Saint Joseph's basketball mourns the loss of SJU Hall of Famer and former head coach Jack McKinney '57, who passed away at the age of 83 on September 25 in Florida.
A memorial service will be held on campus on Monday, October 29 at 10:30 a.m. at the Chapel of St. Joseph.
McKinney was head coach at Saint Joseph’s for eight seasons, from 1966 to 1974, overseeing some of the best teams in Hawk history. He compiled a 144-77 record and owns the third best all-time winning percentage (65.2 percent) among SJU coaches, behind Hall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay and Jim Lynam.
McKinney took the Hawks to postseason play five times in his eight years, which included four NCAA Tournament appearances. His teams won two Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament titles and finished first in the division four times through his tenure.
He mentored many great Saint Joseph’s players, including All-Americans Clifford Anderson (1967) and Mike Bantom (1973).
In his final season at Saint Joseph’s in 1973-74, McKinney led the Hawks to a 19-11 record and an NCAA Tournament berth while being named the Eastern College Coach of the Year.
Upon leaving SJU, he started his career in the NBA, first as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, then becoming Ramsay's top assistant with the Portland Trailblazers. He became one of seven former St. Joe's players to serve as a head coach in the league, starting out as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. In 1979, his season with the Lakers was cut short after he suffered a serious injury in a bicycle accident. Paul Westhead, his former freshman coach at SJU, filled in for McKinney as the Lakers won the 1980 NBA title.
McKinney took over as head coach of the Indiana Pacers the following season and earned NBA Coach of the Year honors after guiding the squad to the playoffs. He left the Pacers after the 1983-84 season and coached briefly with the Kansas City Kings, culminating a five-year career as an NBA head coach.
A native of Chester, Pa., McKinney played for Ramsay at Saint Joseph’s from 1954 to 1957, while also excelling on the Hawks’ track team.
Coach McKinney received the University’s Alumni Association highest honor in 1998 with the Joseph S. Hogan, S.J. Award, recognizing a Saint Joseph’s graduate for their exemplifications of Christian Principles and outstanding loyal service to their alma mater.
McKinney, who was also the Hawks’ athletic director from 1966 to 1974, was inducted into the Saint Joseph’s Men’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1998 and the SJU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.
In 2006, McKinney authored a book, Tales from Saint Joseph’s Hardwood: The Hawk Will Never Die.
What they’re saying about Jack McKinney:
"Jack was a coach, a mentor and friend to many. He was a great communicator, teacher and innovator. The Hawk community extends its prayers and condolences to Claire McKinney and family."
- Don DiJulia, former director of athletics
“Getting to know Jack on a personal level is one of the greatest honors of my life. He cared about me as a person and as a family man, more than as a coach. I am grateful for his friendship and his presence, which will stay with me forever. Jack McKinney was a real gentleman.” - Phil Martelli, current Saint Joseph’s Head Coach
“Jack is the one who gave me my first college job as the St. Joe’s freshman coach. I was a high school coach and you need someone to give you a break and he did that. Without him I wouldn’t have gotten that start for my NBA and college coaching career. One of the things he certainly taught me was to be very fair and honest to the players. Jack never gave you a lot of praise and accolades just to make you feel good. He spoke truth so if you had a good practice or a good game, he would give you a compliment. If you didn’t, he’d say ‘you’re going to have to work harder’. He’s such an honest, straightforward guy, once you worked for him or played for him, you respected that. Everybody has their pluses and their minuses, but he truly was one of the good people. He was a good man. At the end of the day, put coaching aside, he was a terrific family man. But he was just a good man. If I could say only one thing about Jack McKinney, that’s what I would stress.”
- Paul Westhead, Saint Joseph’s freshman coach under McKinney
“Jack was not only a terrific coach but an even better person. His love for St. Joe’s was unconditional. He was legitimately one of the good guys.”
- Jim Lynam '63, assistant coach on McKinney’s staff
“I played for Jack both at SJU and with the Indiana Pacers. He was a terrific coach and a better man. I am grateful to have had his coaching impact my career. My condolences to his family and friends.”
- Mike Bantom '73, former player of McKinney's
"Jack was the coach of the Freshman team when I arrived on Hawk Hill in 1964 and was my varsity coach from 1966 to 1968. Additionally, Coach asked me to return as an assistant coach at SJU from 1971-1974. During that time our teams were always well prepared to take on our competition. He was an excellent tactician. His offensive schemes and in-game adjustments were second to none. It was amazing to see these skills as one of his players and then coaching along side him. Though he was a tough taskmaster, determined to have his teams represent SJU like true Hawks, he was also a true gentleman. I last visited Coach in Naples in March of this year. He was in good spirits and enjoyed talking about his teams and how his players were doing. Coach was a great family man. He was truly loved by Claire, his children and grandchildren. He will be sorely missed by all of who were proud to be his friend. R.I.P."
- Mike Kempski '68, player and assistant coach with McKinney