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Bird, McHale, Dunleavy attend Johnson's funeral

March 03, 2007|From the Associated Press

Four months after the death of team patriarch Red Auerbach, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge reunited in grief Friday to say goodbye to former Boston Celtics teammate Dennis Johnson.

The three former Celtics joined about 1,000 mourners who shared tears and laughter during Johnson's 1 1/2 -hour funeral in Gardena.

"D.J. was a huge part of championship teams and was a guy that everybody liked," McHale said. "He was a fun guy, and he had a personality that fit with us because we had a bunch of guys who enjoyed each other."

Johnson, who was coaching the Austin Toros of the NBA's Development League, died of an apparent heart attack after practice last month. He was 52.

"He was a great basketball player, a guy that was dedicated to the game," Bird said. "... It's unfortunate because he had a lot of life left in him. ... He left a great legacy behind."

Among the mourners at City of Refuge church were former Lakers Michael Cooper and Norm Nixon, Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy and Phoenix Suns assistant Alvin Gentry, whom Johnson replaced as Clippers coach for the final 24 games of the 2002-03 season.

Johnson, a Compton native, was later buried in Rancho Palos Verdes.

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