Bobby "Slick" Leonard

ABA Team:  Indiana (1968-69 to 1975-76)

Bob "Slick" Leonard is the cornerstone of the Indiana Pacers franchise. He was the winningest coach in the 9 year history of the ABA. He has 3 ABA Championships and 3 ABA Division Titles to his credit. In addition, Slick took the club to the ABA Finals on 2 other occasions: 5 out of his 8 years he led the team to the ABA Finals. As Coach of the ABA Pacers, he never missed the playoffs. Slick was a 2-Time All-American player for Indiana University. He played 7 years in the NBA for the Minneapolis Lakers, the Chicago Packers, and the Chicago Zephyrs. He is the current Pacers Radio Color Man.

From Jim O'Brien's 1970-71 Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball:
A good team, a good coach, a good organization.   That's why Pacers are one of the most successful ABA franchises.   Been that way almost from the very start.  Leonard continues to provide strong leadershp. "Management convinced me that they weren't out to hire and fire," he says, explaning why he took the Pacers job.  Called Slick only because he's smooth enough to steal smoke, Leonard is a disciplinarian.  When he took over the Pacers two years ago to lead them to two ABA East titles, and last year the league championsip, Leonard's Law came into being.  "You got the last guy fired," Leonard said at the time.  "That won't happen to me."  Sure enough.   "Slick knows the game, knows how to handle pros," says Pacer captain Freddie Lewis. 
Coaching Record Regular Season Playoffs
1968-69 42-27 9-8
1969-70 59-25 12-3
1970-71 58-26 7-4
1971-72 47-37 12-8
1972-73 51-33 12-6
1973-74 46-38 7-7
1974-75 45-39 9-9
1975-76 39-45 1-2


Early in the 1972-73 season, the Pacers visited their biggest rivals, the Utah Stars. Late in the game won by the Stars, Coach Slick Leonard felt that the 30-second shot clock had expired before a Utah basket. After his ranting and raving gained nothing but two technicals and an ejection, Leonard exploded in a memorable fit of temper. Shocking the Utah fans, Leonard ran onto the court, grabbed the red, white and blue basketball, and punted it far up into the seats.  Stars lensman Bob Rapp was lucky enough to capture the "kicking moment" in the photo above left. Naturally, the incident resulted in a significant fine and suspension for Leonard.

Showing a good sense of humor, Stars management turned the tirade into a unique promotion. The next time the Pacers visited Salt Lake City, the Stars put Leonard on the cover of the official game program (left). And, before the game, Stars GM Vince Boryla gave a special gift to the temperamental Pacers coach: he presented Leonard with a framed photo of the incident (photo above right).


In 1975 the war of words between the ABA and the NBA was heating up.

In a quote that appeared in Sports Illustrated, the Celtics' Red Auerbach said that Pacers' coach Slick Leonard was a "bad coach when he was with Baltimore in the NBA and he must be a dog now too." Auerbach also said that "Julius Erving is nice kid but not a great player."

In January 1976, Dan Pattison interviewed Leonard to get his reaction to Auerbach's comments.


Sound Clip -- March 1976: Leonard explains his relationship with ABA referees.

In the beginning of the ABA's last season (1975-76), Slick Leonard attempted to improve his relationship with ABA referees. He tried to remain more calm on the bench, and reduced his technical fouls. Needless to say, this didn't last very long as the Pacers battled for a playoff spot near the end of the season.

Streaming RealAudio file -- RealPlayer plug-in required (free download here)
Clip courtesy of Van Vance and used with permission


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