Dave Cowens

Last updated

Dave Cowens
Dave Cowens.jpeg
Cowens in 1976
Personal information
Born (1948-10-25) October 25, 1948 (age 70)
Newport, Kentucky
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High school Newport Catholic (Newport, Kentucky)
College Florida State (1967–1970)
NBA draft 1970 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4th overall
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1970–1980, 1982–1983
Position Center / Power forward
Number18, 36
Career history
As player:
19701980 Boston Celtics
1982–1983 Milwaukee Bucks
As coach:
1978–1979 Boston Celtics
19941996 San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
19961999 Charlotte Hornets
20002001 Golden State Warriors
2006 Chicago Sky
20062009 Detroit Pistons (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 13,516 (17.6 ppg)
Rebounds 10,444 (13.6 rpg)
Assists 2,910 (3.8 apg)
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

David William Cowens (born October 25, 1948) [1] is an American retired professional basketball player and NBA head coach. At 6' 9", he played the center and occasionally the power forward position. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991.

Basketball team sport played on a court with baskets on either end

Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball through the defender's hoop while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three. After a foul, timed play stops and the player fouled or designated to shoot a technical foul is given one or more one-point free throws. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but if regulation play expires with the score tied, an additional period of play (overtime) is mandated.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a men's professional basketball league in North America, composed of 30 teams. It is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, and is widely considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world.

Center (basketball) position in basketball

The center (C), also known as the five, or the big man, is one of the five positions in a regular basketball game. The center is normally the tallest player on the team, and often has a great deal of strength and body mass as well. In the NBA, the center is usually 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) or taller and usually weighs 240 pounds (110 kg) or more. They traditionally have played close to the basket in the low post. A center with the ability to shoot outside from three-point range is known as stretch five.


Cowens has held numerous NBA head coaching positions. Most recently Cowens served as an assistant coach and then as a special assistant to Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars. [2]

Detroit Pistons Professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association

The Detroit Pistons are an American professional basketball team based in Detroit, Michigan. The Pistons compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Central Division and plays its home games at Little Caesars Arena. The team was founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne (Zollner) Pistons in 1941, a member of the National Basketball League (NBL) where it won two NBL championships: in 1944 and 1945. The Pistons later joined the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1948. The NBL and BAA merged to become the NBA in 1949, and the Pistons became part of the merged league. In 1957, the franchise moved to Detroit. The Pistons have won three NBA championships: in 1989, 1990 and 2004.

Joe Dumars American basketball player

Joe Dumars III is an American former basketball player in the National Basketball Association. He could play either shooting guard or point guard on offense and was a highly effective defender. He played for the Detroit Pistons from 1985 until 1999. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dumars and Isiah Thomas combined to form one of the best backcourts in NBA history. Initially a shooting guard, Dumars moved to point guard following Thomas' retirement in 1994, sharing ball-handling duties with Grant Hill. Dumars was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Dumars served as the President of Basketball Operations for the Detroit Pistons from 2000 to 2014.

College career

After starring in high school at Newport Catholic High in his hometown of Newport, Kentucky, Cowens played his collegiate basketball at Florida State University from 1967 to 1970. He scored 1,479 points in 78 games at Florida State, at 19.0 points per game, and ranks among Florida State's top 10 all-time scoring leaders.

Newport Central Catholic High School private secondary school in Newport, Kentucky

Newport Central Catholic High School is a coeducational private secondary school in Newport, Kentucky and part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington. It is located in the center of Newport overlooking the Cincinnati skyline and Ohio Valley. The school is housed in a building opened in 1955 for the all-boys Newport Catholic High School, which was founded in 1929 as the effective successor to another all-boys high school established in 1896.

Florida State University university in the United States

Florida State University is a public space-grant and sea-grant research university in Tallahassee, Florida. It is a senior member of the State University System of Florida. Founded in 1851, it is located on the oldest continuous site of higher education in the state of Florida.

Florida State Seminoles mens basketball

The Florida State Seminoles men's basketball team represents Florida State University in the intercollegiate sport of basketball. The Seminoles compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

He is the all-time Florida State leading rebounder with 1,340 rebounds (17.2 rebounds per game). He holds the team record for best seasonal rebound average (17.5 in the 1968–1969 season). He once grabbed 31 rebounds (second best all-time) against LSU in the 1968–69 season.

LSU Tigers basketball NCAA Division 1 Basketball Program

The LSU Tigers basketball team represents Louisiana State University in NCAA Division I men's college basketball. The Tigers are currently coached by head coach Will Wade. They play their home games in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center located on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The team participates in the Southeastern Conference.

He was named The Sporting News All-America second team in 1970. His number now hangs in the rafters of the Donald L. Tucker Center.

Sporting News is a digital sports media owned by Perform Group, a global sports content and media company.

An All-America team is a hypothetical American sports team composed of outstanding amateur players. These players are broadly considered by media and other relevant commentators as the best players in a particular sport, of a specific season, for each team position.

NBA career

Rookie year

Despite some critics who felt Cowens was too small to play center, Cowens was selected as the fourth overall pick by the Boston Celtics during the 1970 NBA draft, largely at the recommendation of former Celtics center Bill Russell. [1] "No one is going to tell that kid he can't play center," Russell said of Cowens. [3]

Boston Celtics professional basketball team in Boston, Massachusetts

The Boston Celtics are an American professional basketball team based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league's Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. Founded in 1946 as one of the league's original eight teams, the team play their home games at TD Garden, which they share with the National Hockey League (NHL)'s Boston Bruins. The Celtics are one of the most successful teams in NBA history; the franchise has won the most championships in the NBA with 17, accounting for 23.9 percent of all NBA championships since the league's founding.

The 1970 NBA draft was the 24th annual draft of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The draft was held on March 23, 1970, before the 1970–71 season. In this draft, 17 NBA teams took turns selecting amateur U.S. college basketball players and other eligible players, including international players. A player who had finished his four-year college eligibility was eligible for selection. If a player left college early, he would not be eligible for selection until his college class graduated. The first two picks in the draft belonged to the teams that finished last in each division, with the order determined by a coin flip. The Detroit Pistons won the coin flip and were awarded the first overall pick, while the San Diego Rockets were awarded the second pick. The remaining first-round picks and the subsequent rounds were assigned to teams in reverse order of their win–loss record in the previous season. Three expansion franchises, the Buffalo Braves, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers, took part in the NBA Draft for the first time and were assigned the seventh, the eighth and the ninth pick in each round. In the first round, the Cavaliers had the seventh pick, while the Blazers and the Braves had the eighth and the ninth pick respectively. In the subsequent rounds, the Cavaliers and the Braves exchanged their order of selection, while the Blazers had the eighth pick throughout the draft. The draft consisted of 19 rounds comprising the selection of 239 players; it holds the record for the most prospects selected in any NBA draft.

Bill Russell American basketball player and coach

William Felton Russell is an American retired professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1956 to 1969. A five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a twelve-time All-Star, he was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA championships during his thirteen-year career. Russell and Henri Richard of the National Hockey League are tied for the record of the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Russell led the University of San Francisco to two consecutive NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956, and he captained the gold-medal winning U.S. national basketball team at the 1956 Summer Olympics.

During his rookie year, Cowens averaged 17.0 points per game and 15.0 rebounds per game. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team and shared the NBA's Rookie of the Year honors with Portland's Geoff Petrie. He also led the league in personal fouls that same year.

Middle years

In 1973, Cowens averaged 20.5 ppg, 16.2 rpg and 4.1 apg while helping the Celtics to a league-best 68–14 record. In that season also, Cowens scored 20 points, grabbed a career-high 32 rebounds and dished out 9 assists in a home win over the Houston Rockets. He carried the Celtics to the semifinals, where they met the New York Knicks. They won Game 1 of that best-of-7 series after Cowens recorded 15 points and 18 rebounds. However, they bowed out to the Knicks in Game 7. [4]

He was chosen the NBA MVP as well as MVP of the All-Star Game that same season. Cowens and fellow Celtic Bill Russell both have the distinction of being named MVP of the league but not being included on the All-NBA First Team.

The next season, Cowens averaged 19.0 PPG, 15.7 RPG, 4.4 APG and 1.3 BPG while guiding the Celtics to a record of 56-26. Cowens was instrumental in bringing the Celtics into the playoffs, where they defeated the Buffalo Braves in six games and the New York Knicks in five. In the finals, the Celtics faced the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The teams split the first six games, with each team winning at least once on their home court. This led to a decisive Game 7, where the Celtics faced the Bucks in Milwaukee. The Celtics prevailed thanks to a strong performance by Dave Cowens, who recorded 28 points and 14 rebounds as the Celtics took their 12th NBA championship. John Havlicek was named the NBA Finals MVP.

As a testament to his all-around ability, Cowens is one of only five players (Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the others) to lead his team in all five major statistical categories for a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. He accomplished the feat in the 1977–78 season, averaging 18.6 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.9 blocks and 1.3 steals as Boston finished 32-50. [5]

In his final Boston season, 1979–80, Cowens helped the Celtics improve to 61–21, after finishing 29–53 the season before. Cowens had served as player-coach for the remainder of the 1978–79 season (27–41) after Satch Sanders (2–12) was fired after a poor start. [6]

Alongside rookie Larry Bird in 1979-1980, Cowens averaged 14.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists under coach Bill Fitch. Along with Bird, Tiny Archibald, Cedric Maxwell, Pete Maravich, Chris Ford, M.L. Carr and Rick Robey, Cowens and the Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets 4-0 in the Eastern Conference playoffs, before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers with Julius Erving 4–1 in the Eastern Conference finals. Cowens averaged 40 minutes, 13.2 points and 8.8 rebounds in the 76ers series. [7] [8]

Retirement I and II

Cowens retired as a player in 1980, as Boston drafted Kevin McHale and traded for Robert Parish to replace him at center. Boston then won the 1981 NBA Championship. [9] "I have sprained my ankle at least 30 times over the duration of my career, broken both legs and fractured a foot," Cowens said upon retiring. "Two years ago, a team of foot and bone specialists said they were amazed that I could play up to that point without sustaining serious injuries." [3]

However, in 1982–83, Cowens felt the itch to play again and talked to the Celtics about trading him, as they still held his rights.

"I think that would be best," he said of a trade. "The Celtics are set up front (with Bird, McHale and Parish). They could trade me, work something out. No disrespect to Bill Fitch. I'd advise any younger players to play for him, but I'd probably be better off somewhere else." [3] After first negotiating with the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics traded Cowens to the Milwaukee Bucks, coached by former Celtic teammate Don Nelson. The Celtics received Quinn Buckner from Milwaukee as compensation. [3] Cowens averaged 8.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 minutes per game with the Bucks, playing alongside Bob Lanier, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief and Junior Bridgeman.

The Bucks finished 51-31 and defeated Cowens' old team, the Boston Celtics, 4–0 in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Bucks lost 4–1 to the eventual NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern conference finals. But, Cowens had been injured in the final game of the regular season, and was unable to play in the playoffs for Milwaukee. [10] [3]

Cowens had played 40 total games for the Bucks during the 1982–83 season, before retiring for good. [11]

During his NBA career, Cowens averaged a double-double of 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds. with 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 766 career NBA games. Cowens was selected to eight All-Star Games, was named to the All-NBA Second Team three times, and was named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team in 1976 and All-NBA Defensive Second Team in 1973 and 1980. He was a member of the Celtics' 1974 and 1976 NBA Championship teams. [11]

Cowens' playing credo was all-out intensity at both ends of the court, a style that never wavered during his 11-year NBA career. "He was quick, fast, strong and skilled, and played hard," Knicks Hall of Fame center Willis Reed said of Cowens. [3]

"No one ever did more for the Celtics than Dave did," said John Havlicek of his Celtic teammate. [3]

Coaching career

Cowens in 2005 Dave Cowens - 2005 NBA Legends Tour - 1-21-05.jpg
Cowens in 2005

He began his coaching career by serving as a player-coach for the Boston Celtics during the 1978–79 season, but he quit coaching after the season and returned as a full-time player before retiring in 1980. [12]

Cowens coached the Bay State Bombardiers of the Continental Basketball Association in 1984–85.

Cowens returned to NBA coaching ranks, as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs in 1994–96 and was considered for the coaching job of the Boston Celtics during the 1995 off-season. [13]

Cowens was head coach of the Charlotte Hornets from 1996 to 1999.

He was head coach with the Golden State Warriors from 1999 to 2001, a tenure of 105 games.

In 2005–06 Cowens was head coach of the Chicago Sky of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).

Cowens was an assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons from 2006 to 2009.


In 1990, Cowens, a former Democrat, ran as a Republican for Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. However, because he did not register by June 5, 1989, he was unable to appear on the primary ballot. [14] [15] Cowens considered running a sticker campaign for the Republican nomination, however he decided to drop out of the race. [15]


The Celtics retired Cowens' #18 in 1981. Celtics18.png
The Celtics retired Cowens' #18 in 1981.

Head coaching record


Regular seasonGGames coachedWGames wonLGames lostW–L %Win–loss %
PlayoffsPGPlayoff gamesPWPlayoff winsPLPlayoff lossesPW–L %Playoff win–loss %
Boston 1978–79 682741.3975th in Atlantic---Missed playoffs
Charlotte 1996–97 825428.6594th in Central303.000Lost in First Round
Charlotte 1997–98 825131.6223rd in Central945.444Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Charlotte 1998–99 15411.267(resigned)
Golden State 2000–01 821765.2077th in PacificMissed playoffs
Golden State 2001–02 23815.348(fired)

NBA career statistics

  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage 3P%  3-point field goal percentage FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game APG  Assists per game SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game PPG Points per game Bold Career high
Denotes seasons in which Cowens won an NBA championship
*Led the league

Regular season

1970–71 Boston 8138.0.422.73215.02.817.0
1971–72 Boston 7940.3.484.72015.23.118.8
1972–73 Boston 8241.8.452.77916.24.120.5
1973–74 Boston 8041.9.437.83215.
1974–75 Boston 6540.5.475.78314.
1975–76 Boston 7839.8.468.75616.
1976–77 Boston 5037.8.434.81813.
1977–78 Boston 7741.8.490.84214.
1978–79 Boston 6837.0.483.8079.
1979–80 Boston 665532.7.453.083.7798.
1982–83 Milwaukee 403425.4.444.000.8256.


1972 Boston 1140.1.455.59613.83.015.5
1973 Boston 1346.0.473.65916.63.721.9
1974 Boston 1842.9.435.79713.
1975 Boston 1143.5.428.88516.5*
1976 Boston 1844.3.457.75916.4*
1977 Boston 942.1.446.77314.
1980 Boston 933.4.476.000.9097.

See also

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  2. "Pistons Roster". NBA.com. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
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  13. Writer, Michael Arace; Courant Staff. "Ford Reaches Point of No Return with Celtics". courant.com.
  14. "Sports Extra: People". Daily News of Los Angeles. January 14, 1990.
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  16. "Florida Sports Hall of Fame - Dave Cowens".
  17. "Dave Cowens Bio". Florida State Seminoles. June 17, 2014.
  18. "Honored Numbers/Jerseys". Florida State Seminoles. July 5, 2017.
  19. "Cowens's No. 18 Retired by Celtics". Associated Press. February 9, 1981. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
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Further reading