Brendan Malone, former longtime NBA coach, dies at 81

Brendan Malone, who spent 27 years coaching in the NBA, died at 81 years old, the Denver Nuggets announced Tuesday.

Malone, the father of Nuggets coach Michael Malone, was the first coach of the Toronto Raptors, going 21-61 during the 1995-96 season. He was a longtime assistant coach in the NBA, serving stints with the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we share the passing of longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone, who holds a special place amongst the organization and will be a Denver Nugget forever,” the Nuggets said in a statement Tuesday. “Coach Brendan Malone was a great man who left behind a great legacy in the world of basketball, but he will be remembered even more for the amazing husband, father, son and grandfather that he was and the profound impact he had on the friends, family and colleagues who were lucky enough to know him.

“Our thoughts are with the entire Malone family and all of Brendan’s loved ones who are feeling this loss today.”

Brendan Malone’s coaching career began at the high school level with Power Memorial Academy in New York City in 1967. He later moved to the collegiate ranks as an assistant at Fordham, Yale and Syracuse, and was head coach at Rhode Island before transitioning to an assistant role with the Knicks in 1986.

Malone then moved into an assistant role with the Pistons from 1988 to 1995, helping guide Detroit to two NBA titles in that span. NBA teams Malone helped coach went to the playoffs 20 times and the finals four times, with his teams compiling a 1,165-1,001 record. He received the 2023 Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award from the National Basketball Coaches Association in July.

What is Malone’s NBA legacy?

While he was the first head coach in the history of the Raptors, Malone’s more noteworthy moments came as an assistant. He was on the bench with Chuck Daly as the Pistons won their first two titles, and later with Jeff Van Gundy during the Knicks’ runs in the late 1990s. He also worked on Stan Van Gundy’s staffs in Orlando and Detroit.

Malone was known for his defensive acumen, playing a key part in orchestrating the schemes that kept Michael Jordan at bay in the late ’80s. He lasted only one year as head coach with the Raptors, ultimately clashing with his former star player, Isiah Thomas, who was the Raptors’ first general manager. However, Malone guided the expansion Raptors to a surprise 21-win team and also was the coach for Damon Stoudamire’s Rookie of the Year season.

Malone’s teachings, particularly on defense, have informed many teams for years. Of course, Malone’s son Michael won a title with the Nuggets this past season. — Eric Koreen, Raptors writer

(Photo: Allen Einstein / NBAE via Getty Images)

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