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Former Bulls and Bradley coach Stan Albeck dies at age 89

Albeck grew up in Chenoa, Illinois, and starred as a player at Bradley. He led the Bulls in 1985-86 — with Michael Jordan in his second season.

In this 1974 photo, Wilt Chamberlain, right, coach of the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors, and assistant coach Stan Albeck, middle, watch in the opening minutes of the team’s game against the New York Nets. Albeck died Thursday at age 89.
In this 1974 photo, Wilt Chamberlain, right, coach of the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors, and assistant coach Stan Albeck, middle, watch in the opening minutes of the team’s game against the New York Nets. Albeck died Thursday at age 89.
Richard Drew/AP

SAN ANTONIO — Former Bulls coach Stan Albeck, who also coached the Spurs, Cavaliers and Nets during a long NBA career, died Thursday in hospice care at son John’s home. He was 89.

John Albeck told the San Antonio Express-News his father entered hospice care Thursday after having a stroke on March 14. He also had a stroke in 2001 while an assistant coach with Toronto.

Albeck coached the ABA’s Denver Rockets in 1970-71, then directed Cleveland in 1979-80, San Antonio from 1980-83, New Jersey from 1983-85 and Chicago in 1985-86 — with Michael Jordan in his second season.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Stan Albeck,” the Bulls said in a tweet. “While he was only a head coach in Chicago for the 1985-86 season, he was a good man who will always be a part of our history. We send our condolences to Stan’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

He took San Antonio to consecutive Western Conference finals in 1982 and 1983. The Spurs had a moment of silence to honor Albeck before their game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

“Coach Albeck wasn’t just important to the Spurs, he was what I call a lifer,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “People like myself don’t come close to loving the game as he did, and his whole family did. They participated in so many ways and followed him so many places.

“He would come to games, he would talk to players, talk to us as coaches. He always had a smile for us, a suggestion or two — because he’s a coach. … He is somebody we always respected and he brought a bright light to wherever he was.”

Albeck grew up in Chenoa, Illinois, and starred at Bradley. He got his first head coaching job at Adrian College in Michigan in 1956, and spent 14 seasons as a college head coach at Adrian, Northern Michigan and the University of Denver before joining the Rockets’ staff in 1970.

Albeck was inducted into the Bradley University Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.