Originally Published: July 24, 2017 6 a.m.
MINNEAPOLIS — Before Phil Jackson and Pat Riley, before Gregg Popovich and Larry Brown, even before Red Auerbach, there was John Kundla.
Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.
Son Tom Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he called home for years.
With George Mikan in the middle and Kundla the calm, steady hand directing the team, the Lakers won the 1949 championship in the BAA — the league that preceded the NBA — and NBA titles in 1950 and 1952-54, cementing the franchise’s place as the league’s first true dynasty. The Lakers also won an NBL title in 1948, but the NBL marks are not included in the NBA’s records.
“On behalf of the entire Lakers organization, I’d like to express our sadness at the passing of John Kundla,” Lakers President and co-owner Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “John played an important role in the history of the Lakers organization. ... In addition to his numerous contributions to the Lakers and our legacy, John was a wonderful man and will be remembered fondly.”
Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.
Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.
He was hired at 31 and resigned at 42 with a career record