Chris Ford, the former Villanova star who won championships with the Boston Celtics as both a player and a coach, died at the age of 74 on Tuesday, his family announced in a statement through the NBA team.
“Chris was beloved by his family, friends, and teammates,” the Fords said in a press release on Wednesday afternoon. “He had a great love for his family, the city of Boston, the fans, and the entire Celtics family. He always showed humility and respect for all those that were fortunate enough to be a part of his life.”
Ford played three seasons at Villanova, appearing in the 1971 NCAA championship game. The Detroit Pistons selected him 17th overall in the 1972 NBA draft. He played 10 seasons as a shooting guard for the Pistons and Celtics, winning the 1981 title in Boston alongside Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
Ford owns the distinction of making the first 3-pointer in NBA history, sinking his only long-distance attempt for the Celtics in a win against the Houston Rockets in the opening game of the 1979-80 season.
Ford retired as a player in 1982 and joined KC Jones’ coaching staff in Boston a year later. He won championships as an assistant with the Celtics in 1984 and 1986. He spent seven seasons in Boston under Jones and Jimmy Rodgers before assuming the reins as head coach in 1990. He coached the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers over the next decade, amassing a 311-358 record.
“As a player and coach, Chris Ford’s career spanned over a decade of Celtics basketball, and he made his mark every step of the way,” the team said in the statement coordinated with the Ford family on Wednesday. “The Boston Celtics send their deepest sympathies to the Ford family and their many friends.”
Ford spent two seasons as the head coach of Division III Brandeis University before returning to the NBA as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2003-04 season. He served as their interim head coach for the final 30 games of that season. He also served as a consultant to the New York Knicks last decade.
The National Basketball Coaches Association issued a statement on Wednesday “mourning the passing of Coach Chris Ford. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Ford family during this very difficult time.”