UCLA Basketball Great Walt Hazzard Passes After Long Illness
Nov. 18, 2011
Nov. 22 Update - The Hazzard family has announced that there will be a public service for Walt in the near future and that once those plans have been finalized, details will be announced on UCLABruins.com. A private funeral service for family and close friends was held earlier today (Nov. 22).
Walt Hazzard, one of just seven UCLA men's basketball players to have his uniform number retired and the co-captain of UCLA's first NCAA championship team (1964), passed away this afternoon at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center following a long illness. Hazzard, who was born on Apr. 15, 1942, was 69 years old.
Hazzard, a native of Wilmington, DE, enjoyed basketball success at every level - high school, college, the Olympic Games and the NBA - and was also head coach at his alma mater for four years in the 1980s. He was an NCAA and Olympic champion, NCAA Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player and a consensus All-American.
On October 21, 2011, he was honored by The 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, Inc. (100 BMLA) with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
"This is a sad day for the UCLA basketball family," said Bruin athletic director Dan Guerrero. "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."
"Walt was one of the pillars of UCLA's first championship team in men's basketball," said UCLA head men's basketball coach Ben Howland. "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. We will all miss Walt, and we send our love to his family."
Hazzard's climb to stardom began in Philadelphia, PA, where he starred at Overbook High School. During his three-year varsity career, Hazzard led his school to an 89-3 record and two City championships. The 1960 Philadelphia Player of the Year, he earned All-America honors as a senior and also served as captain of the track and baseball teams. He won the City title in the high jump and served as student body president.
Hazzard transferred to UCLA after spending one season (1960-61) at Santa Monica College and began his memorable collegiate career playing for the legendary John Wooden. As a sophomore in 1961-62, he averaged 13.2 points, but it was his fantastic ball-handling and passing skills that separated him from other players. With Hazzard running the show, the Bruins won 14 of 18 games to reach the NCAA Final Four for the first time in school history, losing by two points to eventual champion Cincinnati and by two points to Wake Forest in the consolation game.
As a junior, Hazzard earned All-America honors from several organizations, including the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. He led the Bruins with his 16.3 scoring average and UCLA won 20 games for the first time since 1957, tying Stanford for the AAWU title and winning a playoff.
As a senior, the playmaking guard led the Bruins to the summit of the collegiate basketball world, establishing the foundation of what would become the UCLA Dynasty. He averaged a career-high 18.6 points, second on the squad, and was the driving force behind UCLA's first NCAA championship. The team's co-captain, he earned consensus All-America honors and was named college basketball's Player of the Year. He averaged 19.8 points in his four NCAA games, and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
In his three-year career, he led the Bruins to a record of 68-20, two Finals Fours and their first NCAA title. He left UCLA as the school's career scoring leader, and his total of 1,401 points (16.1 average) still ranks 25th on UCLA's all-time list, while his average ranks eighth among players who competed for at least two seasons.
In the summer of 1964, he was selected to the U.S. Olympic team and helped the United States win a Gold medal in Tokyo, Japan.
Then it was on to the National Basketball Association. A first-round selection of the Los Angeles Lakers, he played 724 regular-season games and averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 assists during his 10-year career with Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Buffalo and Golden State. Six times during those 10 seasons, he ranked among the NBA's Top 10 assists leaders. He was at his best in 1968 with Seattle, averaging 23.9 points (seventh in the league) and 6.2 assists (fifth) and playing in the NBA All-Star Game.
Following his NBA career, he continued his educational career while coaching in various community leagues. Hazzard became head coach at Compton College prior to the 1980-81 school year and, in two seasons, compiled a record of 53-9 and reached the California state junior college championship game once.
He moved to Chapman College in Orange County prior to the 1982-83 season. In two years, he tallied a 43-16 record (against U.S. competition) and twice advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs, reaching the West Regional championship game in 1983.
On March 26, 1984, Hazzard was named the ninth head coach in UCLA history. During his four years, the Bruins compiled a record of 77-47. In 1985, they won 12 of their last 13 games, including the final eight, to win the school's first National Invitation Tournament championship. In 1987, UCLA won the Pac-10 title and first-ever Pac-10 Post-Season Tournament, reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a record of 25-7, and Hazzard was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
Following his coaching career, Hazzard worked as primary West Coast advance NBA scout for the Los Angeles Lakers and has also served as a special consultant to the Lakers.
He also became involved with the Young Black Scholars, serving as Director of Development, raising funds and other support to help launch the program. Hazzard started his own non-profit for middle school students, the Los Angeles Sports Academy, focusing on students' love of sports to help improve academic performance in the core subjects of English, math and social studies.
In 1984, Hazzard was named one of 25 charter members of the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame. On February 1, 1996, UCLA retired Hazzard's No. 42 in a halftime ceremony that included the retirement of the numbers of Marques Johnson (54), Ed O'Bannon (31) and Sidney Wicks (35) - all NCAA Players of the Year. In March of 2004, he was inducted into the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) Hall of Honor.
Hazzard is survived by his widow Jaleesa, a Bruin song girl during the 1964 NCAA title season, and four grown sons - Yakub, Jalal, Khalil and Rasheed. Details on a service are pending.
STATEMENT FROM THE FAMILY OF WALT HAZZARD
CLick for Bruin Video