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Peter Francis Newell (August 3, 1915 – November 17, 2008) was an American college men's basketball coach and basketball instructional coach. He coached for 15 years at the University of San Francisco, Michigan State University and the University of California, Berkeley, compiling an overall record of 234 wins and 123 losses. He led the University of California to the 1959 NCAA men's basketball championship, and a year later coached the gold medal-winning U.S. team at the 1960 Summer Olympics. After his coaching career ended he ran a world-famous instructional basketball camp and served as a consultant and scout for several National Basketball Association (NBA) teams. He is often considered to be one of the most influential figures in the history of basketball.

Early life

He was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and grew up in Los Angeles, Californiamarker. Encouraged by his mother, he had small roles in several movies before he turned ten. Newell attended both high school and college in Los Angeles, California, and was a classmate of Phil Woolpert at Loyola Marymount Universitymarker (then called Loyola University). He played on the basketball team.

Coaching career

After serving in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1946, Newell was appointed head men's basketball coach at the University of San Franciscomarker in 1946. During his four-year tenure at USF, Newell compiled a 70-37 record and coached the Dons to the 1949 National Invitation Tournament championship, beating his alma mater, Loyola. In 1950 he accepted an appointment as head coach at Michigan State University, where he stayed until 1954.

Newell returned to the West Coast in 1954 when he was hired as head coach at the University of California, Berkeley. Newell was very successful at Cal, compiling a 119-44 record, winning four consecutive Pac-8 titles from 1957 to 1960, and leading the Golden Bears to two straight appearances in the NCAA tournament championship game—which they won in 1959. Newell himself earned national Coach of the Year honors in 1960. At Berkeley, he became a faculty initiate of the Nu Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity where player Darrall Imhoff was a member.

Newell also coached the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team to a gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics, leading a talented squad that featured future National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and Jerry Lucas. His win in the Olympics made him one of only three coaches to win the "Triple Crown" of NCAA, NIT and Olympic championships. Newell is also known to have introduced the reverse-action offense in the late nineteen fifties.

After being advised by doctors to give up coaching because of stress, he served as the Athletic Director at Cal from 1960 to 1968.

NBA work

After retiring from coaching, Newell served as team executive or scout for several NBA teams, among them the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors. As general manager of the Lakers, he was instrumental in trading for star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Milwaukee Bucks. He retired from his job as Lakers General manager in 1976 to spend more time with his ailing wife.

Basketball camps

Considered "America's Basketball Guru", Newell conducted an annual training camp for centers and forwards known simply as "Big Man Camp", which has since been informally dubbed "Pete Newell's Big Man Camp". The camp originated when word spread that Newell was working with Kermit Washington. After Washington's game rapidly improved, more and more big men started to work with Newell, and he later opened the camp. The camp's impressive participants list features over 200 current and former NBA players. Newell attracted this list of players due to his reputation of teaching footwork, being what one publication described as "The Footwork Master". Former attendees include Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Walton, and many others. The camp is almost seen as standard for players coming out of college into the NBA; according to ESPN's Ric Bucher, "[f]or the past 24 years, every big man of any significance has spent at least one summer week trying to get close enough to Pete." From the time Newell opened the camp in 1976 until his death, he never accepted any money for his services, stating that "I owe it to the game. I can never repay what the game has given me." The camp has taken place in Honolulu, Hawaiimarker and most recently Las Vegas, Nevadamarker.

In 2001 Newell opened his version of the Big Man Camp for women and dubbed it "Pete Newell's Tall Women's Basketball Camp" with the following simple sentence serving as a summary of its intentions: "The Pete Newell Tall Women's Basketball Camp goal is to continue to do what Pete Newell has done his whole life-to teach the fundamentals and footwork of the game of basketball to young players."

Personal life

Newell's wife Florence died in 1984. His four sons have all been involved with basketball. His son, Pete Newell Jr., led the Santa Cruz High School boys' basketball team to the California state championship in 2005. Another son, Tom Newell, is a longtime NBA scout and assistant coach who has recently worked on international basketball projects in China and Russia. He currently is a Fox Sports studio commentator in the network's Northwest region.


In 1979, Newell was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Famemarker. An annual college basketball tournament is held in his honor in Oakland, Californiamarker, and frequent participants in the Pete Newell Challenge include USF and Cal—the very schools where Newell coached. In addition in 1987 Cal dedicated the court in Harmon Gymmarker as "Pete Newell Court".

Since 2000, the National Association of Basketball Coaches has annually presented the Pete Newell Big Man Award to the top frontcourt player in the nation.

In an interview with Mike Greenberg on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning on January 2, 2007, Bob Knight singled Newell out as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. Knight stated that although he had not won as many championships as some other coaches he felt "he was as good as anybody who's ever coached this game." Newell's influence on basketball is often stated in what would seem to be almost exaggerated terms by many Hall of Fame coaches and players. However, his contributions to the game of basketball have been so great that according to many Newell has perhaps had as much or more influence on the game of basketball as any person in the modern era.

In 1999, author Bruce Jenkins published a biography of Newell entitled A Good Man.

Newell died at Rancho Santa Fe, Californiamarker on November 17, 2008, at age 93.

See also


  • Basketball Methods (1962) with John Benington
  • Basketball: The Sports Playbook (1976)
  • Basketball Post Play (1995)
  • Pete Newell's Defensive Basketball: Winning Techniques and Strategies (Art & Science of Coaching) (2001)

A Good Man: The Pete Newell Story, by Bruce Jenkins, 1999.


  1. Basketball innovator wielded lasting influence on NBA players, obituary, by Bruce Weber, The New York Times, November 25, 2008.

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