Bobby 'Slick' Leonard, 88, Pacers Hall of Fame coach, dies

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FILE - Former Indiana Pacers coach Bobby "Slick" Leonard watches a banner being hung in his honor during a presentation at half time of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Indianapolis, in this Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, file photo. Leonard, the former NBA player and Hall of Fame coach who won three ABA championships with the Indiana Pacers and spent more than a half century with the organization, has died. He was 88. His death was announced by the Pacers on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

INDIANAPOLIS – Bobby “Slick” Leonard was selected as the ABA’s greatest coach. Hall of Fame player George McGinnis considered him a genius.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Pacers announced that the man who led them to three ABA championships during a Hall of Fame coaching career and was selected a 1963 NBA All-Star had died. No details about the 88-year-old Leonard were provided but he had been in failing health in recent years.

“He was the greatest,” McGinnis said in March. “He loved all of his guys and, yes, he had his days. If you got on the wrong side of him, it wasn’t going to be a good deal for you."

But, McGinnis added, there was a big difference between Leonard and Indiana Hoosiers coach Bob Knight: After Leonard ripped into you and "wore you out, he’d take you out for a beer and say ’You know I love you, I’m doing this for your own good.'"

Leonard became one of the crown princes of Indiana basketball.

Yes, he went 573-534 in 14 seasons as a coach, winning 529 in 12 seasons with the Pacers.

But the legacy went far deeper.

The star tennis player at Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School chose to play basketball at nearby Indiana University. He wound up leading the Hoosiers to two Big Ten titles, was a two-time All-American and made the winning free throws to give Indiana the 1953 national championship.