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RIP: Fred Schaus, first LA Lakers coach

Feb 12, 2010, 5:38 PM EST

The West Virginia man who helped foster professional basketball in Los Angeles, Fred Schaus, has passed away.

The case of his death was not made public. Schaus, 84, was living in a nursing home in West Virginia.

Schaus, a former NBA player from 1949-1954 in Fort Wayne and New York, built his reputation as a coach at West Virginia. He developed a couple of players — Jerry West and “Hot Rod” Hundley.

West called Schaus his “mentor” in a released statement.

Schaus coached a number of teams right up to a championship, but never could get over the hump. The first of those happened with West at West Virginia, when they reached the NCAA title game in 1960 but fell to California 71-70.

1960 was also the year the Lakers moved west to Los Angeles, and they used their draft pick on West. Then they hired his old coach to come out with them

In his seven years as the Lakers coach, he took them to the NBA Finals four times. Each time they lost to the Boston Celtics. Eventually he moved into the General Manager’s chair and was there five years, until the Lakers finally broke through and won an NBA title in 1972.

That’s when he left Los Angeles, saying he wanted to coach and taking a big step down in pay to be the head man at Purdue.

Schaus is survived by his wife, Barbara, a sister, two sons and six grandchildren.

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