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Pete Newell, who led Cal men's basketball to the 1959 NCAA title, was one of only three coaches to achieve the "Triple Crown" of an NCAA championship, an NIT crown and an Olympic gold medal. (Cal Athletics photos) Pete Newell

Coaching icon Pete Newell passes away

Led Cal to the 1959 NCAA basketball title and the U.S. to an Olympic gold medal in 1960

| 17 November 2008

Pete Newell, one of basketball's most respected and beloved figures, who led California to the 1959 NCAA championship, passed away Monday after a long illness. He was 93.

Head coach of the Golden Bears from 1954-60, Newell guided Cal to four consecutive conference titles (1957-60) and was voted National Coach of the Year in 1960. He finished his Cal career with a 119-44 record, which included an NCAA runner-up finish in '60 in addition to the 1959 title.

Newell also led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal at the 1960 Games in Rome with a squad that featured former Cal center Darrall Imhoff as well as such future NBA standouts as Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. He later served as Cal's Director of Athletics from 1960-68.

Newell coaching in the 1950sNewell coaches from the Cal bench during a moment of suspense at a game in the 1950s.
"We've lost one of the true coaching legends of our time," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. "Pete Newell was not only a coaching icon, but he was an example to all of us of what an incredible impact our coaches and educators can have on our young men and young women. He was a gentleman, a leader and a teacher. All of us in the Golden Bear family have heavy hearts today. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

On Dec. 21, 1987, the playing surface at Harmon Gym (now Haas Pavilion) was renamed "Pete Newell Court" in his honor. A statue of Newell, created by renowned sculptor Eino, was installed in the Haas Pavilion Club Room in the fall of 2006.

Newell was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978 and was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a year later.

"I knew Pete fairly well," Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said. "Pete was a great ambassador for basketball in general, a very gracious man. He was good to everybody, had time for everybody and has had a tremendous influence on the game of basketball. I think the game of basketball has lost a great friend."

Born Aug. 31, 1915, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Newell played college basketball at Loyola in Los Angeles. He began his collegiate coaching career at San Francisco in 1946, and he led the Dons to the 1949 National Invitation Tournament title.

After a stint at Michigan State from 1950-54, Newell returned to the West Coast to take over the Cal program.

Combining his NIT crown at USF, NCAA championship at Cal and Olympic gold medal in 1960, he is one of only three men in history to attain this "Triple Crown" of coaching.

After leaving Cal in 1968, Newell worked in the front office of the Los Angeles Lakers and was instrumental in the trade that brought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over from the Milwaukee Bucks. He later began his long-running and widely acclaimed Big Man Camps for collegiate and professional players. Since 2000, the National Association of Basketball Coaches has presented the Pete Newell Big Man Award in his honor.

The Basketball Hall of Fame describes Newell as a person with "an amazing aptitude for evaluating talent and creating innovative coaching techniques. A master tactician, Newell established a system of tight, aggressive defense combined with a disciplined, patterned offense. ... Through his coaching seminars, film programs, clinics, and Big Man Camp, Pete has brought his uncanny ability to teach basketball worldwide. In retirement, Newell has served the NBA as a scout, general manager, and director of player development. Considered 'America's Basketball Guru,' Newell is the man who dozens of pros seek when they need an expert opinion."

There will be a special tribute to Newell before Tuesday's Cal-USF game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. in Haas Pavilion.