Indiana Daily Student

Former IU men’s basketball player, Pacers coach Bobby Leonard dies at 88

<p>Branch McCracken, left, talks with Bobby &quot;Slick&quot; Leonard, right, Nov. 29, 1952, in Bloomington. Leonard, a legendary Indiana Pacers coach and former IU men&#x27;s basketball player, died Tuesday at 88.</p>

Branch McCracken, left, talks with Bobby "Slick" Leonard, right, Nov. 29, 1952, in Bloomington. Leonard, a legendary Indiana Pacers coach and former IU men's basketball player, died Tuesday at 88.

Former IU men’s basketball player and Indiana Pacers head coach Bobby Leonard died Tuesday at the age of 88. 

Leonard played basketball at IU from 1951-54 and was a two-time All-American in 1953 and 1954. Leonard is famously remembered for making the game-winning free throw in the 1953 NCAA National Championship game for the Hoosiers.

Bobby "Slick" Leonard poses for a promotional photo in November 1953. Leonard died Tuesday. IU Archives

After college, Leonard was drafted in the second round of the 1954 NBA Draft by the Minneapolis Lakers — who later relocated to Los Angeles. He would finish his playing career with the Chicago Zephyrs — who became the Baltimore Bullets before relocating again to Washington, D.C., and ultimately becoming the Washington Wizards.

In his final season with the Zephyrs, Leonard was a player-coach and after retiring stayed to coach the Baltimore Bullets for one season.

Five years after coaching the Bullets, Leonard became the head coach of the Pacers in the American Basketball Association, who he’d coach for the next 12 years. Leonard led the Pacers to three ABA championships before the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.

Leonard was inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1982, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

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