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*Walt Hazzard was born on this date in 1942. He was an African American basketball player, player scout and coach.
From Philadelphia, PA. Walter Raphael Hazzard Jr. played for Overbrook High School where his team compiled a record of 89-3 before he graduated. Attending U.C.L.A., Hazzard, a 6-foot-2 guard, was co-captain of the 1964 national title team under Coach John Wooden. He also helped the United States win a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and played 10 years in the N.B.A., including stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, who made him a first-round selection, and four other teams. Hazzard averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 assists during his career with the Lakers, Seattle, Atlanta, Buffalo and Golden State. He ranked among the league’s top 10 in assists during six of his seasons. In 1968, he averaged 23.9 points and 6.2 assists, culminating in an appearance in the All-Star game.
During his N.B.A. career, Hazzard converted to Islam and changed his name to Mahdi Abdul-Rahman. He felt the change was poorly received and cost him professional opportunities, so he returned to using his given name professionally while remaining a Muslim. Before taking over at his alma mater, Hazzard coached two seasons each at Compton College near Los Angeles and Chapman College in Orange County. During his four years as U.C.L.A. coach, the Bruins were 77-47. In 1985, he led them to their first N.I.T. title. In 1987, U.C.L.A. won the Pac-10 title and the league’s first postseason tournament, led by Reggie Miller. They finished 25-7, losing in the second round of the N.C.A.A. tournament, with Hazzard chosen league coach of the year. But the Bruins slumped to a 16-14 record the following season, and Jim Harrick replaced Hazzard for the 1988-89 season.
After his coaching career, Hazzard worked as a West Coast advance scout for the Lakers and served as a special consultant to the team. He made occasional appearances at U.C.L.A. games in recent years. Walt Hazzard died on November 18, 2011. He was 69. The university said Hazzard died at U.C.L.A. Ronald Reagan Medical Center. His wife, Jaleesa, a Bruins song girl during the 1964 N.C.A.A. title season, and his sons Yakub, Jalal, Khalil and Rasheed, survives him. Hazzard’s family said he had been recuperating for a long time from complications of heart surgery.
He had a stroke in March 1996 and made a strong recovery, but became less publicly active. “Walt played the game with a style that excited Bruin basketball fans everywhere,” the Bruins’ athletic director, Dan Guerrero, said. U.C.L.A. Coach Ben Howland said, “Walt was one of the pillars of U.C.L.A.’s first championship team in men’s basketball.”
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