After coming out of a three-day coma and slowly recovering from his bicycle accident, Jack McKinney became the head coach for the Indiana Pacers in 1980. He received the NBA Coach of the Year his first year with the Pacers, having led them to their first winning season since joining the league from the rival ABA in 1976. However, he was fired in 1984 after the Pacers ended the season with the league’s worst record. He then joined the Kansas City (now Sacramento) Kings but resigned after nine games, of which the team had lost all but one. Many players said that he forgot things easily, and his wife, Claire “Cranny” McKinney, thought the lingering cognitive effects of his head injury had made coaching too difficult. “He came home one day and said, “I’m going to retire, but don’t tell anyone,” she told The New York Times.
After retiring from coaching, McKinney hosted coaching clinics and was a television analyst for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1992 (via Indy Star). Fans are thrilled that “Winning Time” is finally reminding fans of McKinney’s huge contribution to the early Showtime Lakers. Still, many people still have “what if” questions related to the one-time coach, who died in 2018 at the age of 83 due to complications from the brain injury he suffered in the bike accident.
What could have been for McKinney if he hadn’t crashed his bike? The man who coached the Lakers to most of their championships in the 1980s once shared his thoughts on the matter. “If he hadn’t had the accident, he might have won five or six titles for the Lakers in the ’80s,” Pat Riley told the Los Angeles Times in 2006.