Former Coach of the Minneapolis Lakers, John Kundla, had his 100th birthday today. Kundla was a star player for the University of Minnesota Gopher basketball team from 1936-1939. He joined the Navy, serving with LST units, when the U.S. entered WWII.
After the war, Kundla went on to coach St Thomas in the Twin Cities. In 1947, two Minneapolis business men bought the bankrupt Detroit Gems for $15,000 and moved them to Minneapolis, renaming the basketball franchise the Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball League. Kundla was hired as the Lakers head coach, and the team signed George Mikan.
The rest, as they say, was history.
The Lakers went on to win the NBL title that year with a 47-17 regular season record. The team joined the Basketball Association of America (the forerunner of the NBA) the following year, and went on to win five NBA titles over six years. Kundla is still the only NBA coach to win two titles in his first two years. Steve Kerr came within one game of duplicating that feat this year. The Minneapolis Lakers would be the first NBA team to win three consecutive titles under Kundla.
Kundla left the Lakers in 1959 when the franchise was sold to Bob Short, who intended to move the team. Kundla would go on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota for nine years. The Lakers would move to Los Angeles in 1960. John Kundla would be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.
Happy birthday Coach.