Larry Staverman, 1936-2007

Posted by Kelly Dwyer
Larry Staverman passed away today. Most of us never saw the man coach, but anyone who read Terry Pluto's "Loose Balls" (easily the best tome out there regarding the ABA, and possible the finest sports-related book you'll ever read) could not help feeling a twinge of sadness about the news.

At just 30 years of age, Staverman was hired to coach the Indiana Pacers in the team's inaugural season with the ABA. The team had promise, but it was too young to compete with a league surviving on mostly veteran ex-NBA talent, and it finished with a 38-40 record. After the Pacers lost seven of eight games to open up the 1968-69 season, Staverman was relieved of his duties as coach at the tail end of a road trip just before his team took on the Los Angeles Stars. Staverman agreed to coach that game, a win, and didn't inform his Pacers of the organization's decision. After flying back to Indiana, the coach called off practice, drove back to his house, and decided to embark on a bike ride with his son. Upon returning home after the trek, Staverman found his Pacer team -- nearly to a man -- camped out in his driveway. They had come to apologize for their play and drive home the notion that it was their flighty ways -- and not Staverman's coaching -- that led to his dismissal. A profound show of sympathy that I don't think we'll see again amongst the pro ranks.

Staverman was replaced by Hoosier legend Slick Leonard, who went on to coach the team to the ABA Finals (losing to an Oakland Oaks team owned by Pat Boone, and featuring the talents of Larry Brown and Doug Moe, with an injured Rick Barry watching from the bench). Staverman worked as an interim coach for the Kansas City Kings in 1977-78, replacing current Utah assistant Phil Johnson, and finished the season with an 18-27 record.

(UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Dpurcell99, here's a longer look at Staverman's life and career.)