Lakers First Head Coach in LA Fred Schaus Passes

Fred Schaus The first head coach of the Lakers in Los Angeles, Fred Schaus, passed away last Wednesday night in Morgantown, West Virginia, at the age of 84.

Schaus, who coached LA for seven years before transitioning to the front office to serve as vice president and general manager of the Lakers, played a key role in assembling the 1972 championship team that won a then-record 69 games, including 33 straight.

A former standout player at West Virginia and an NBA All-Star for the Fort Wayne Pistons, Schaus led a fantastic era of West Virginia college basketball when he moved into the coaching seat. His teams featured Lakers legend Jerry West, not to mention Hot Rod Hundley, both All-Americans.

"We shared many incredible experiences, both joyous and painful, during our years together at WVU and then as my coach with the Los Angeles Lakers," said West to Mike Atonik of West Virginia University's Mountaineer Sports Network. "Fred was a humble, spirited competitor and his passion for winning and excellence were qualities about him that I admired."

Schaus returned to college basketball after his tenure in the NBA to first serve as the head coach of Purdue, where he also had a stint as assistant athletic director before becoming West Virginia's ninth athletic director in 1981.

Below are statements from West and Hundley on Schaus, courtesy of Atonik and West Virginia.

West and Hundley on Schaus

Jerry West:

Fred's passing brings finality to a relationship that began in 1955, when he first came to our house to introduce himself as the coach of West Virginia University. He explained to me that he thought that WVU would be the place for me to attend school and have an opportunity to play basketball. At that point in my life, he was the first coach to show interest in me. I was thrilled beyond words and to this day, I remember much about our meeting. Little did I know what a long-lasting relationship we would have." "We shared many incredible experiences, both joyous and painful, during our years together at WVU and then as my coach with the Los Angeles Lakers. As a young man with little experience with the outside world, he became my mentor and sounding board as I progressed as an athlete and as a person." "Fred was a humble, spirited competitor and his passion for winning and excellence were qualities about him that I admired. He led a full life. His family and friends were his most important focus during the times that I was closest to him. Fred's legacy was one of bringing great prominence to West Virginia basketball and in Los Angeles to bringing the Lakers to the attention of all basketball fans." "During his period of illness, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Fred and found that he still had that smile and his personality never seemed to change. He will be missed by all who know and love him, especially Barbara and his children. We have lost a great man and for me personally, someone who was so instrumental in my life. I will be forever grateful that he showed a special interest during my formidable years at the university and also his during my very difficult transition to professional basketball. For all of us fortunate enough to have been associated with Fred, he made our lives fuller and had great influence on our successes regardless of where they led us.

"Hot Rod" Hundley:

Today is a sad day. I am saddened to hear of the death of Coach Schaus. I want to extend my sympathy to a wonderful lady, in Barbara Schaus, and the rest of the family. As a kid, I idolized Fred and remember listening to Jack Fleming broadcast his games while he was playing for WVU. Fred was one of the best players, and I looked up to him." "I felt fortunate to play for Fred at both WVU and in the pros with the Lakers. I always respected Fred as a coach because he had played the game at the highest level. He was a good coach, a great coach and he knew the game forward and backward." "He was a no nonsense coach, but I learned years later that he secretly enjoyed all the things I did as a player at WVU. He always told me, 'I told care if you drop kick the ball out of the building, but we better be up by 20 when you do.' Fred taught me that the game was the most important thing. He never did anything to jeopardize the game.