Bill Fitch has passed away

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

Red-headed Skrub child
SoSH Member
Jul 21, 2005
6,131
Seacoast NH
Fitch passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I posted this elsewhere but figured given his career and Celtics connection the guy deserves his own thread.

A rather nomadic coaching career which is nicely summarized here. With a lot of help from Larry he brought a championship to the Celtics after a couple of really ugly seasons. RIP
 

kfoss99

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2009
689
I just finished Shaughnessy's "Wish it Lasted Forever." Fitch's last year with the Celtics was a disaster. But, he did win a Championship for the team in '81.

I'll remember Fitch for hosting NBA Bloopers in the late 80s/early 90s, probably on NBA Inside Stuff or home video.
 

mauf

Anderson Cooper × Mr. Rogers
Staff member
Dope
Fitch passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I posted this elsewhere but figured given his career and Celtics connection the guy deserves his own thread.

A rather nomadic coaching career which is nicely summarized here. With a lot of help from Larry he brought a championship to the Celtics after a couple of really ugly seasons. RIP
The second linked article is excellent, and gave me a new appreciation for Fitch, whom I’m old enough to remember coaching the Celtics but not old enough to remember well. RIP.
 

lexrageorge

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2007
15,035
Fitch did an excellent job getting that 1979-80 Celtics team to play together. Yes, having Larry Bird helped,...., a lot. But the team still had an interesting mix of veteran players with their own agendas in Dave Cowens, Tiny Archibald, Chris Ford, and the up and coming Cedric Maxwell, and he got them on the same page as they won 61 games. He wisely cut Curtis Rowe early on when it was clear that Rowe had zero interest in sharing the court with Bird.

If there was one regret with him, it's that his style may have led Dave Cowens (and perhaps Pete Maravich) into a premature retirement. Having Cowens coming off the bench behind McHale and Parish may have netted the Celtics another title in 1982 (although admittedly Tiny's injury against the Sixers may have derailed that team's chances regardless). And Rick Robey did eventually help Red land DJ, so who knows. Still, as a Cowens fan, I would have loved to seen him spend another couple of seasons in Boston in the early 80's.
 

DJnVa

Dorito Dawg
SoSH Member
Dec 16, 2010
47,990
Fitch was the coach when I started watching the Celtics growing up, so when I think back to the 80s teams, he's one of the guys that pops up.
 

snowmanny

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 8, 2005
13,770
Fitch was really good in those first few years, and got a lot out of the Cavs before he came to Boston.
Fitch did an excellent job getting that 1979-80 Celtics team to play together. Yes, having Larry Bird helped,...., a lot. But the team still had an interesting mix of veteran players with their own agendas in Dave Cowens, Tiny Archibald, Chris Ford, and the up and coming Cedric Maxwell, and he got them on the same page as they won 61 games. He wisely cut Curtis Rowe early on when it was clear that Rowe had zero interest in sharing the court with Bird.

If there was one regret with him, it's that his style may have led Dave Cowens (and perhaps Pete Maravich) into a premature retirement. Having Cowens coming off the bench behind McHale and Parish may have netted the Celtics another title in 1982 (although admittedly Tiny's injury against the Sixers may have derailed that team's chances regardless). And Rick Robey did eventually help Red land DJ, so who knows. Still, as a Cowens fan, I would have loved to seen him spend another couple of seasons in Boston in the early 80's.
Yes it is crazy that that 80-81 had two players on the 75th Anniversary team quit in training camp and still won the title. That 81 team was a hell of a lot of fun but could have been a hell of a lot of a hell of a lot of fun.
 

Eagle3

Member
SoSH Member
Feb 26, 2004
444
If there was one regret with him, it's that his style may have led Dave Cowens (and perhaps Pete Maravich) into a premature retirement. Having Cowens coming off the bench behind McHale and Parish may have netted the Celtics another title in 1982 (although admittedly Tiny's injury against the Sixers may have derailed that team's chances regardless). And Rick Robey did eventually help Red land DJ, so who knows. Still, as a Cowens fan, I would have loved to seen him spend another couple of seasons in Boston in the early 80's.
Fitch replaced Cowens, who was the player-coach the year before. I dont recall if Cowens stepped down on his own or if that was Red's decision, but either way it had to be awkward for the ex-coach to be playing for the new coach.
 

lexrageorge

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2007
15,035
Fitch replaced Cowens, who was the player-coach the year before. I dont recall if Cowens stepped down on his own or if that was Red's decision, but either way it had to be awkward for the ex-coach to be playing for the new coach.
Cowens did not want to be player-coach after the 78-79 season, and was not ready to hang them up in 1979. Still, It may have been a source of friction between Fitch and Cowens.
 

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
18,934
Fitch did a great job with the Celtics in the early Bird years, but ran the team too hard and it cost him what should have been a HoF career path.

He had terrible luck after that. He landed on his feet in Houston and shocked the Lakers in the WC Finals to make the '86 Finals. But Ralph Sampson got injured the following season and John Lucas had drug problems, and the team's window slammed shut right after it opened. It's a really interesting What If? because those Rocket teams were a bad matchup for the Lakers; old Kareem couldn't hold off a Hakeem/Sampson frontline; if they kept it together that was probably a team that could have made several Finals.
 

terrynever

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Aug 25, 2005
21,087
pawtucket
When Fitch coached Cleveland, he was one of the funniest coaches in sports, with a lot of good one-liners. He became more serious when Boston hired him. Apparently his personality had maybe a four-year shelf life.
 

ColdSoxPack

lurker
Jul 14, 2005
1,696
Simi Valley, CA
He finished up with Clippers. When Sterling fired him he refused to pay the balance of Bill's contract is what I remember. Sterling was known for not paying people.