Dave Cowens

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Dave Cowens
Cowens in 2005
Boston Celtics
Personal information
Born (1948-10-25) October 25, 1948 (age 75)
Newport, Kentucky, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High schoolNewport Catholic
(Newport, Kentucky)
CollegeFlorida State (1967–1970)
NBA draft1970: 1st round, 4th overall pick
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1970–1980, 1982–1983
Number18, 36
Coaching career1978–2009
Career history
As player:
19701980Boston Celtics
1982–1983Milwaukee Bucks
As coach:
1978–1979Boston Celtics
1984–1985Bay State Bombardiers
19941996San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
19961999Charlotte Hornets
20002001Golden State Warriors
2006Chicago Sky
20062009Detroit Pistons (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA playing statistics
Points13,516 (17.6 ppg)
Rebounds10,444 (13.6 rpg)
Assists2,910 (3.8 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at NBA.com
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com
Career coaching record
NBA161–191 (.457)
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

David William Cowens (/ˈkənz/ COW-ənz; born October 25, 1948)[1] is an American former professional basketball player and NBA head coach. At 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m),[2] he played the center position and occasionally played power forward. Cowens spent most of his playing career with the Boston Celtics. He was the 1971 NBA Rookie of the Year and the 1973 NBA Most Valuable Player. Cowens won NBA championships as a member of the Celtics in 1974 and 1976. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991. Cowens has also held coaching positions in the NBA, CBA, and WNBA.

Cowens was named a member of both the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.

Early life[edit]

David William Cowens was born on October 25, 1948, in Newport, Kentucky, one of six children of Jack and Ruth Cowens. He attended Newport Catholic High School, where he excelled in basketball.[3]

In 2018, Cowens attended a ceremony at which the school dedicated its new gymnasium floor, styled in the parquet pattern of Boston Garden.

College career[edit]

Cowens attended Florida State University. He played from 1967 to 1970 for coach Hugh Durham. 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.[citation needed]

Cowens 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).[citation needed] He once grabbed 31 rebounds (second-best all-time) against LSU in the 1968–69 season.[citation needed]

Cowens was named to The Sporting News All-America second team in 1970. His number hangs in the rafters of the Donald L. Tucker Center.[citation needed]

Professional career[edit]

Boston Celtics (1970–1980)[edit]

Cowens was selected as the fourth overall pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1970 NBA draft. Former Celtics center Bill Russell's recommendation of Cowens influenced the selection. While some critics believed that Cowens was too small to play center, Russell said: "No one is going to tell that kid he can't play center".[1][4]

During his rookie year, Cowens averaged 17.0 points per game and 15.0 rebounds per game. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team 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.[5]

Cowens with the Boston Celtics in 1976

In the 1972–73 season, Cowens averaged 20.5 ppg, 16.2 rpg and 4.1 apg while helping the Celtics to a league-best 68–14 record. In that season also, Cowens scored 20 points, grabbed a career-high 32 rebounds and dished out 9 assists in a home win over the Houston Rockets. He carried the Celtics to the semifinals, where they met the New York Knicks. They won Game 1 of that best-of-7 series after Cowens recorded 15 points and 18 rebounds. However, they bowed out to the Knicks in Game 7.[6] Cowens 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.[citation needed]

The following season, Cowens averaged 19.0 PPG, 15.7 RPG, 4.4 APG and 1.3 BPG while guiding the Celtics to a record of 56–26. Cowens was instrumental in bringing the Celtics into the playoffs, where they defeated the Buffalo Braves in six games and the New York Knicks in five. In the finals, the Celtics faced the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. The teams split the first six games, with each team winning at least once on their home court. This led to a decisive Game 7, where the Celtics faced the Bucks in Milwaukee. The Celtics prevailed thanks to a strong performance by Cowens, who recorded 28 points and 14 rebounds as the Celtics took their 12th NBA championship."Legends profile: Dave Cowens". NBA.com.</ref>

Cowens won his second NBA championship ring as a member of the 1975–1976 Celtics team that defeated the Phoenix Suns, 4–2, in the NBA Finals.[7]

Eight games into the 1976–77 season on November 10, 1976, and with the Celtics on a four-game losing streak, Cowens left the team for "undisclosed reasons". Speculations included that Cowens was upset that the team didn't offer Paul Silas a new contract after the previous season and traded him to the Denver Nuggets. Other speculations were that he was unhappy with coach Tom Heinsohn and also his involvement in a lawsuit from the previous season where he allegedly struck a fan during a game against the Houston Rockets. Cowens returned to the team in January 1977 and led them to the playoffs, where they lost in the second round to the Philadelphia 76ers.[8]

Cowens averaged 18.6 points and 14 rebounds a game in the 1977–78 season, but the Celtics missed the playoffs for the first time since his 1970–71 rookie season.

After Coach Satch Sanders was fired following a 2–12 start to the 1978–1979 season, Cowens served as player-coach for the remainder of the season.[9] The team finished the year with a 29–53 record.

In his final season with the Celtics (1979–80), Cowens helped the team to a 61–21 record. Cowens averaged 14.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists during the season. Cowens and the Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets 4–0 in the Eastern Conference playoffs before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers 4–1 in the Eastern Conference finals.[10][11]

Cowens retired as a player in 1980, as Boston drafted Kevin McHale and traded for Robert Parish to replace him at center. Boston then won the 1981 NBA Championship.[12] "I have sprained my ankle at least 30 times over the duration of my career, broken both legs and fractured a foot," Cowens said upon retiring. "Two years ago, a team of foot and bone specialists said they were amazed that I could play up to that point without sustaining serious injuries."[4]

In 1982–83, Cowens felt the desire to play again and approached the Celtics about trading him, as they still held his rights. Cowens said, "The Celtics are set up front (with Bird, McHale and Parish). They could trade me, work something out. No disrespect to Bill Fitch. I'd advise any younger players to play for him, but I'd probably be better off somewhere else".[4]

Milwaukee Bucks (1982–1983)[edit]

After first negotiating with the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics traded Cowens to the Milwaukee Bucks, who were coached by former Celtic teammate Don Nelson. The Celtics received Quinn Buckner from Milwaukee as compensation.[4] Cowens averaged 8.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 minutes per game with the Bucks. He was injured in the final game of the regular season and was unable to play in the playoffs for Milwaukee.[13][4][better source needed] Cowens retired for good after the season.[14]

Player profile and legacy[edit]

During his NBA career, Cowens averaged a double-double of 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds. with 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 766 career NBA games. Cowens was selected to eight 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.[14]

Cowens' playing credo was all-out intensity at both ends of the court, a style that never wavered during his 11-year NBA career. "He was quick, fast, strong and skilled, and played hard," Knicks Hall of Fame center Willis Reed said of Cowens.[4]

Cowens was the fourth center in NBA history to average five assists per game in a single season, joining Wilt Chamberlain, former Celtic center, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His career average is 3.8 assists per game.[citation needed] As of the end of the 2018–19 season, Cowens ranked 27th overall for most point-rebound-assist triple-doubles by a center in NBA history.[citation needed]

As evidence to his all-around ability, only five other players (Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokić)[citation needed] have led their teams in all five major statistical categories for a season: points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. He accomplished the feat in the 1977–78 season, averaging 18.6 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.9 blocks and 1.3 steals as Boston finished 32–50.[15]

In 1996, Cowens was honored as one of the league's greatest players of all time by being named to the NBA 50th Anniversary Team.[16] In October 2021, Cowens was again honored as one of the league's greatest players of all time by being named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.[17] To commemorate the NBA's 75th Anniversary The Athletic ranked their top 75 players of all time, and named Cowens as the 57th greatest player in NBA history.[18]

"No one ever did more for the Celtics than Dave did," said John Havlicek of his Celtic teammate.[4]

Coaching career[edit]

Boston Celtics (1978–1979)[edit]

He began his coaching career by serving as a 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.[19]

Bay State Bombardiers (1984–1985)[edit]

Cowens coached the Bay State Bombardiers of the Continental Basketball Association in 1984–85.[20]

San Antonio Spurs (1994–1996)[edit]

Cowens returned to the NBA coaching ranks as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs in 1994–96 and was considered for the coaching job of the Boston Celtics during the 1995 offseason.[21]

Charlotte Hornets (1996–1999)[edit]

Cowens served as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets from 1996 to 1999.[22]

Golden State Warriors (2000–2001)[edit]

Cowens was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors from 1999 to 2001, a tenure of 105 games.[23]

Chicago Sky (2006)[edit]

In 2005–06 Cowens was head coach of the Chicago Sky of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).[24]

Detroit Pistons (2006–2009)[edit]

Cowens was an assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons from 2006 to 2009.[24]


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.[25][26] Cowens considered running a sticker campaign for the Republican nomination, but decided to drop out of the race.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Cowens married his wife, Deby, in 1978. They have two daughters and several grandchildren.[27] In 1977, Cowens spent a day driving a taxi cab for the Independent Taxi Operators Association (ITOA) in Boston. "Nobody even knew who I was," Cowens told ESPN. "I put my cap on and just you know drove around. I got decent tips, though."[28]


  • In 1973, Cowens was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.[29]
  • Cowens was inducted into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1977.[30]
  • Cowens's #13 is an Honored number at Florida State University.[31]
  • On February 8, 1981, the Boston Celtics retired Cowens's #18 jersey.[19][32]
The Celtics retired Cowens' #18 in 1981.

NBA career statistics[edit]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship  *  Led the league

Regular season[edit]

1970–71 Boston 81 38.0 .422 .732 15.0 2.8 17.0
1971–72 Boston 79 40.3 .484 .720 15.2 3.1 18.8
1972–73 Boston 82* 41.8 .452 .779 16.2 4.1 20.5
1973–74 Boston 80 41.9 .437 .832 15.7 4.4 1.2 1.3 19.0
1974–75 Boston 65 40.5 .475 .783 14.7 4.6 1.3 1.1 20.4
1975–76 Boston 78 39.8 .468 .756 16.0 4.2 1.2 0.9 19.0
1976–77 Boston 50 37.8 .434 .818 13.9 5.0 0.9 1.0 16.4
1977–78 Boston 77 41.8 .490 .842 14.0 4.6 1.3 0.9 18.6
1978–79 Boston 68 37.0 .483 .807 9.6 3.6 1.1 0.8 16.6
1979–80 Boston 66 55 32.7 .453 .083 .779 8.1 3.1 1.0 0.9 14.2
1982–83 Milwaukee 40 34 25.4 .444 .000 .825 6.9 2.1 0.8 0.4 8.1
Career 766 89 38.6 .460 .071 .783 13.6 3.8 1.1 0.9 17.6
All-Star 6 4 25.7 .500 .714 13.5 2.0 0.7 0.2 12.7


1972 Boston 11 40.1 .455 .596 13.8 3.0 15.5
1973 Boston 13 46.0 .473 .659 16.6 3.7 21.9
1974 Boston 18 42.9 .435 .797 13.3 3.7 1.2 0.9 20.5
1975 Boston 11 43.5 .428 .885 16.5 4.2 1.6 0.5 20.5
1976 Boston 18 44.3 .457 .759 16.4 4.6 1.2 0.7 21.0
1977 Boston 9 42.1 .446 .773 14.9 4.0 0.9 1.4 16.6
1980 Boston 9 33.4 .476 .000 .909 7.3 2.3 1.0 0.8 12.0
Career 89 42.3 .451 .000 .744 14.4 3.7 1.2 0.9 18.9

Head coaching record[edit]


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Boston 1978–79 68 27 41 .397 5th in Atlantic - - - Missed playoffs
Charlotte 1996–97 82 54 28 .659 4th in Central 3 0 3 .000 Lost in First Round
Charlotte 1997–98 82 51 31 .622 3rd in Central 9 4 5 .444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Charlotte 1998–99 15 4 11 .267 (resigned)
Golden State 2000–01 82 17 65 .207 7th in Pacific Missed playoffs
Golden State 2001–02 23 8 15 .348 (fired)
Career 352 161 191 .457 12 4 8 .333


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
CHI 2006 34 5 29 .147 7th in East Missed Playoffs
Career 34 5 29 .147

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dave Cowens". Basketball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 30, 2006. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  2. ^ Celtics.com, Marc D'Amico. "Dave Cowens – Celtics Legend". Boston Celtics.
  3. ^ Weber, James. "Dave Cowens breaks in NBA-style gym floor at Newport Central Catholic". The Enquirer. Retrieved March 9, 2024.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Parquet, Professor (September 5, 2015). "The unusual 1982 trade of the retired Dave Cowens". CelticsBlog.
  5. ^ "Legends profile: Dave Cowens". NBA.com. September 13, 2021.
  6. ^ "Dave Cowens – Celtics legend". NBA.com. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  7. ^ Parquet, Professor (November 3, 2014). "How Big Red led the Celtics to 2 titles". CelticsBlog.
  8. ^ Goldaper, Sam (November 11, 1976). "Cowens Given "Leave" from Celtics' Team". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "1978–79 Boston Celtics Roster and Stats". Basketball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on March 28, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  10. ^ "1980 NBA Eastern Conference Finals – Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics". Basketball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on April 20, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  11. ^ "1979–80 Boston Celtics Roster and Stats". Basketball-Reference.com.
  12. ^ "1980–81 Boston Celtics Roster and Stats". Basketball-Reference.com.
  13. ^ "1982–83 Milwaukee Bucks Roster and Stats". Basketball-Reference.com.
  14. ^ a b "Dave Cowens Stats". Basketball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on May 6, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
  15. ^ 1977–78 Boston Celtics Statistics Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Basketballreference.com. Retrieved July 10, 2007.
  16. ^ "The NBA's 50 Greatest Players". NBA.com. Turner Sports Interactive, Inc. Archived from the original on April 5, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2009.
  17. ^ "NBA's 75 Anniversary | NBA.com". www.nba.com. Archived from the original on October 19, 2021. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  18. ^ "NBA 75: At No. 57, Dave Cowens was a fierce, undersized center who wore down the great bigs of the '70s with a 'game of attrition'".
  19. ^ a b Eskenazi, Gerald (November 18, 1991). "No. 32 Receives New Life on 76ers". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  20. ^ "Former Boston Celtics star Dave Cowens has stepped down... - UPI Archives".
  21. ^ Writer, Michael Arace; Courant Staff (May 18, 1995). "Ford Reaches Point of No Return with Celtics". courant.com.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "COWENS TO COACH HORNETS". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 1, 2024.
  23. ^ "N.B.A. LAST NIGHT; Cowens Will Coach Warriors". The New York Times. April 19, 2000.
  24. ^ a b "Hall of Famer Cowens leaves Sky, joins Pistons staff". September 12, 2006.
  25. ^ "Sports Extra: People". Daily News of Los Angeles. January 14, 1990.
  26. ^ a b Lehigh, Scot (February 23, 1990). "Ex-Celtic Cowens Bows Out of GOP Race for Secretary of State". Boston Globe. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  27. ^ "Celtics legend Cowens talks of hustle, small-ball as a center and winning big". SI.com. July 16, 2020.
  28. ^ "Dave Cowens talks about his day as cab driver – Page 2 – ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  29. ^ "Florida Sports Hall of Fame – Dave Cowens".
  30. ^ "Dave Cowens Bio". Florida State Seminoles. June 17, 2014.
  31. ^ "Honored Numbers/Jerseys". Florida State Seminoles. July 5, 2017.
  32. ^ "Cowens's No. 18 Retired by Celtics". Associated Press. February 9, 1981. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  33. ^ "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame :: Dave Cowens". www.hoophall.com.
  34. ^ "David W. Cowens".

Further reading[edit]

  • Heisler, Mark (2003). Giants: The 25 Greatest Centers of All Time. Chicago: Triumph Books. ISBN 1-57243-577-1.

External links[edit]