Jack McKinney will always be one of the biggest “What If” stories in NBA history.
You might remember him for being Magic Johnson’s first coach in the NBA after the Los Angeles Lakers hired him on this day in 1979.
Before his days on the Lakers bench, he gained notoriety as Jack Ramsay’s lead assistant for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1976-79. McKinney’s offensive tactics were credited as a major part of the Blazers’ success during their 1977 championship run and the genesis of the “Showtime” Lakers, who won the championship in 1980.
Unfortunately for McKinney, he suffered major injuries in a biking accident just 13 games into his first season with the Lakers. His assistant Paul Westhead took over and he was fired later that year after the team removed Westhead’s interim tag given the team’s success.
If McKinney never left the Blazers, or suffered his accident, his legacy may have changed and the one-time Portland assistant may have been considered one of the league’s coaching greats.