Famed UCLA guard, coach Walt Hazzard dies at 69

Walt Hazzard led the Bruins to the NCAA championship in 1964, the first of many championships for UCLA.

Story highlights

  • Hazzard starred from high school to the NBA
  • He helped the U.S. win a gold in the Olympics
  • Hazzard came back to UCLA to coach
  • He played with the Lakers and other NBA teams
Walt Hazzard, the dazzling point guard who led UCLA to its first NCAA basketball title and starred in high school, the NBA and the Olympics, died after a long illness, according to the UCLA Bruins' website.
The 69-year-old Hazzard died Friday afternoon at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center surrounded by family and friends, according to a statement from his family. He had been recuperating from complications following heart surgery.
"This is a sad day for the UCLA basketball family," UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said in a statement.
"Walt was the catalyst for coach John Wooden's first championship team and played the game with a style that excited Bruin basketball fans everywhere. He contributed to his alma mater in numerous ways, including as a student-athlete, coach and honored alum, and he will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Jaleesa, and their four sons."
Hazzard starred at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, where he led the school to an 89-3 record.
He transferred to UCLA after the 1960-61 season at Santa Monica College and played for Wooden, a fabled coach who mentored excellent teams through the years. the sophomore Hazzard led the team to the Final Four in 1961-62 but it lost to Cincinnati.
Two years later, as a senior, he led the Bruins to the NCAA championship in 1964, the first of many championships for what had become a college basketball dynasty. He earned All-America honors at UCLA as a junior and senior and piled up impressive scoring statistics there.
He was chosen for the U.S. Olympic team in 1964 and helped the United States win a gold medal at the games in Tokyo.
He later joined the NBA, playing with the Los Angeles Lakers and others teams -- Seattle, Atlanta, Buffalo and Golden State -- for a total of 10 seasons.
He went into coaching and eventually became head coach for the Bruins for four years during the 1980s. Under Hazzard, the team won a National Invitation Tournament, a PAC-10 title and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
After coaching, he scouted and consulted for the Lakers. He also got involved with the Young Black Scholars group and started a non-profit for middle school students, the Los Angeles Sports Academy. The 100 Black Men of Los Angeles Inc. in October gave Hazzard a Lifetime Achievement Award.
"He was a great player and an outstanding coach at UCLA. He is a huge part of the Bruin legacy, and he left life-long memories for the Bruin faithful," UCLA head men's basketball coach Ben Howland said.