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Olympic Champ, Boston Celtics Legend K.C. Jones Dies

By Chrös McDougall | Dec. 25, 2020, 5:51 p.m. (ET)

K.C. Jones #5 and the 1956 U.S. men's basketball team pose for a photo at the Olympic Games Melbourne 1956. 


K.C. Jones, the legendary Boston Celtics point guard turned coach and 1956 Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. men’s basketball team, has died. He was 88.

One of just eight players to win the trifecta of championships — college basketball, NBA, Olympics — Jones helped the University of San Francisco to back-to-back college titles in 1955 and ’56, and the following summer led Team USA to the Olympic gold medal in Melbourne, Australia.

He then went on to the Celtics, where he won eight NBA championships in his nine seasons.

After retiring from playing, Jones went on to coach, including with the Celtics, where he won three more titles — one as an assistant and two as head coach. Jones was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.

Among players, only Celtics teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones have won more NBA titles than K.C. Jones. Russell also played with Jones at San Francisco and on Team USA.

“I just received a call letting me know my x-roommate/teammate & most of all friend the great KC Jones passed this morning,” Russell tweeted. “Prayers to his family. We have been friends for almost 60yrs, this our last photo together. Friends for life #2020Usuck! #RIP.”

Jones and Russell proved to be key players on the 1956 Olympic team, where the U.S. dominated in winning each of its eight games by at least 30 points. Jones averaged 10.9 points per game, good for fourth on the squad. His 15 points in the gold-medal game was second on Team USA, which beat the Soviet Union 89-55.

However, Jones was best known for what happened next, when he and Russell helped the Celtics become a dynasty unmatched in NBA history.

“K.C. also demonstrated that one could be both a fierce competitor and a gentleman in every sense of the word,” the Celtics wrote in an online tribute. “He made his teammates better, and he got the most out of the players he coached. Never one to seek credit, his glory was found in the most fundamental of basketball ideals — being part of a winning team. The Celtics family mourns his loss, as we celebrate his remarkable career and life.”

Chrös McDougall

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.