Bill Fitch

Bill Fitch (1932-2022)

Teams coached: Coe College Kohawks, North Dakota Fighting Hawks, Bowling Green Falcons, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers
North Dakota record^: 94-45 (.676)
Bowling Green record: 18-7 (.720)
Minnesota record: 25-23 (.521)
Overall record^: 137-75 (.646)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:  1  (1968)
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen:  0
  • NIT Championships:  0
  • NIT Appearances:  0
  • MAC Regular Season Champion:  1  (1968)
  • NCC (Div II) Regular Season Champion: (1965, 1966, 1967)
  • NCAA Division II Tournament Appearances:  3  (1965, 1966, 1967)
  • NCAA Division II Tournament Final Four:  2  (1965, 1966)


  • NBA Coach of the Year:  2  (1976, 1980)
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted 2019)

Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

1994-1998 Los Angeles Clippers
1989-1992 New Jersey Nets
1983-1988 Houston Rockets
1979-1983 Boston Celtics
1970-1979 Cleveland Cavaliers
1968-1970 Minnesota
1967-1968 Bowling Green
1962-1967 North Dakota
1958-1962 Coe College
1956-1958 Creighton (asst)

Bill Fitch Facts

  • William Charles Fitch
  • Born May 19, 1932
  • Died February 2, 2022
  • Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Alma Mater: Coe College (BA, 1954)
  • Born in Davenport, IA, Fitch graduated from Wilson HS in Cedar Rapids and attended local Coe College (now D-III)
  • Started his career as an assistant for two seasons at Creighton under head coach Theron Thomsen
  • Returned to his alma mater in 1958, spending four seasons as the head coach of the Kohawks
    • In 1998, Fitch was inducted into the school’s Athletic HOF for his contributions as a coach and player
  • Left in 1962 to become the head coach at then College Division (D-II) North Dakota, going 94-45 over five seasons at the helm
    • Won the NCC title and reached the D-II Tournament three times, advancing to the Final Four in both 1965 and 1966
  • Spent one season as the head coach at D-I Bowling Green, winning the MAC title and going to the NCAA Tournament (finished 18-7)
  • Moved on to the Big Ten, coaching at Minnesota for two seasons and going 25-23 overall
  • In 1970, Fitch became the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and would spend the rest of his career at the NBA level
    • Coached the Cavs (1970-79), Celtics (1979-83), Rockets (1983-88), Nets (1989-92) and Clippers (1994-98)
    • Twice named NBA Coach of the Year (1976 and 1980) and in 1981 he led the Celtics to an NBA Championship
      • The 1981 Celtics team featured HOFers Larry Bird (in his second second), Kevin McHale, Tiny Archibald and Robert Parish
    • Fitch reached the Playoffs a total of 13 times; returned to the NBA Finals in 1986 with Houston (lost to Boston 4-2)
      • Other Hall of Fame players he coached during his career include Lenny Wilkens, Nate Thurmond, Walt Frazier, Pete Maravich, Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson, Elvin Hayes and Dražen Petrović
    • Over 25 seasons, Fitch coached a total of 2,159 games and went 944-1,016 in the regular season and 55-54 in the Playoffs
  • In 2019, Fitch was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame; was presented by Larry Bird
  • Fitch passed away in February 2022 at the age of 89 in Lake Conroe, Texas

Bill Fitch Coaching Tree

  • Danny Ainge (Phoenix Suns)
  • Butch Beard (Morgan State, New Jersey Nets, Howard)
  • Larry Bird (Indiana Pacers)
  • Quinn Buckner (Dallas Mavericks)
  • Rick Carlisle (Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons)
  • M. L. Carr (Boston Celtics)
  • Don Chaney (New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers)
  • Dave Cowens (Chicago Sky, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets)
  • Chris Ford (Brandeis, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics)
  • Phil Jackson (Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls)
  • K. C. Jones (Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics)
  • Jeff Judkins (BYU women’s)
  • Jon Lucas II (Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs)
  • Darrick Martin (Reno Bighorns)
  • Kevin McHale (Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • Jimmy Rodgers (Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, North Dakota)
  • Reggie Theus (Bethune-Cookman, Cal State Northridge, Sacramento Kings, New Mexico State Aggies)
  • Lenny Wilkens (New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers)


^ overall record includes head coaching positions at the NCAA Division I and Division II levels only; ND was a D-II program during Fitch’s tenure