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Bulls Lose Two Legends On Same Day

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Feb 27, 2009 3:40PM


Thursday ended up being a day of highs and lows for the Chicago Bulls organization, starting with a team visit to the White House to meet President Obama and ending with the passing of two Bulls legends. Norm Van Lier and Johnny "Red" Kerr both passed away on Thursday.

"Red" Kerr succumbed to cancer at 76
, just weeks after the Bulls honored the man who served the franchise for nearly its entire existence. A chicago native, Kerr starred for Tilden High School and the University of Illinois before joining the NBA, where he was an All Star and NBA Champion. Drafted by his hometown Chicago Bulls in the expansion draft as a player, Kerr instead retired from playing and served as the Bulls first head coach, and remains the only NBA coach to lead a team to the playoffs in its inaugural season. He returned to the Bulls as a broadcaster and announced their games on TV for 35 years.

Norm Van Lier, who passed away earlier on Thursday, also had a decades long relationship with the Bulls franchise and its fans. Drafted by the Bulls in 1969 but immediately traded away, "Stormin' Norman" returned to the Bulls two years later and became part of one of the all time great NBA back court pairings when he teamed up with Jerry Sloan. Van Lier was a three time All Star and eight time all-defensive first or second team selection.

After retiring from the NBA Van Lier served as an assistant coach at Mt. Carmel High School and as head coach of the CBA's Rockford Lightning. In recent years, Van Lier was a familiar sight to any Bulls fan, as part of their studio crew during pregame, halftime and postgame shows. It was when he didn't show for Wednesday night's game broadcast that his Comcast SportsNet colleagues grew concerned. His body was discovered Thursday during a wellness check. Van Lier was 61 years old.

Both Johnny "Red" Kerr and Norn Van Lier will be deeply missed by their countless friends, teammates and fans throughout the NBA, but especially here in Chicago. We expect tonight's Bulls game in DC to be an emotional affair, on and off the court, as the Bulls mourn the pair.

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