Sad Day for the Toros, Basketball, and Austin: Dennis Johnson Dead at 52

I hate to be the bearer of absolutely terrible news, but Toros coach Dennis Johnson died today, Feb. 22, after collapsing on the court during the team's practice. He was 52 years old.

Johnson, better known to basketball fans as D.J., was an NBA legend who helped two teams win the championship trophy during his storied 14-year career. He was the Finals MVP in 1979, when he was playing with the Seattle Supersonics, and was an integral part of the legendary Boston Celtics team of the 1980s, the team that also featured Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. Together they won two titles, in '84 and '86, and reached the finals in 1987, when they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers.

One of the league's finest all-around guards, Johnson was named to the All-Defensive First Team six times, and he played in five All-Star games. Over the course of his career he averaged 14.1 points per game, and he raised that average during the playoffs to 17.3. (Not bad for a defensive specialist.)

Johnson came to the Toros last year for their inaugural season, leading them to a 24-24 record. Despite a rough start to this year's campaign, the Toros have won 14 of their last 18. I guess his players were finally starting to get the message.

Larry Bird once said of Johnson, "He's the best I've ever played with."

Update: The Chronicle just received this press release from the NBDL: "The NBA Development League announced today that Austin Toros home games scheduled for Friday, February 23 against Fort Worth and Saturday, Feb. 24 against Tulsa have been postponed due to the sudden death of Toros head coach and former NBA great Dennis Johnson. The games will be rescheduled for later this season."

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More Johnson
Toros Pay Tribute to Johnson
Toros Pay Tribute to Johnson

Josh Rosenblatt, Feb. 22, 2008

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