Hall of Famer Bill Sharman dies

Hall of Famer Bill Sharman, a member of three Celtics championships as a player who then coached the Lakers to their first championship in Los Angeles, died Friday at age 87, his wife told the Los Angeles Times.

Sharman had suffered a stroke last week and died at his home in Redondo Beach, Calif., Joyce Sharman said.

An eight-time All-Star with the Celtics, Sharman averaged 17.8 points in an 11-year playing career.

He was on the 1958-59 Celtics team that won the first title of an eventual eight in a row. He stopped playing after the 1960-61 season at the age of 34.

"The Boston Celtics organization was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Sharman today," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement. "Bill was one of a handful of people that have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a player for his exploits on the court and for his guidance in coaching from the sidelines. Bill combined with Bob Cousy to form one of the dominant backcourts of their era winning four championships together. The Celtic family has lost a great friend today."

Sharman began coaching the Lakers in 1971. The Lakers had lost six times to the Celtics in the Finals between 1962 and 1970.

But everything clicked with that team. Led by Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, the Lakers won a record 33 games in a row during the regular season. They beat Walt Frazier and the Knicks in the Finals, 4-1.

West, now an executive board member with the Golden State Warriors, said in a statement that news of Sharman's death was "a very sad day for me."

"Bill Sharman was, without a doubt, one of the greatest human beings I have ever met and one of my all-time favorite individuals, both as a competitor and as a friend," West said.

"He was the epitome of class and dignity and, I can assure you, we find few men of his character in this world. I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife, Joyce, and his children. We will miss him."

After coaching the Lakers for four more seasons, Sharman became general manager and later team president. He was GM until 1982 and was responsible for drafting Magic Johnson and winning titles in 1980 and '82.

Sharman was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1976 and as a coach in 2004.

In a statement from the Lakers, team president Jeanie Buss said: "Despite his greatness as a player, coach and executive, Bill was one of the sweetest, nicest and most humble people I've ever known. He was truly one of a kind."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak also praised Sharman.

"Bill Sharman was a great man, and I loved him dearly," Kupchak said in the statement. "From the time I signed with the team as a free agent in 1981 when Bill was General Manager, he's been a mentor, a work collaborator, and most importantly, a friend."

The Lakers observed a moment of silence for Sharman before Friday night's preseason game against the visiting Utah Jazz.

"Just a great ambassador for the game," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "Great player, great coach, great person. It's something you hate to see. It's inevitable, but he led a great life and left us very rich for it."

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin was used in this report.