Friday, July 26, 2019

Johnny "Red" Kerr

John Graham "Red" Kerr

July 17, 1932
Chicago, IL

February 26, 2009
Chicago, IL

1949-50 Tilden High School - Chicago (High School)
1951-52 University of Illinois (College)
1952-53 University of Illinois (College)
1953-54 University of Illinois (College)
1954-55 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1955-56 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1956-57 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1957-58 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1958-59 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1959-60 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1960-61 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1961-62 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1962-63 Syracuse Nationals (NBA)
1963-64 Philadelphia 76ers (NBA)
1964-65 Philadelphia 76ers (NBA)
1965-66 Baltimore Bullets (NBA)
1966-67 Chicago Bulls (NBA) Head coach
1967-68 Chicago Bulls (NBA) Head coach
1968-69 Phoenix Suns (NBA) Head coach
1969-70 Phoenix Suns (NBA) Head coach

Born to Matthew and Florence Kerr on the South Side of Chicago, Kerr was a gifted soccer player at Tilden High School until a late growth spurt put him at 6'9 and allowed him to gravitate to basketball. He received a scholarship at Illinois and helped the team to the Big Ten title and Final Four appearance in 1952. He graduated from Illinois with 1299 career points and was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals in the 1954 NBA Draft.

As a rookie, Kerr helped the Nationals to the NBA title in 1955. A three-time All-Star, Kerr would play 12 seasons in the NBA and had set the record 844 complete games played. After the 1965-66 season with the Baltimore Bullets, Kerr was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the expansion draft, but became their head coach instead of a player. His playing days behind him, he finished with over 12,000 points and 10,000 rebounds. Kerr would coach the Chicago Bulls for two seasons and then the Phoenix Suns for two. He was lured to the Virginia Squires of the ABA where he served as the team's GM, signing players like Julius Irving. He returned to the Bulls in 1973 as the team's business manager and later worked as a broadcaster.

Kerr married Betsy Nemecek in 1954 and they had five sons and one daughter. One son, John Jr., died at the age of 3. He also took in the three daughters of his sister-in-law, Drusella, when she and her husband Evan died within months of each other in late 1971 and early 1972. Drusella and Evan's daughter Laurel Jean Ellis would be murdered in 1974 while attending Grand Valley College in Michigan. Her murder would go unsolved for many years until DNA tests linked a man named Lamont Marshall who had been found to have commit other murders and violent acts in the area.

MLive, April 2010
Obituary, Chicago Tribune, February 27, 2009


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