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Bulls ex-coach, broadcaster Johnny 'Red' Kerr dies
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Johnny "Red" Kerr

 

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Published: 2/26/2009 11:42 PM | Updated: 2/27/2009 12:31 AM

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While the Bulls met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday, back home it was one of the saddest days in franchise history.

Former coach and longtime broadcaster Johnny "Red" Kerr died at age 76 following an extended battle with prostate cancer. He was honored during a halftime ceremony at the United Center on Feb. 10.

Though clearly weakened by cancer, Kerr spoke to the fans that night and referenced the 2009 John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award he received from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

"It is a great privilege to see these people out here today, putting an award on me that makes this the happiest day of my life, if I can steal a quote from another old-time player," Kerr said.

Michael Jordan made a rare visit to the United Center for the ceremony and sprinkled some powder on Kerr's lap, re-enacting a pregame ritual from the team's glory years.

"You made my career that much more enjoyable," Jordan said. "Us players, we always come and go. But one constant thing about the Chicago Bulls has been Johnny 'Red' Kerr."

The news about Kerr came just hours after Bulls legend Norm Van Lier, 61, was found dead at his Chicago home. While Kerr had been in poor health, Van Lier's death came as a shock.

Kerr was born on the South Side, starred at the University of Illinois and enjoyed a 12-year NBA career with the Syracuse Nationals, Philadelphia 76ers and Baltimore Bullets.

Shortly after he retired as a player, Kerr was named head coach of the expansion Bulls in 1966. He was named coach of the year after leading the team to the playoffs, but left following his second season to become coach of the expansion Phoenix Suns.

After working in management for the Bulls and ABA's Virginia Squires, Kerr returned home and spent the next 33 years as a member of the Bulls broadcast team. He is survived by his five children and 10 grandchildren.

Kerr received the which was presented during the Feb. 10 ceremony.

"The entire Bulls organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Johnny 'Red' Kerr," Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Johnny spent his entire life around the great game of basketball. His name was synonymous with basketball, both here in Chicago, and throughout the entire NBA.

"Those that were fortunate enough to have known Johnny were touched by both his tremendous compassion for people, and his lifelong passion for the game of basketball. We will miss him greatly. Our sincere condolences, and our thoughts and prayers, go out to the entire Kerr family."