Obituaries

Former UCLA basketball player Walt Hazzard dies

Associated Press file photos
Walt Hazzard, who averaged 18.6 points per game as a point guard when UCLA won its first NCAA basketball title in 1964, carried the tournament trophy when the team arrived in Los Angeles from Kansas City on March 23. Coach John Wooden (right in top photo) and players (from left) Gail Goodrich, Hazzard, and Jack Hirsch smiled during a team picture after the title was won.

LOS ANGELES - Walt Hazzard, the former UCLA and NBA star who played on the Bruins’ first NCAA championship basketball team in 1964 and coached the team for four seasons in the 1980s, died yesterday. He was 69.

Mr. Hazzard’s family said he had been recuperating for a long time from complications following heart surgery. The school said Mr. Hazzard died at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

He had a stroke in March 1996 and made a strong recovery, but he became less publicly active. He made occasional appearances at UCLA games in recent years.

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Mr. Hazzard was cocaptain and point guard of the 1964 national title team under coach John Wooden and led the Bruins to a 30-0 record in 1963-64 while averaging 18.6 points per game. He averaged 19.8 points in the NCAA Tournament and was chosen college basketball’s player of the year. Wooden’s teams also finished 30-0 in 1966-67, 1971-72, and 1972-73.

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Mr. Hazzard helped the United States win a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and played 10 years in the NBA, including stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, who made him a first-round selection, and four other teams.

Mr. Hazzard averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 assists during his career with the Lakers, Seattle, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Golden State. He ranked among the league’s top 10 in assists during six of his seasons. In 1967-68, he averaged 23.9 points and 6.2 assists for Seattle and appeared in the All-Star Game.

During his four years as UCLA’s coach, the Bruins had a 77-47 record. In 1985, he led them to the school’s first NIT championship. In 1987, UCLA won the Pacific-10 title and the league’s first postseason tournament with future NBA star Reggie Miller in the lineup. They finished with a 25-7 record, losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and Mr. Hazzard was selected league coach of the year. But the Bruins slumped to a 16-14 record the following season, and Mr. Hazzard was replaced by Jim Harrick.

“This is a sad day for the UCLA basketball family,’’ said Dan Guerrero, UCLA’s athletic director. “Walt was the catalyst for Coach John Wooden’s first championship team and played the game with a style that excited Bruin basketball fans everywhere. He contributed to his alma mater in numerous ways, including as a student-athlete, coach, and honored alum, and he will be greatly missed by all of us knew him.’’

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Before taking over at his alma mater, Mr. Hazzard coached two seasons each at Compton College near Los Angeles and Chapman College in Orange County.

In 1994, Mr. Hazzard rejoined the Lakers as a West Coast advance scout. After his stroke, he served as a special consultant to the team for another 15 years.

Lakers owner Jerry Buss said, “Walt was a man of extremely high character.’’

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, “Not only was Walt an outstanding player, but his knowledge of the game was extremely valuable to our front office as well over the past 17 years. In the years since his stroke, he has been an inspiration to many of us with his perseverance and his passion for the game.’’

Mr. Hazzard leaves his wife, Jaleesa, a Bruins song girl during the 1964 NCAA title season, and sons Yakub, Jalal, Khalil, and Rasheed. During his NBA career, Mr. Hazzard converted to Islam and changed his name to Mahdi Abdul-Rahman. He felt the change was poorly received and cost him professional opportunities so he returned to using his given name professionally while remaining a devout Muslim.