Buddy Jeannette, a former Baltimore Bullets player-coach and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, died yesterday in Nashua, N.H. He was 80.
Jeannette had been in ill health and suffered a stroke recently.
Harry "Buddy" Jeannette spent nine seasons between 1946 and 1967 in Baltimore as a player, coach and general manager of the Bullets.
He played pro basketball in a much different era from today's multimillion-dollar contracts.
Jeannette was lured to Baltimore in 1946 by making what was then a large salary demand.
"I told [Bullets owner Jake] Embry, 'I'll come to Baltimore if you make me player-coach and pay me $15,000,' which was just about the highest salary back then," Jeannette recalled in 1994. "I was kind of shocked when Embry said OK."
And it wasn't exactly glamorous to play in those days.
"The basketball record doesn't show it, but I once played for a team called the Cleveland White Horses in 1942," Jeannette said. "I guess the team's biggest claim to fame was the beautiful white stallion it had as its mascot.
"Before the game, they'd parade him around the arena. Unfortunately, he wasn't housebroken, and the games never started on time."
When he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, Jeannette was asked to compare himself to modern players. Jeannette said he was a point guard before the position had a name. He was a 5-foot-11 passer who averaged double figures in points three times in 12 professional seasons (1938 to 1950).
At the induction, Jeannette said he had recently been shown an old newspaper article about a game in which he scored 27 points. He had no memory of it.
"Twenty-seven points from me?" Jeannette said. "The other team must have quit."
Jeannette, a native of New Kensington, Pa., who played collegiately at Washington & Jefferson, had the distinction of playing on six championship teams in four different cities and in three different pro leagues, including the 1948 Bullets title as a player-coach. He also was MVP four times in two leagues.
Jeannette 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 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.
"Jeannette was a winner, period," Lester Harrison, owner of the Rochester Royals and himself a Hall of Fame member, once said. "Wherever he played, he brought tremendous enthusiasm for the game."
Embry once recalled a particularly clutch performance by Jeannette during the team's playoff run to the 1948 title.
"With two minutes left, New York led by eight points," Embry said. "But Buddy Jeannette stole the ball three times from Carl Braun -- Braun had that high dribble -- and Buddy went down and scored."
Paul "The Bear" Hoffman, a rookie forward on that championship team, said: "We owe that title to Buddy."
His coaching career with the original Bullets ended in 1951. Jeannette returned as coach of the modern-day Bullets in the 1964-65 season. He then became GM and was instrumental in drafting Earl Monroe.
At Jeannette's own Hall of Fame induction, he said: "The grandchildren got me cable television, and I sit on the couch and watch games. I still love the game."
Pub Date: 3/12/98