Pete Newell was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1915.
Bill Walton once told me as his basketball coach at UCLA, John Wooden had the most impact of any coach on his career, but Pete Newell as a basketball coach has had the most impact on the game of basketball in the history of the game. Many have echoed the same sentiments.
Newell, spent almost his entire 93 years, with the exception of a four year stint as head coach of Michigan State, coaching and teaching basketball on the west coast. He retired from coaching teams at the young age of 44, his Doctor telling him that he needed to relieve the stress in his life. While it ended his college basketball coaching career, it did not end Newell from coaching basketball.
Pete Newell played basketball at Loyola University, now Loyola Marymount University of the west coast conference. While there, one of his classmates was Phil Woolpert, who won NCAA national championships in 1955 and 56 coaching the San Francisco Dons. It is amazing to know that two of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball were not only classmates, but came from Loyola and both had great success at San Francisco, coaching the Dons.
The table was set for Woolpert at San Francisco for national prominence when Newell lead the Dons to the NIT championship in 1949. After leaving for four years to coach the Michigan State Spartans, Newell returned to the west coast and became the head coach of the California Bears. His success continued as in 1959, his Cal team won the NCAA national basketball championship. The next year, Newell continued his great run of coaching by winning the gold medal in the Olympics, coaching the United States basketball team, his last time coaching an organized team.
But with his already stellar career and record of winning, it did not end Newell's great contributions to basketball by any means.
In 1976, in what started out as coaching one person, Pete Newell created what is the most successful and greatest run of basketball camps in the history of the game. All you have to say, is the Pete Newell Big Man Camp. The history of the camp is legendary stuff. Based solely on two teaching techniques, footwork and fundamentals, 255 current or former NBA players have gleaned the teaching of Pete Newell and even greater, every person who attended the camp has come out of their experience saying the same thing, "I am a much better player today because of attending".
While Newell's impact of coaching and teaching will be leave an impact on the game of basketball for many years to come, his greatest contribution might well be the fact that in all his years of running the Pete Newell Big Man Camp, he never took ONE DIME OF MONEY. His feelings were that is was his way of giving back to the game he loved. In this day of high priced fees to attend not only basketball player camps and basketball referee camps, which in many cases the fees are just outrageous, perhaps more people should consider Pete Newell and think about giving back, NOT TAKING.
A few more interesting facts about Pete Newell. In 1975, while serving as general manager of the Lakers he was engineered perhaps the best trade ever in the history of the NBA, by trading four players to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Enough said.
In a little known fact, of all the coaches who coached against the great John Wooden, for at least five games, he is the only coach to hold a winning record against Wooden. In addition, by being the winning coach of an NIT, NCAA and Olympic Golf Medal, he joins the elite company of only two other coaches in accomplishing that great fete.
The impact of Pete Newell in the game of basketball should not only be honored but also never forgotten. He had time always for not only the big stars who played and coached the game, but he also never turned down the opportunity to help a coach who was struggling to get his freshman team in high school to do the right thing. We could all learn a few life lessons from the great Pete Newell.
Pete Newell is not only a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he will be forever be a Hall of Famer in the game of life.
Mr. Newell passed away in California in 2008.
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