Indiana men’s basketball national champion and Hall of Famer Bob “Slick” Leonard passed away on April 13 at the age of 88.
When it comes to basketball in the state of Indiana, very few have done more or meant more to the game than ‘Slick.’ As an IU player from 1951-54, he was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten player who teamed with Don Schlundt to lead the program to the 1953 national championship. It was his free throw with 27 seconds left that secured the 69-68 win over Kansas in the title game. He also led the program to Big Ten titles in both 1953 and 1954 and finished his career with 1,098 points.
After departing Bloomington, Slick had an equally profound impact on the game in our state at the professional level. After two years of military service he spent seven years in the NBA as a player with the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers and then Chicago. He averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He then went into coaching, where he was best known for the 12 years he spent as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers in the ABA and then the NBA. After taking over as the Pacers’ head coach in the franchise’s second season in the ABA, he guided the Pacers to three ABA Championships (1970, 1972, 1973) and a five ABA Finals appearances, both records for the ABA’s nine-year run that ended in 1976. He then spent four more years as the Pacers coach after they joined the NBA.
His contributions didn’t end there; he returned to the Pacers in 1985 as a radio broadcaster and went on to spend 35 years in that role. He’s been honored on numerous occasions for his contributions to the game, including as a 2014 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Indiana Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Woodson on Slick Leonard:
“Slick has meant so much to me for such a long time. Take a moment and think about this. He has meant as much as anyone in the state of Indiana when it comes to the game of basketball. He played the game with great flair. He coached with undeniable passion. His smile put everyone at ease. The man was a champion through and through whether it was with the Pacers organization or at Indiana University. Without question, he was a Hall of Fame human being. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loving wife, Nancy, their children and everyone he touched on a daily basis.”
IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Scott Dolson on Slick Leonard
“I am heartbroken by the passing of Slick, and my heart goes out to his wife, Nancy, and the entire Leonard family,” said IU Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Scott Dolson. “He was a Hoosier basketball legend, but more than anything, he was a Hoosier legend. Slick has been one of our state’s most beloved basketball figures for seven decades, someone who loved the game and dedicated his life to it. In addition to loving the sport of basketball, Slick and Nancy also loved IU. There was no alum that I enjoyed seeing more when he returned for a game than him. His stories were priceless and endless. He will be dearly missed.”