Jeannette has Bullets in his blood

January 20, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

Since 1987, five former Bullets have been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame -- Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Earl Monroe, Walt Bellamy and Buddy Jeannette.

Unseld and Hayes teamed to bring an NBA title to Washington in 1978, and Monroe earned a championship ring in 1973 after being traded to New York.

But none had deeper Baltimore roots than Jeannette, the fiery player-coach of the 1948 championship team who will be honored during halftime of the Bullets-Philadelphia 76ers game at the Baltimore Arena tonight.

In fact, Jeannette had strong ties to both the pioneering Bullets and the present franchise, which he served as both coach and general manager in the early 1960s after Baltimore inherited the Chicago Zephyrs.

"We had a good shot of going all the way in 1965 when we played the Lakers in the Western finals," said Jeannette, recalling that hard-fought, six-game series.

"But right before the second game in Los Angeles, our best player, Bailey Howell, hurt his back in the layup drill. He kept playing with the pain, but just wasn't the same. We still might have won, but we couldn't find anyone to stop Jerry West.

"I can still see Wali Jones waving his arms at him like a windmill, but West averaged over 46 points in the series. He was a one-man gang."

They said pretty much the same about Jeannette in 1948, when he led the Bullets to their first NBA title, beating the Philadelphia Warriors in six games.

Jeannette, 77, who resides in Nashua, N.H., has the distinction of having played on six championship teams in four different cities and in three different professional basketball leagues.

The native of New Kensington, Pa., won his first title in 1941 with the Detroit Eagles of the National Basketball League. In 1943, he was the floor leader for the champion Sheboygan Redskins and played the same role for the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1944 and 1945.

He won his first title with the Baltimore Bullets in 1947, when they were still part of the barnstorming American League. A year later, the Bullets shifted to the Basketball Association of America, forerunner to the NBA, and brought Baltimore another championship.

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