The first man to coach the Lakers upon their move to Los Angeles was a professional player with the Fort Wayne (later Detroit) Pistons and New York Knicks. He retired as a player in 1954 and began his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater, West Virginia. He led the Mountaineers to the NCAA tournament five straight times and to the finals in 1959, when they lost to California, 71-70. The star of that West Virginia team? None other than Jerry West.
Schaus reunited with West the following year in Los Angeles and the first-year NBA coach and his highly-touted rookie went 36-43 and lost in the Western Division finals. However, over the next two seasons, the team won 54 and 53 games, respectively, and twice reached the finals, only to lose to the Boston Celtics.
Schaus led the Lakers to the postseason in each of his seven seasons and guided them to four Western Division championships.
The Lakers lost two more finals series to Boston, in 1965 and 1966, then got swept in the Western Division semifinals by the San Francisco Warriors the next year. Schaus compiled a 33-38 record in 71 playoff games and his 631 total games coached are the fourth most in Lakers history.
In 1967, Schaus left the bench and joined the Lakers’ front office. He proved a successful General Manager, assembling the team that won a franchise-record 69 games on its way to the 1971-72 NBA championship.
In piloting Purdue University to the 1974 NIT Championship, Schaus became the first coach to reach the finals of the NIT, NCAA and NBA. He never got the Lakers a championship, but it was he who set the table for the organization’s perennial success in the City of Angels.