William Quinn Buckner, commonly known as Quinn Buckner (born August 20 1954 in Phoenix, Illinois) is a former American professional Basketball player and coach. He played collegiately at Indiana University, and was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 7th pick of the 1976 NBA Draft. He had a ten-year NBA career for three different teams (the Bucks, the Boston Celtics, and the Indiana Pacers). Throughout his career he was a solid defensive player, and made the 2nd team All-Defense four times. In 1984 he won an NBA title with the Celtics.
In addition to his playing career, Buckner was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks for one year, from 1993 to 1994. Currently, Buckner is a color analyst for the Indiana Pacers cable television broadcast team. Quinn also was the play-by-play announcer on 989 Sports line of college basketball games for several years.
He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.
Although he had a modest professional career, Quinn Buckner’s basketball life is a study in success. He is one of only three players in history to have won titles at every level: high school, college, the NBA, and the Olympics. (Magic Johnson and Jerry Lucas are the others.) In Buckner’s 10-year NBA career he was a tough defender, a solid playmaker, and a stabilizing force in any lineup. At various stages he filled the role of team leader and trusty reserve.
Born in 1954 in Phoenix, Illinois, Buckner played basketball at Thornridge High School in Dolton, Illinois. His Falcons lost only one game during his junior and senior seasons and won back-to-back state titles. The 1972 team was undefeated, with no team coming within 14 points of them. Buckner was also an excellent football player, making all-state in high school. He is the only person ever named Chicago area Player of the Year for both football and basketball.
Although he scored only 10.0 points per game during his college career, Buckner was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 1976 NBA Draft, the seventh pick overall. He was also selected by the Washington Redskins in the National Football League Draft. (Buckner had played free safety on the Hoosiers’ football team for two years.)
Before he joined the Bucks, Buckner played on the gold medal–winning 1976 U.S. Olympic basketball team alongside Adrian Dantley, Mitch Kupchak, and Scott May. But nothing could have prepared him for the NBA experience. Buckner’s teams had suffered only 25 defeats in his eight years of high school and college basketball, and he had never been on a team that lost more than seven games in a season. But Milwaukee lost 52 times in 1976–77, finishing last in the Midwest Division.
Individually, Buckner proved to be a competent NBA player. He was unspectacular offensively, averaging 8.6 points while shooting .434 from the field, but he excelled on defense, ranking fourth in the league with 2.43 steals per game.
The next year Buckner raised his scoring slightly, to 9.3 points per game, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. After a similar season in 1978–79, Buckner had his three best years. In 1979–80 he averaged 10.7 points and 5.7 assists, made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team for the second time, and helped the Bucks to the Midwest Division title. Under Coach Don Nelson, Milwaukee had assembled a solid lineup that included forward Marques Johnson, behemoth center Bob Lanier (basketball), and guards Brian Winters, Sidney Moncrief, and Junior Bridgeman.
The 1980–81 campaign saw Buckner play in all 82 games and notch career highs in scoring (13.3 ppg), field-goal percentage (.493), free-throw percentage (.734), and steals (197, third in the league). He repeated on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. The Bucks were outstanding, finishing 60-22 with a balanced offense that saw seven players average in double figures. Milwaukee had high hopes for the postseason, but Julius Erving’s Philadelphia 76ers derailed the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Buckner had established a reputation as a solid, dependable player with impeccable fundamentals. He was never going to be a flashy player or a big scorer; in fact, his low-trajectory shot was jokingly said to have been responsible for more bent rims than Darryl Dawkins’s dunks.
“My strength is defense,” he said in the Boston Globe. “Another is my overall knowledge of the game and being able to get everybody involved in the game. I’ve never had an illusion that shooting is one of my strengths. In fact, it was a very known weakness that I had.…You play with a lot of pride and work hard every night out.”
Milwaukee was trying to add a few essential parts that would turn the team into a championship contender, and the bottleneck at guard made Buckner expendable. Before the 1982–83 season he was traded to the Boston Celtics for center Dave Cowens. When Boston signed Buckner, Red Auerbach told the Boston Globe, “He’s a winner, a leader. He rises to the occasion. He has a good personality, he’s team oriented, and he’s disciplined.” Buckner, who couldn’t have said it better himself added, “I’ve always admired the Boston style of play, and I feel I can play it.”
Milwaukee never did win the title. Boston, however, won a championship in 1984, with Buckner coming off the bench to spell Dennis Johnson and Gerald Henderson. The Celtics went 62-20 during the regular season and then nudged the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game NBA Finals. With the NBA championship ring, Buckner completed an impressive résumé.
In three seasons with Boston, Buckner made small but regular contributions for a powerful Celtics team. The club returned to the Finals in 1985, but the Lakers exacted their revenge, winning in six games. Following the season, Boston traded Buckner to the Indiana Pacers. He opened the 1985–86 season with the Pacers but was waived after 32 games, ending his 10-year career.
Buckner had been a winner during his NBA tenure, playing on teams that compiled a record of 457-281. Always articulate, he caught on as a broadcaster for ESPN and NBC. He also called college basketball for CBS Sports. Then he was named head coach of the Dallas Mavericks for 1993–94. The club had gone 11-71 the previous season, and the franchise was in disarray. Although Buckner had no NBA coaching experience, Mavericks owner Donald Carter hoped Buckner’s charismatic personality and lifelong knack for winning would rub off on the young team.
In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Buckner repeated his success formula: “Dedication, commitment, extreme concentration, discipline, realizing it can’t be done alone, it has to be done through the team.” Believing that his young charges needed more discipline, Buckner determined from the start to be a stern taskmaster with the Mavs. The plan backfired, with many of the players (including Jamal Mashburn) complaining publicly about Buckner's methods. NBA historian Peter Bjarkman even suggested that Buckner frequently consulted with his former coach Bob Knight during the season. They started 1-23, and for a while it looked like they would break the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' record for the most losses in a season. Buckner loosened the reins a little bit as the season wore on, but it was not enough to keep the team from finishing 13-69--by far the worst record in the league, and at the time the worst record ever for a rookie coach who managed to survive for a full season. Buckner was fired two days after the season ended.
Buckner lives in Las Colinas, TX and has four children with his wife Rhonda; Jason, Cory, Lauren and Alexsandra.
- BasketballReference.com: Quinn Buckner (as coach)
- BasketballReference.com: Quinn Buckner (as player)
- Indiana Pacers: Quinn Buckner, Cable TV Color Analyst
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