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Butch van Breda Kolff Passes Away at Age 84

More Coverage: Lafayette News Stand

Aug. 23, 2007

EASTON, Pa. - Former Lafayette men's basketball coach Butch van Breda Kolff passed away on Wednesday at age 84. Van Breda Kolff spent eight seasons at Lafayette, coaching the Leopards from 1951-55 and 1984-88.

Van Breda Kolff, 84, died at a nursing home in Spokane, Washington, his daughter, Kristina Van Breda Kolff, said.

During his stay on College Hill, Van Breda Kolff tallied a 132-85 (.608) record. He led Lafayette to its first postseason game ever in the 1954-55 season, an 83-70 defeat in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) at Madison Square Garden. The Leopards finished 23-3 that year.

In 2001, he was inducted by the Lafayette community into the Maroon Club Hall of Fame.

Lafayette head coach Fran O'Hanlon knows the impression he left on the Lafayette campus and everyone he touched.

"Butch was an original and will leave a lasting legacy on the game," O'Hanlon said. "Having known him, he was just a refreshing man that was a joy to be around. He'll be greatly missed."

After leaving Lafayette, Van Breda Kolff went on to coach at Hofstra, Princeton and New Orleans. He went 103-31 at Princeton, winning four Ivy League titles, and led Hofstra to a 23-1 record in 1959-60.

He posted a 482-272 coaching record in 28 college seasons and was 287-316 in 10 seasons as an NBA and ABA coach. He took six teams to the NCAA Tournament at a time when tournament berths were more scarce, and won seven conference titles.

Willem Hendrik van Breda Kolff was born Oct. 28, 1922, in Montclair, N.J. He attended Princeton University, but his college career was interrupted by duty with the Marines in World War II.

He returned from the war to become captain of Princeton's basketball team in the 1946-47 season and played for the New York Knicks from 1946-1950.

He ranks 74th all-time in college wins.

In the professional ranks, he was a success right away, leading the Los Angeles Lakers with Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain to the NBA Finals two years in a row, where they lost to the Boston Celtics. His pro résumé included stops in Detroit (1969-72), Phoenix (part of the 1972-73 season), the Memphis Tams of the ABA (1973-74), the New Orleans Jazz (1974-77) and the New Orleans Pride of the Women's Basketball League from 1979-81.

Van Breda Kolff and his wife Florence, who died in 2005, had three daughters, Karen, Kristina and Kaatje and their son Jan.

Some information in this release was obtained from the Associated Press