John Erickson, a former Milwaukee Bucks general manager and Wisconsin men's basketball coach, died on Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was 92 years old. The news was confirmed by Rick Wiseman, the funeral director at Porter Funeral Home in Lenexa, Kansas.
Erickson was hired to be the first general manager in the history of the Milwaukee Bucks. He took the role in 1968 and remained in the position until 1970. He was the GM when the Bucks won a coin flip with the Phoenix Suns and earned the first overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft. The Bucks ultimately selected Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, who would become a pivotal figure in the 1970-1971 championship season.
The Bucks’ first-ever general manager John Erickson passed away Wednesday. Erickson became the GM of the Bucks as an expansion team in 1968 and a year later he drafted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which led to the team winning its first title in 1971. pic.twitter.com/2maHoIC38o— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 21, 2020
Erickson was also integral in the name of the team. The expansion franchise held a competition, and the Robins became the top choice. However, Erickson and the contest judges overruled the public opinion and selected the Bucks.
Prior to becoming the GM of the Milwaukee Bucks, Erickson served as the head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team. During his nine-season tenure (1960-1968), Erickson coached the team to a record of 100-114.
Following his time with the Bucks, Erickson ran for one of Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seats as a Republican in 1970. However, he ultimately lost to William Proxmire. Erickson later served as a president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for 16 years. Erickson was hired in 1988 to fill the newly-created role of Director of Basketball Operations for the Big Eight Conference.
"Rather than just have a supervisor of officials, the Big Eight gave me the title of Director of Basketball Operations. I'll deal with the assignment of basketball officials, but I'll also coordinate all the basketball game management at the eight-member institutions," Erickson told The Oklahoman in 1988. "In addition, I'll be recruiting and training and evaluating officials and game management personnel and conducting clinics."
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