Cazzie Russell

Cazzie Lee Russell (born June 7, 1944) is an American former professional basketball player and coach.

In 1962, while playing at Chicago Carver High School, Russell was named the Chicago Sun Times Boy's Player of the Year. Russell played college basketball at the University of Michigan, where he led the Wolverines to three consecutive Big Ten Conference titles (1964–66) and to Final Four appearances in 1964 and 1965, losing in the final game 91-80 to defending national champion UCLA and John Wooden in 1965. In 1966, Russell averaged 30.8 points per game and was named the College Basketball Player of the Year. Crisler Arena, which opened in 1967, has been dubbed The House that Cazzie Built.

Russell spent twelve seasons in the NBA (1966-1978), and is best remembered for his five seasons with the New York Knicks (1966-71). Russell was the NBA's first draft pick in 1966, and was named to the 1967 All-Rookie Team. He was later part of the famous 1970 Knicks team that won the NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers. Russell played in the 1972 NBA All-Star Game while with the Golden State Warriors. When he played for the Lakers, he was the last player to wear #32 prior to Magic Johnson.

In 1981, he returned to pro basketball as a coach in the Continental Basketball Association for the Lancaster (Pa.) Lightning. He guided his team to that league championship that season. During the playoffs, with his team depleted by injuries, Russell came out of retirement and played for the Lightning in the final game of the league championship series, played in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

During the 1960s while with the Knicks, Russell was part of the New York Army National Guard's Fighting 69th Regiment.

Russell was the head coach of the men’s basketball team at the Savannah College of Art and Design for 13 seasons, until the college eliminated the sport in 2009. He still remains at the college in an administrative capacity.

He spent several years as head coach at Centennial High School in Columbus, Ohio, during the mid-90s before taking the job in Georgia.

In 2006, Russell was voted as one of the 100 Legends of the IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament, a group of former players and coaches in honor of the 100 anniversary of the IHSA boys basketball tournament.

By Dean Hanley

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