texas -- Dennis Johnson, a longtime NBA star and former Clippers’ coach, died Thursday in Austin, Texas at the age of 52.

Johnson was part of three NBA championships, two with the Boston Celtics and one with the Seattle SuperSonics, and had been coaching the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League.

Johnson became an assistant with the Clippers in February 2000. He was named Interim Head Coach on March 3, 2003 and compiled an 8-16 record.

Johnson was born in San Pedro, CA and attended Pepperdine Univeristy.

The cause of death is not known. "He will be autopsied," said Mayra Freeman, a spokeswoman for the Travis County (Texas) Medical Examiner's Office.

Johnson was the MVP of the 1979 NBA Finals, averaging 22.6 points as the Sonics beat the Washington Bullets in five games.

After a brief stint with the Phoenix Suns, Johnson joined the Celtics, where he teamed with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Danny Ainge and Robert Parish for a glorious run in the 1980s that saw Boston win the 1984 and 1986 NBA championships.

Known throughout the league as "DJ," Johnson played in five NBA All-Star Games and was named to the All-Defensive First Team six times.

In 14 NBA seasons, he scored 15,535 points (a 14.1 points-per-game average) and averaged 17.3 points in 180 playoff games.

Statements Around the NBA

Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Elgin Baylor on the Passing of Dennis Johnson
“Speaking for our entire organization, I want to say how saddened we are to hear this shocking news. Dennis was a joy to be around and a terrific person. He will truly be missed by the many people whose lives he touched. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern
"Whether he was leading his teams to NBA championships or teaching young men the meaning of professionalism, Dennis Johnson's contributions to the game went far beyond the basketball court. Dennis was a man of extraordinary character with a tremendous passion for the game and his loss will be felt throughout the basketball community. On behalf of the entire NBA family, I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Donna, his children Dwayne, Denise and Daniel, and their entire family."

Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge
"I was deeply saddened to learn about the sudden passing of Dennis Johnson. I had the great privilege of playing alongside DJ in the backcourt for six seasons and two championships. He was one of the most underrated players in the history of the game, in my opinion, and one of the greatest Celtic acquisitions of all time. DJ was a free spirit and a fun personality who loved to laugh and play the game. He was a good teammate and a good friend."

"We had spoken at length just the other night about basketball and his excitement about coaching the Austin Toros. DJ was in good spirits, so his passing comes as a shock."

"He will be sorely missed by the Celtics Family."

Timberwolves VP of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale
"I'm shocked and saddened after hearing the news about D.J. He was truly one of the good guys to play in the NBA, and he was a great teammate who was fun to be around. My sympathies go out to his wife and kids. He was way too young to pass away."