A look back at coaches fashion choices of the 70s and 80s
The recent passing of Stan Albeck gave basketball fans a moment to reflect on the coach’s prime years of the early 80s. Albeck led the San Antonio Spurs for three seasons and took them to the Western Conference Finals in ‘82 and ‘83. He was an animated figure on the sidelines and was very distinctive in his attire and his frizzy perm.
Albeck was hardly alone in expressing unique fashion sense in those days. Quite a few head coaches looked dapper (or incredibly dated) in their attire during the 70s and 80s. So, I decided to conjure up a few of these fashionistas in my memory.
When you say the words “style” and “NBA coach”, the immediate default image should be of Pat Riley, and with good reason. Nobody was quite as sharp as Riles in the mid 80s. He set the standard with the slicked back hair, stern profile, and effortless element of panache. He was the gentleman to lead the fabulous Showtime Lakers of the era.
I was also surprised to find Riley looking like Serpico during his playing days. So so fly.
Then we had Dr. Jack Ramsay, and it’s all about those trousers. And apparently that wasn’t a one time thing either. He was regularly stalking sidelines looking like he couldn’t figure out if he was hitting the links or the discotheque.
With that charming hatchet face and receding hairline, Ramsay looked somewhat out of place in the boisterous polyester pants, but he definitely made them work. The coach brought the Portland Trail Blazers’ only chip home in 1977. His wardrobe choices will go uncriticized for that fact alone.
The late coach was honored on his 89th birthday in 2014 by Portland’s coach Terry Stotts. That night Stotts wore a plaid coat with a wide collared shirt and no tie. The dopeness of the moment was undeniable.
Lenny Wilkens is a Hall of Famer three times over, as a player, a coach, and as an assistant coach on the legendary 1992 United States Olympic Basketball Team. He was a nine time All-Star as a player and won an NBA championship coaching the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979. He is second on the all-time wins list for coaches. The man deserves his own wing in the Hall of Fame. He is what James A. Naismith dreamed of.
He also needs to be in the Cool Cat Hall of Fame as well. Just look at that lime green shirt!!
Look at it again! And dig the jacket. Dig the flower on the lapel. Dig that choker around his neck and the pendant dangling from it! Could you be this cool? Short answer is no. No, you could not. And neither could I.
This leather jacket look is something I’ve personally done loads of times. In fact, it is my official go-to formal attire, but I can’t front. Lenny looks a hundred times more hip, hands down.
Larry Brown was an itinerant hoops junkie. I admire him so much. He was living the dream. Who wouldn’t want to be around the game, be successful, and walk away whenever you saw fit?
He’s the only coach to win both an NCAA and an NBA championship. He was a master at squeezing juice out of stones, especially in the NBA. He was also quite adept at bailing on organizations. His fashion choices during his days coaching in the ABA were questionable however.
I used to wear that sort of thing when I would binge watch Romper Room.
I don’t really know what’s going on in this next picture, but it has to be in the running for the most 70s photograph ever, and I just can’t cope with that guy applauding with the cigarette in his mouth.
The late Charles Jerome Daly was head coach of the two-time champion Detroit “Bad Boy” Pistons, and the 1992 United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team, also known as the “Dream Team”. Not too shabby for a guy who started his coaching career at Punxsutawney High School. You know, where the groundhog does that thing?
Well, Daly also looked like a mob boss on the sidelines.
If that was Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer in that picture instead of Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas, I would totally believe Daly was telling them to “take care” of Kevin McHale, or “send a message” to Michael Jordan. I just imagine him giving ambiguous, yet menacing instructions. And I also dig it!
Doug Moe was known for his high octane offensive strategies, which included a high volume of shots taken and apparently little to no defense. He insisted that players pass the ball constantly, including an instruction that players not hold on to the ball for more than a couple of seconds at a time. He coached the Denver Nuggets for a little over a decade; basically the entire 80s.
He also looked like a put upon NYPD detective that needed a cup of coffee and a cigarette.
I mean, c’mon. This looks like a guy who has a lot on his plate besides the fact that his team averaged 123.7 points per game in the ‘83-’84 season while their opponents averaged 124.8.
It looks like he’s dealing with a dead-end homicide case, a messy pending divorce, a crabby uptight supervisor, and an overly enthusiastic young partner. All he’s thinking about while he sits at the wheel of an unmarked Ford Fairmont is a drink and retirement.
There were many others I didn’t even touch on, like Hubie Brown and his general badassness and Del Harris looking like Leslie Nielsen. There were Mike Fratello’s magnificent curls and K.C. Jones who looked all business all the time. The 70s and 80s were a great couple of decades for hoops obviously, and the styles, both on the court and on the sidelines reflect that.
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SHARP DRESSED MEN SHARP DRESSED MEN SHARP DRESSED MEN SHARP DRESSED MEN