Johnny Kerr
Kerr coaching the Bulls in 1966
Personal information
Born(1932-07-17)July 17, 1932
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedFebruary 26, 2009(2009-02-26) (aged 76)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High schoolTilden (Chicago, Illinois)
CollegeIllinois (1951–1954)
NBA draft1954: 1st round, 6th overall pick
Selected by the Syracuse Nationals
Playing career1954–1966
PositionCenter
Number10, 43
Career history
As player:
19541965Syracuse Nationals / Philadelphia 76ers
1965–1966Baltimore Bullets
As coach:
19661968Chicago Bulls
19681970Phoenix Suns
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As coach:

Career statistics
Points12,480 (13.8 ppg)
Rebounds10,092 (11.2 rpg)
Assists2,004 (2.2 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at NBA.com
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

John Graham Kerr (July 17, 1932[1] – February 26, 2009), also known as Red Kerr, was an American basketball player, coach and television color commentator who devoted more than seven decades to the sport. The affable center starred for the University of Illinois (1951-1954) before he became a three-time All-Star and one-time league champion in the NBA (1954-66), primarily as a member of the Syracuse Nationals. Kerr later held several coaching and administrative positions, most notably as the first head coach in Chicago Bulls history. He concluded his lengthy career as a Bulls television analyst for thirty-three years, which spanned the entire era of superstar Michael Jordan in Chicago.

Early life

John Graham Kerr was born on July 17, 1932, in Chicago, Illinois He was raised on the South Side, in the 67th and Racine neighborhood. He often played 16-inch softball at Ogden Park and hoped to land a job in a foundry eventually.

Although Kerr's first passion was soccer, an eight-inch growth spurt during his senior year at Tilden Technical High School coupled with some friendly persuasion from basketball head coach Bill Postl and school principal Robert Lakemacher turned his attention to basketball. As a senior, the 6'9" pivotman led the Blue Devils to the 1950 Chicago Public League Championship.[2][3]

College career

Upon graduation from high school in mid-year (January 1950), Kerr was set to attend Bradley in the fall. However, after a visit from Illini freshman Irv Bemoras touting the benefits of playing for Harry Combes and the Fighting Illini, he made a visit to Champaign and quickly changed his mind.[4] Always quick with a quip, Kerr became known for his self-deprecating humor. When asked about his introduction to Chaucer in college, Kerr said the two hadn't met yet, but he assumed they would at a fraternity party.

After committing to Illinois in the fall of 1950, Kerr played on the freshman team for the 1950–51 season. As he played on the freshman team, the 1950–51 Fighting Illini varsity team would not only win the Big Ten Championship, they would also play in the NCAA tournament, placing third. Unfortunately for Kerr, the following season would see the two leading scorers, team MVP and captain Don Sunderlage (471 points) and Ted Beach (295 points), graduate.

Even with the loss of 766 points, the Illini picked up where they had left off making Kerr's sophomore season a huge success. He was named the starting center for the 1951–52 Fighting Illini and would lead the team to a Big Ten Conference Championship with a 12–2 conference record and a 22–4 record overall and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Illinois would defeat Dayton and Duquesne to earn a berth in the Final Four (only sixteen teams played in the tournament back then), but would lose to St. Johns, 61–59. They would defeat Santa Clara in the third place game. This was Illinois’ third Big Ten Championship and 20-game winning team within a four-year span and completed the season with a final AP ranking of No. 2 in the nation. Kerr would score a team-high 357 points in 26 games for an average of 13.7 points per game.

Kerr joined three other starters from the previous season on the 1952–53 Illini team; however, the team would not enjoy the same amount of success. The team would lose four conference games during the Big Ten season and finish at 18–4 overall with a conference record of 14–4, which would give them a second-place finish to National Champion Indiana. Kerr, on the other hand, would find his successes to be just as fruitful as the previous campaign. Kerr would score a team-high 386 points in 22 games for an average of 17.5 points per game while the team would finish the season with a final AP ranking of No. 11 in the nation.

Kerr's senior season was personally the best of his three varsity seasons; however, the team would be the least successful during the same time frame. The 1953–54 Illini would finish third in the Big Ten with a 10–4 record and an overall record of 17–5 and they would also finish the season with a final AP ranking of No. 19 in the nation. As for Kerr, for the third year in a row, he would lead the team in scoring by shattering Illinois’ single-season scoring record by tallying 556 points in just 22 games for a 25.3 points per game average. Over his three varsity seasons, Kerr scored 1,299 points giving him an overall average of 18.6 points per game. He was elected to the University of Illinois' "All-Century Team" in 2004.[5]

Professional career

Syracuse Nationals / Philadelphia 76ers (1954–1965)

In 1954, the Syracuse Nationals selected Johnny Kerr with the sixth overall pick of the NBA draft. During his first season (1954–55), Kerr averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds and helped the Nationals capture their first NBA Championship. He became a three-time All-Star (1956, 1959, 1963) with the Nationals, despite playing in the shadow of future Hall-of–Famer Dolph Schayes.

In 1963, the Nationals relocated to Philadelphia and became known as the 76ers.

Baltimore Bullets (1965–1966)

On September 22, 1965, Kerr was traded to the Baltimore Bullets for Wali Jones. He averaged 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Bullets during the 1965–66 season. On May 1, 1966, Kerr was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the 1966 NBA Expansion Draft. However, Kerr voluntarily retired so that he could become the coach of his hometown's new basketball team. He ended his career on November 4, 1965, with a 108–107 loss to New York, with respectable totals of 12,480 points and 10,092 rebounds, along with the NBA record for most consecutive games played (844) until 1983 when he was surpassed by Randy Smith.[6]

Coaching career

Chicago Bulls (1966–1968)

Kerr is credited with bringing Jerry Sloan to the Chicago Bulls.[7] The team went 33–48 in 1966–1967 and became the first expansion team to make the playoffs in its inaugural season. For this accomplishment, Kerr was awarded the NBA Coach of the Year Award. He is also the only coach to receive this award after his team finished with a losing record. The Bulls went 29–53 the following season, rallying from a 1–15 start to earn another playoff berth. However, feuds with team owner Dick Klein forced Kerr to leave the Bulls during the summer of 1968.

Phoenix Suns (1968–1970)

Kerr signed with the Phoenix Suns, another expansion team in need of its first coach. Unfortunately, the Suns finished with a 16–66 record in 1968–69, and after starting the 1969–70 season with a 15–23 record, Kerr was forced to resign.

Broadcasting career

Despite resigning as coach, Kerr stayed with the Suns franchise for the remainder of the 1969–70 season, working as a broadcaster with Hot Rod Hundley. He spent the next two seasons as a business manager with the ABA's Virginia Squires,[8] then returned to the Chicago Bulls to work in their front office. In 1975, the Bulls' play-by-play announcer, Jim Durham, suggested that Kerr provide commentary during games,[9] and Kerr remained as a color commentator until the end of the 2007–08 season.[10]

As a broadcaster, Kerr oversaw the Bulls' six championships in the 1990s and Michael Jordan's entire career with the team. He was known for making the call on "The Shot", Jordan's series-winning basket in Game 5 of the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference Playoffs. Over the years, Kerr and Jordan developed a pre-game ritual in which Jordan would head to the broadcasting area and playfully clap talcum powder in front of Kerr.[11] Jordan later said, "I don't know how it started. I think he had a nice suit on and I wanted to mess him up a little."[12]

Kerr made occasional appearances as a halftime commentator during the first half of the 2008–09 season, but struggles with prostate cancer gradually limited his involvement.[13] The Bulls honored Kerr for his years of service at a February 10, 2009, halftime ceremony, where the team unveiled a sculpture of Kerr that would stand in the United Center. At the ceremony, Kerr also received the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Jerry Colangelo. February 10, 2009, was declared Johnny Red Kerr Appreciation Day in the city of Chicago by Mayor Richard M. Daley.[14]

Death

Kerr died of prostate cancer on February 26, 2009, only hours after the death of fellow Bulls legend Norm Van Lier.[15][16]

Honors

Career statistics

College

Season Games Points PPG Field Goals Attempts Avg Free Throws Attempts Avg Big Ten
Record
Overall
Record
Highlight
1951–52 26 357 13.7 143 365 .392 71 124 .573 12–2 22–4 Honorable Mention All-American
1952–53 22 386 17.5 153 397 .385 80 123 .650 14–4 18–4 Honorable Mention All-American
1953–54 22 556 25.3 210 520 .404 136 213 .638 10–4 17–5 Big Ten Player of the Year
Totals 70 1229 18.6 506 1282 .395 287 460 .624 36–10 57–13

[22]

NBA

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship

Regular season

Year Team GP MPG FG% FT% RPG APG PPG
1954–55 Syracuse 72 21.2 .419 .682 6.6 1.1 10.5
1955–56 Syracuse 72 29.4 .403 .655 8.4 1.2 13.3
1956–57 Syracuse 72 30.4 .403 .719 11.2 1.3 12.4
1957–58 Syracuse 72 33.1 .399 .664 13.4 1.2 15.2
1958–59 Syracuse 72 37.1 .441 .766 14.0 2.0 17.8
1959–60 Syracuse 75 31.6 .392 .752 12.2 2.2 14.7
1960–61 Syracuse 79 33.9 .397 .729 12.0 2.5 13.4
1961–62 Syracuse 80 34.6 .443 .735 14.7 3.0 16.3
1962–63 Syracuse 80 32.0 .474 .753 13.0 2.7 15.7
1963–64 Philadelphia 80 36.7 .429 .751 12.7 3.4 16.8
1964–65 Philadelphia 80 22.6 .370 .696 6.9 2.5 8.2
1965–66 Baltimore 71 24.9 .413 .768 8.3 3.2 11.0
Career 905 30.7 .418 .723 11.2 2.2 13.8

Playoffs

Year Team GP MPG FG% FT% RPG APG PPG
1954–55 Syracuse 11 33.0 .391 .557 10.7 1.2 13.8
1955–56 Syracuse 8 26.6 .481 .455 8.5 1.3 11.1
1956–57 Syracuse 5 32.4 .431 .690 13.8 1.2 15.2
1957–58 Syracuse 3 38.7 .327 .778 20.3 1.0 16.7
1958–59 Syracuse 9 34.7 .352 .909 12.0 2.7 14.4
1959–60 Syracuse 3 34.7 .294 .917 8.3 3.0 13.7
1960–61 Syracuse 8 26.3 .341 .696 12.4 2.5 9.5
1961–62 Syracuse 5 38.6 .376 .750 16.0 2.0 17.6
1962–63 Syracuse 5 37.4 .433 .762 15.0 1.8 13.6
1963–64 Philadelphia 5 37.0 .482 .750 13.8 3.2 19.0
1964–65 Philadelphia 11 16.5 .358 .714 3.5 2.5 5.7
1965–66 Baltimore 3 16.3 .182 .500 5.7 1.3 1.7
Career 76 29.9 .386 .687 10.9 2.0 12.3

All-Star Games

Year Team GP MPG FG% FT% RPG APG PPG
1955–56 Syracuse 1 16.0 .500 .000 8.0 0.0 4.0
1958–59 Syracuse 1 21.0 .214 .500 9.0 2.0 7.0
1962–63 Syracuse 1 11.0 .000 1.000 2.0 1.0 2.0

Head coaching record

Legend
Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Chicago 1966–67 81 33 48 .407 4th in Western Conference 3 0 3 .000 NBA Coach of the Year
Chicago 1967–68 82 29 53 .354 4th in Western Conference 5 1 4 .200 Resigns from Bulls
Phoenix 1968–69 82 16 66 .195 7th in Western Conference - - - - Suns inaugural season
Phoenix 1969–70 38 15 23 .395 4th in Western Conference - - - - Fired after 38 games
Total 283 93 190 .329 8 1 7 .125

See also

References

  1. ^ Brian Hanley. "Johnny Kerr". Chicago Sun-Times. May 14, 1990. 105.
  2. ^ SunTimesHighSchoolSports.com
  3. ^ BasketballMuseumOfIllinois.com
  4. ^ A Century of Orange and Blue: Celebrating 100 Years of Fighting Illini Basketball By Loren Tate, Jared Gelfond pgs.268–270 ISBN 1-58261-793-7
  5. ^ "FightingIllini.com" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 24, 2022. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  6. ^ JustSportsStats.com
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "NBA.com Broadcaster of the Week: Johnny Kerr, Chicago Bulls". NBA.com. Archived from the original on November 8, 2008. Retrieved July 18, 2008.
  9. ^ Jim O'Donnell. "What Chicago is all about Archived 2009-02-11 at the Wayback Machine". Chicago Sun-Times. February 8, 2009. Retrieved on February 11, 2009
  10. ^ Ed Sherman. "Bulls shake up broadcast teams. Chicago Tribune. May 6, 2008. Retrieved on May 6, 2008.
  11. ^ Brett Ballantini. "A Love Supreme: Acknowledgement Archived February 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine". SLAM Online. January 30, 2009. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.
  12. ^ John Jackson. "Jordan, others thrilled to honor Kerr Archived 2009-02-15 at the Wayback Machine". Chicago Sun-Times. February 11, 2009. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.
  13. ^ Peter Vescey. "Young star making his mark on the Lakers". New York Post. January 23, 2009. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.
  14. ^ Melissa Isaacson. "Johnny 'Red' Kerr honored by Bulls Archived 2009-02-12 at the Wayback Machine". Chicago Tribune. February 11, 2009. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.
  15. ^ "Bulls mourn the loss of Johnny "Red" Kerr". NBA.com. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  16. ^ "Sad day for Bulls: Van Lier, Kerr die". STLtoday. February 27, 2009. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  17. ^ "List of MVPs" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 30, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  18. ^ "IBCA Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on March 1, 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  19. ^ BasketballMuseumOfIllinois.com
  20. ^ 100 Legends of the IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament
  21. ^ Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame
  22. ^ "Red Kerr College Stats". College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved March 8, 2024.