Brooklyn Nets: Former Nets coach Bill Fitch a Hall of Fame finalist

Brooklyn Nets Basketball Hall of Fame Bill Fitch (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Basketball Hall of Fame Bill Fitch (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Bill Fitch, who coached the Brooklyn Nets for 3 seasons in the team’s New Jersey days, is one of 13 finalists for the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame class.

Longtime NBA coach Bill Fitch, who spent three of his 25 seasons as an NBA coach with the Brooklyn Nets‘ predecessors in New Jersey, was named Friday as one of 13 finalists for the 2019 induction class for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Fitch, 84, coached the New Jersey Nets from 1989-92, taking over a rebuilding team and leading it to an 83-163 record and a playoff berth in his final season at the helm.

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He was one of four coaches named to the list of finalists, which also included eight players and a referee, per

The Nets hired Fitch in August 1989 to replace Willis Reed, and the team won just 17 games in his first season on the bench. They improved to 26-56 in 1990-91 before putting together a 40-42 season in 1991-92 to reach the postseason for the first time in six years.

New Jersey bowed out in the first round, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-1.

Fitch resigned about two weeks after the Nets were eliminated from the playoffs, a week shy of his 58th birthday, but would return to the NBA for a final stint as a head coach with the Los Angeles Clippers from 1994-98.

Fitch currently ranks 10th all-time in coaching victories in NBA history, amassing a record of 944-1,106 over his 25 seasons. At the time he left coaching, he was second on the all-time list, trailing only Lenny Wilkens‘ 1,120 victories.

He spent 12 years as a collegiate coach at Coe College, the University of North Dakota, Bowling Green State University and the University of Minnesota before coming to the NBA in 1970 as the first coach of the expansion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Fitch was in Cleveland for nine seasons, taking the expansion club to a 304-434 record and three consecutive playoff berths from 1976-78.

The Cavaliers’ first playoff trip in 1976 earned Fitch NBA Coach of the Year honors, as Cleveland won 49 games, the Central Division title and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

In May 1979, Fitch resigned from the Cavaliers and two days later was named coach of the Boston Celtics, where he earned Coach of the Year honors for the second time after engineering a then-record 32-game turnaround in his first season.

The Celtics would win the NBA title in his second season, 1980-81, and he remained in Boston for four years, going 242-86, before he was fired in May 1983.

Fitch was almost immediately snapped up by the Houston Rockets and in five seasons led Houston to a 216-194 record and the NBA Finals in 1986. Fired in June 1988, Fitch returned to the NBA with the Nets a year later.

He was out of the NBA for two years before the Clippers brought him back in July 1994 and in four seasons, the Clippers were 99-229 and made the postseason in 1997.

Fitch took his teams to the playoffs 13 times in 25 years, with a record of 55-54 in the postseason.

As part of the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1996, he was named one of the top 10 coaches in NBA history and is the only one of those 10 not enshrined in Springfield, Mass.

This is Fitch’s third time as a Hall of Fame finalist after failing to make the cut for enshrinement in 2012 and 2015.

There are four first-time finalists this year, including Marques Johnson, who starred with the Milwaukee Bucks in the late 1970s and 1980s; Jack Sikma, who helped the Seattle SuperSonics to an NBA title in 1979; Ben Wallace, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year with the Detroit Pistons in the early 21st century; and Paul Westphal, a four-time All-NBA selection with the Phoenix Suns in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The other finalists include:

  • Leta Andrews, the winningest high school coach in U.S. history during a more than 50-year career in Texas.
  • Hugh Evans, who refereed for 28 years in the NBA.
  • Bobby Jones, an eight-time All-Defensive Selection with the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Sidney Moncrief, a teammate of Johnson’s on those Milwaukee clubs and winner of the first two Defensive Player of the Year awards given by the NBA in 1982-83 and 1983-84.
  • Barbara Stevens, a five-time Division II coach of the Year as head coach at Bentley University since 1986.
  • Eddie Sutton, a four-time National Coach of the Year who was the first coach to take four different schools to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Teresa Weatherspoon, a two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Chris Webber, a five-time All-NBA selection who played for five teams from 1993-2008.

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The induction class will be announced during the NCAA Tournament Final Four in April.