Boston Celtics legend and basketball Hall of Famer K.C. Jones has died, the team announced on Christmas. He was 88.
The Celtics said Jones' family confirmed Friday that he died at an assistant living facility in Connecticut, where he had been receiving care for Alzheimer's disease for the past several years.
Jones was a 12-time NBA champion as a player and coach, two-time NCAA champion, and an Olympic gold medalist.
"The Celtics family mourns his loss, as we celebrate his remarkable career and life," the Celtics said in a statement on Jones' passing.
Jones is one of only seven players in history to achieve basketball’s “Triple Crown” – winning an NCAA Championship, an NBA Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. The other six are Bill Russell, Clyde Lovellette, Jerry Lucas, Quinn Buckner, Earvin “Magic “Johnson and Michael Jordan.
A point guard who excelled on defense, Jones joined with Russell to lead San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955-56. The two also played on the U.S. team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 1956 Games in Melbourne. They later reunited in Boston.
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"Where K.C. Jones went, winning was sure to follow," the Celtics said.
Jones played nine seasons in the NBA -- all with Boston -- and won eight straight titles from 1959-66. In the history of the NBA, only longtime teammates Russell and Sam Jones have more championship rings during their playing careers.
Russell tweeted out his condolences to Jones' family and said he had received a call to let him know "the great K.C. Jones" had passed Christmas morning. The NBA legends had been friends for almost 60 years, Russell wrote.
Jones retired in 1967 and began coaching, first in college at Brandeis and Harvard before joining the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant, where he earned another championship ring in 1972.
Jones was an assistant coach on the Celtics team that won it all in 1981 before being named Boston's head coach in 1983, the beginning of one of the most remarkable head coaching runs in league history. He reached the NBA finals in an astonishing four consecutive seasons, during one of the most impressive and beloved Celtics eras.
It was Jones at the helm during two of the most memorable championship seasons in the Celtics' rich history, guiding the team led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Jones first led the team to a championship in 1984 over the Los Angeles Lakers during a peak of that storied rivalry. Two seasons later, he led what many consider one of the greatest teams in NBA history -- the 1986 Champion Boston Celtics.
"K.C.’s coaching career was similarly illustrious," the Celtics said.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, who played for Jones, said Friday that Jones was a great coach to play for.
"He was a class act, and everybody knew that. And yet he had a competitive edge that was fierce," Ainge said. "You wanted to do all you could to please K.C. as a coach, but he had this gentleness and a kindness that at the right time he knew what to say. He was a great leader of men."
In a statement before their Christmas Day game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics said, "K.C. also demonstrated that one could be both a fierce competitor and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He made his teammates better, and he got the most out of the players he coached. Never one to seek credit, his glory was found in the most fundamental of basketball ideals – being part of a winning team."
Jones' No. 25 was retired by the Celtics in 1967, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.
Earlier this year, two of Jones' Celtics teammates died: John Thompson, 78, and Tom Heinsohn, 86.
The Associated Press contributed to this report