Stan Albeck, longtime NBA coach, dead at 89

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Stan Albeck, the former San Antonio, Cleveland, New Jersey, and Chicago head coach during a long NBA career, died Thursday in hospice care at son John’s home. He was 89.

John Albeck told the San Antonio Express-News his father entered hospice care Thursday after having a stroke March 14. He also had a stroke in 2001 while an assistant coach with Toronto.

Albeck coached the ABA’s Denver Rockets in 1970-71, then directed Cleveland in 1979-80, San Antonio from 1980-83, New Jersey from 1983-85, and Chicago in 1985-86 — with Michael Jordan in his second season.

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Wilt Chamberlain, right, coach of the San Diego Conquistadors, and assistant coach Stan Albeck, center, watch in the opening minutes of the team's basketball game against the New York Nets in 1974. (Associated Press)

Wilt Chamberlain, right, coach of the San Diego Conquistadors, and assistant coach Stan Albeck, center, watch in the opening minutes of the team’s basketball game against the New York Nets in 1974. (Associated Press)

He took San Antonio to consecutive Western Conference Finals in 1982 and 1983. The Spurs had a moment of silence to honor Albeck before their game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

“Coach Albeck wasn’t just important to the Spurs, he was what I call a lifer,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “People like myself don’t come close to loving the game as he did, and his whole family did. They participated in so many ways and followed him so many places.

“He would come to games, he would talk to players, talk to us as coaches. He always had a smile for us, a suggestion or two — because he’s a coach. … He is somebody we always respected and he brought a bright light to wherever he was.”

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Albeck grew up in Chenoa, Illinois, and starred at Bradley. He got his first head coaching job at Adrian College in Michigan in 1956, and spent 14 seasons as a college head coach at Adrian, Northern Michigan and the University of Denver before joining the Rockets’ staff in 1970.

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Albeck was inducted into the Bradley University Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

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