John Bach, Fordham legend and ex-NBA coach, dead at 91

Bach, whose playing career at Fordham was interrupted by World War II, coached the Rams for 18 seasons (1950-68) and compiled a 263-193 record, earning two NCAA berths and five NIT appearances.

“We all are mourning the passing of Coach Bach, a true coaching legend,” said Dave Roach, Fordham’s director of athletics. “He touched and influenced so many during his life and coaching career. He inspired and tutored some of the greatest names in basketball.”

Bach began his basketball career at St. John’s Prep, where he won a pair of Catholic city championships. As a freshman at Fordham, he was a regular on the 1942-43 squad, the Rams’ first NIT team. His career at Rose Hill, however, was interrupted by several years at the University of Rochester, Brown University, and the U.S. Navy ROTC program.

He served in the Navy until late 1947, when he returned to Fordham, earned his degree and team MVP honors during the 1947-48 season.

Bach, who was an assistant coach on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team, was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors before joining the Bulls as an assistant under Doug Collins. Bach remained when Phil Jackson took over and put him in charge of the team’s defense. Those defenses played a large part in the first three NBA titles won by the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen Bulls.

“He encouraged me, worked with me and really helped me to mold my game,” Jordan was quoted Monday in the Chicago Tribune. “Without him, I don’t know that we would’ve won our first three championships. He was more than a coach to me. He was a great friend.”

Jackson tweeted late Monday night: “John Bach, spent an hour writing a note about JB. Just can’t be contained in this format. He was from that ‘greatest generation’ … Damn.”

In addition to the Bulls and Warriors, Bach also was on the staffs of the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. He also coached at Penn State after leaving Fordham.

“Everyone has a different experience to talk about with John because he did so much in so many different places,” P.J. Carlesimo, a Fordham alumnus and former college and NBA coach, told NBA.com. “ … He touched so many people. Delightful guy.The ultimate gentleman. People loved him.”