John Erickson

John Erickson (1927-2020)

Teams coached: Lake Forest Foresters, Wisconsin Badgers
Lake Forest record^: 34-38 (.472)
Wisconsin record: 100-114 (.467)
Overall record^: 134-152 (.469)

Career Accomplishments:

  • NCAA National Championships:  0
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances:  0
  • NIT Championships:  0
  • NIT Appearances:  0

Coaching Career (head coach, unless noted):

1959-1968 Wisconsin
1958-1859 Wisconsin (asst)
1955-1958 Lake Forest

John Erickson Facts

  • John Elmer Erickson
  • Born June 19, 1927
  • Died March 18, 2020
  • Hometown: Rockford, Illinois
  • Alma Mater: Beloit College (BA, 1949)
  • Was a two-sport athlete (basketball and tennis) at both Rockford East HS (IL) and Beloit College (WI)
    • Inducted into the Beloit Athletic Hall of Honor (class of 1968) and awarded a Distinguished Service Citation in 2005
  • Started his coaching career at the Wisconsin HS level, working at schools in both Beloit and Stevens Point
    • Drafted in 1953 and spent two years serving in the United States Army
  • First collegiate job was at Lake Forest College (IL), where he went 34-38 in three seasons as the Foresters’ head coach
  • Arrived at Wisconsin in 1958 to be an assistant coach under Bud Foster; elevated to head coach a year later
    • Was 100-114 in nine seasons at the helm, finishing above .500 four times during that tenure
    • The 1961-62 team went 17-7 and the 1962-63 team was ranked as high as #6, finishing 14-10
  • Left UW in 1968 when he was hired to be the GM of the Milwaukee Bucks, then a new expansion NBA franchise
    • Drafted UCLA‘s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) with the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft
    • Erickson was only the GM for two years, but he built the foundation of the 1970-71 team that won the NBA title
  • Had a brief foray into politics, winning the 1970 Republican nomination for Senate in Wisconsin but losing the actual race
  • Spent 16 years as the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (1972-88), then worked for the Big Eight Conference – first as director of basketball and then as assistant commissioner
  • Passed away in March 2020 at the age of 92; preceded in death by his wife, Polly, and survived by their three daughters

John Erickson Coaching Tree


^ overall record includes head coaching positions at both the NCAA University (D-I) and College (D-II and D-III) Divisions