As player and a coach, Don Chaney left an indelible mark across the NBA landscape.
Now, one of the game’s greatest defensive players of the ’70s — and the winner of two NBA Championship rings – hold the distinction of being the only man in the NBA history to play alongside both NBA greats Bill Russell and Larry Bird.
A native of Baton Rouge, La., and a 1991 inductee into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Don was born on March 22, 1946. According to Celticslife.com, he wanted to play football, but his mother urged him to stick to basketball.
That decision led to a stellar experience at the University of Houston where he teamed Elvin Hayes, who also went on to his own NBA greatness.
However, for Chaney, the highlight of his college career coming in the showdown in the Astrodome on January 20, 1968. That victory came over UCLA and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the first game ever played in the Houston Astrodome.
The Cougars snapped the Bruins’ 47-game winning streak in a nationally televised showdown that attracted the biggest crowd ever to see a basketball game at the time.
As a collegiate star at the University of Houston, Chaney averaged 12.6 ppg over four years, during which the Cougars went 81-12 and appeared in the NCAA Final Four twice.
In Houston’s fabled 71-69 win over top-ranked UCLA before 52,693 at the Astrodome, Chaney played the entire 40 minutes with 11 points, six rebounds and three key steals down the stretch. Fittingly, the ball was in his hands when the final buzzer sounded, giving the Cougars one of the most storied triumphs in basketball history.
From that unforgettable night in the Astrodome in 1968, to the magic of Celtic Green, and more, Chaney has been a main contributor to many of the game’s greatest success stories for decades.
The Celtics’ first-round pick (12th overall) in the 1968 NBA Draft, he was a member of Boston’s World Championship teams in 1969 and 1974, and gained an everlasting place in Celtic lore as the only man to play alongside both Russell and Bird. His back court defensive tenacity earned him NBA All-Defensive second team selections in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977.
A five-time NBA All-Defensive second team selection, Chaney averaged 8.4 ppg and .436 shooting over 790 games in a 12-year playing career with the Celtics (1968-69 through 1974-75, 1977-78 through 1979-80), Los Angeles Lakers (1976-77 through 1977-78) and the ABA’s legendary Spirits of St. Louis (1975-76).
After ending his playing career, Chaney spent 22 seasons in coaching of which he spent 12 seasons in the NBA.
During that time, he also served as an assistant coach on Don Nelson’s staff for the gold medal-winning United States squad at the World Championship Games in Toronto. He has been on the coaching staffs of two Eastern Conference All-Star squads: under Mike Fratello in the 1988 Game in Chicago, and alongside Jeff Van Gundy in the All-Star Game at Oakland.
Chaney is a 1991 inductee into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame,