Fred Schaus, former West Virginia University basketball coach who went on to lead the Los Angeles Lakers, died Wednesday night in Morgantown, W.Va. He was 84.
Mr. Schaus compiled a 127-26 record as head coach of the Mountaineers from 1954 to 1960, including six consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament. The Mountaineers, led by Jerry West, advanced to the NCAA championship game in 1959, losing to California by a point.
Mr. Schaus followed Mr. West to the Los Angeles Lakers as head coach for seven seasons, leading the team to four NBA finals before becoming general manager in 1967.
"We shared many incredible experiences, both joyous and painful, during our years together at WVU and then as my coach with the Los Angeles Lakers," Mr. West said in a statement. "As a young man with little experience with the outside world, he became my mentor and sounding board as I progressed as an athlete and as a person."
A Cabin Creek native, Mr. West recalled Mr. Schaus telling him WVU would be the place for him to attend school and have an opportunity to play basketball.
"At that point in my life, he was the first coach to show interest in me," said Mr. West. "I was thrilled beyond words, and to this day I remember much about our meeting. Little did I know what a long-lasting relationship we would have."
After the Lakers, Mr. Schaus returned to the college ranks in 1972, going 105-59 in six seasons as head coach at Purdue University. He also served as athletic director at West Virginia from 1981 to 1989 before he retired.
Born in Newark, Ohio, Mr. Schaus became the first Mountaineers player to score 1,000 career points. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft and played five seasons with the Fort Wayne Pistons and New York Knicks. He was inducted into his alma mater's athletics hall of fame in 1992.
Current West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong succeeded Mr. Schaus.
"We lost one of our finest student-athletes, coaches and administrators in Fred," Mr. Pastilong said. "We are deeply indebted to his allegiance and service to WVU and our athletic department."
Bob Huggins, current West Virginia basketball coach, said of Mr. Schaus: "From a great college coach to a great pro coach to a great pro front office guy, then coming back to college and winning at Purdue and then coming back to be a great athletic director here at WVU, he excelled in every area of athletics."
WVU annually honors the most outstanding captains of its varsity teams with the Fred Schaus Awards.
Mr. Schaus is survived by his wife, Barbara; two sons, John and Jim; a sister, Mary Brown; and six grandchildren. Jim Schaus is the athletic director at Ohio University.
Services are scheduled for Sunday at Suncrest United Methodist Church in Morgantown, W.Va., with burial on Monday at Fairmount Cemetery in Jacksontown, Ohio.
Colin Dunlap: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1459. The Associated Press contributed. First Published February 13, 2010 8:00 AM