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Phil Woolpert Is Cancer Victim at 71; Coached USF to Pair of NCAA Titles

May 07, 1987|Associated Press

SEQUIM, Wash. — Phil Woolpert, who coached the University of San Francisco to NCAA basketball championships in 1955 and 1956, died of lung cancer at his home Tuesday. He was 71.

Woolpert's two national title teams were led by Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, who later starred for the Boston Celtics in the NBA. Jones now coaches the Celtics, and Russell was just named coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Woolpert was diagnosed as having lung cancer last summer. He was survived by his wife, Mary, and five children. He was a native of Danville, Ky.

He coached at USF for nine seasons and resigned in 1959 with a 149-74 record. After Woolpert left USF, he coached the San Francisco Saints of the old American Basketball League in 1961-62. He later became the basketball coach and athletic director at University of San Diego, where he compiled a 90-90 record from 1962 through 1969.

He moved to the Sequim area in 1972 and drove a bus for the Sequim School District until his retirement two years ago.

"Phil was so far ahead of other coaches in recruiting black players it was scary," said Pete Newell, who coached California to an NCAA championship in 1959. "There were a lot of rednecks back then."

Woolpert took over at USF in 1950 when Newell left to become the coach at Michigan State.

At USF, Woolpert's teams set a then-NCAA record with 60 consecutive victories. The streak began when Russell and Jones were juniors. UCLA broke the USF streak by winning 88 straight in 1971-74. In addition, he coached USF to the NCAA Final Four in 1957 without Russell and Jones.

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