Hall of Famer and first-ever Lakers head coach Kundla dies aged 101


The Los Angeles Lakers' first-ever head coach John Kundla died aged 101 on Sunday.

His son, Tom, confirmed his father's death, saying Basketball Hall of Famer Kundla died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis.

Kundla, who celebrated his 101st birthday on July 3, led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA titles from 1949-1954.

His Lakers team were the first in NBA history to three-peat, winning consecutive championships from 1952-54.

"On behalf of the entire Lakers organisation, I'd like to express our sadness at the passing of John Kundla," Lakers president and co-owner Jeanie Buss said in a statement.

"John played an important role in the history of the Lakers organisation.

"Not only was he a Hall of Fame coach, he was our first head coach and led the organization to five NBA championships. In addition to his numerous contributions to the Lakers and our legacy, John was a wonderful man and will be remembered fondly. Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the Kundla family."

Kundla's Lakers teams were led by future Hall of Famers George Mikan at centre and forwards Jim Pollard and Vern Mikkelsen.

"I was lucky to have Mikan, Pollard, Mikkelsen, all the different ball players. Every one of them was a team man," Kundla said in 2014. "I didn't have to motivate these players. They wanted to win."

In 11 seasons as Lakers head coach, Kundla guided the team to the playoffs 10 times with five division titles.

The Lakers again reached the NBA Finals in his final season, but lost to Red Auerbach's Celtics in four games.

Prior to coaching the Lakers, Kundla spent one season leading the basketball program for the College of St. Thomas in St Paul.

Instead of moving with the Lakers to Los Angeles, Kundla stayed in the Twin Cities and took over the University of Minnesota basketball program in 1959.

Kundla was a standout basketball player for the Gophers and coached his alma mater for nine seasons, but had just three winning seasons and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Remembered as a humble coach with an attention to detail, Kundla was praised for his ability to adjust to the ebb and flow of a game. He coached through the widening of the court and the implementation of the shot clock.

Kundla was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, in the same class as Mikkelsen.

"That was one of the great highlights of my career," Kundla said in 2014.