David William Cowens (born October 25, 1948) is a retired American professional basketball player and NBA head coach. At 6'9", he played the center and occasionally the power forward position. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991. Most recently he served as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons, and then as a special assistant to Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars, prior to Dumars' regime being replaced by that of Stan Van Gundy.
After starring in high school at Newport Catholic High in his hometown of Newport, Kentucky, Cowens played his collegiate basketball at Florida State University from 1967 to 1970. He scored 1,479 points in 78 games at Florida State, at 19.0 points per game, and ranks among Florida State's top 10 all-time scoring leaders.
He is the all-time Florida State leading rebounder with 1,340 rebounds (17.2 rebounds per game). He holds the team record for best seasonal rebound average (17.5 in the 1968-1969 season). He once grabbed 31 rebounds (second best all-time) against LSU in the 1968-69 season.
Despite some critics who felt Cowens was too small to play center, Cowens was selected as the fourth overall pick by the Boston Celtics during the 1970 NBA Draft, largely at the recommendation of former Celtics center Bill Russell. During his rookie year, Cowens averaged 17.0 points per game and 15.0 rebounds per game, and shared the NBA's Rookie of the Year honors with Portland's Geoff Petrie. He also led the league in personal fouls that same year.
In 1973, Cowens averaged 20.5 ppg and 16.2 rpg while helping the Celtics to a league best 68-14 record. He was chosen the NBA MVP as well as MVP of the All-Star Game that same season. Cowens and fellow Celtic Bill Russell both have the distinction of being named MVP of the league but not being included on the All-NBA First Team that year.
Cowens retired in 1980, however, in 1982 he was coaxed out of retirement by the Milwaukee Bucks, who were then coached by his former Celtics teammate Don Nelson. The Celtics still held his rights at the time so the Bucks gave up Quinn Buckner as compensation. Cowens played for the Bucks during the 1982-83 season before retiring for good.
During his NBA career, Cowens averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game, was selected to seven All-Star Games, was named to the All-NBA Second Team three times, and was named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team in 1976 and All-NBA Defensive Second Team in 1973 and 1980. He was a member of the Celtics' 1974 and 1976 NBA Championship teams.
Cowens' playing credo was all-out intensity at both ends of the court, a style that never wavered during his 11-year NBA career.
As a testament to his all-around ability, Cowens is one of only four players (Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James are the others) to lead his team in all five major statistical categories for a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. He accomplished the feat in the 1977-78 season.
From time to time, Cowens exhibited a few unconventional traits:
- In 1974, after the Celtics won the NBA championship over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks, he slept on a park bench on Boston Common, purportedly after wandering throughout the neighborhoods adjacent to downtown Boston to celebrate the victory with Celtics fans and an entourage of admirers and devotees.
- During the early part of the 1977 season, Cowens took a leave of absence from the Celtics and worked as a cab driver for one night. He explained that he just needed "to clear his head" and that he was "suffering from burnout."
He began his coaching career by serving as a combined player/coach for the Boston Celtics during the 1978-79 season, but he quit coaching after the season, and returned as a full-time player before retiring in 1980. On February 8, 1981, the Celtics retired Cowens' uniform number. Cowens uniform number (#18) had previously been worn by Jim Loscutoff, who asked that the number not be retired so future Celtics could wear it.
Cowens coached the Bay State Bombardiers of the Continental Basketball Association in 1984-85. He returned to the NBA coaching ranks by serving as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs in 1994-96, and became head coach of the Charlotte Hornets from 1996 to 1999 and had a brief tenure as head coach with the Golden State Warriors from 1999 to 2001 which only lasted 105 games.
In 1991, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 1990, Cowens, a former Democrat, ran as a Republican for Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. However, because he did not register by June 5, 1989, he was unable to appear on the primary ballot. Cowens considered running a sticker campaign for the Republican nomination, however he decided to drop out of the race.
On May 25, 2005, he was named head coach of the newly formed Chicago franchise in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The team, known as the Chicago Sky, began play in 2006 at the UIC Pavilion, located in the University of Illinois at Chicago. After only winning five games in the 2006 season, however, Cowens left the Sky to join the coaching staff of the Detroit Pistons on September 12, 2006.
There is a road named after him in his hometown of Newport, Kentucky: "Dave Cowens Drive".
- "Dave Cowens". Basketball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- "Pistons Roster". NBA.com. Retrieved 2007-01-14.
- 1977-78 Boston Celtics Statistics, Basketballreference.com. Retrieved July 10, 2007.
- "Cowens's No. 18 Retired by Celtics". Associated Press. February 9, 1981. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- Eskenazi, Gerald (November 18, 1991). "No. 32 Receives New Life on 76ers". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- "Sports Extra: People". Daily News of Los Angeles. January 14, 1990.
- Lehigh, Scot (February 23, 1990). "Ex-Celtic Cowens Bows Out of GOP Race for Secretary of State". Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- Heisler, Mark (2003). Giants: The 25 Greatest Centers of All Time. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-577-1.
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