ALBUQUERQUE -- Bob King, Larry Bird's first coach at Indiana State and the architect of New Mexico basketball who never had a losing record in 10 seasons with the Lobos, died yesterday at age 81.
Mr. King had a history of health problems, beginning with a heart attack and cerebral aneurysm in 1978, his final year at Indiana State.
Bill Hodges took over for Mr. King the next season, when Bird was a senior. The top-ranked Sycamores were unbeaten until a loss to Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the NCAA championship game.
"I was saddened to hear of the passing of Coach King. He was instrumental in the success of my career," said Bird, a Hall of Famer and president of the Indiana Pacers. "I will always be grateful for his friendship, guidance, and help.
"Coach King was more than a coach; he was a dear friend and mentor."
Mr. King coached New Mexico from 1963-72, producing Western Athletic Conference titles in 1964 and 1968. The Lobos made three NIT appearances during that time, reaching the finals in 1964. His 1967-68 team went 23-5, was ranked as high as fourth, and put the school in the NCAA tournament for the first time.
New Mexico athletic director Rudy Davalos said Mr. King laid the foundation for the success of men's and women's basketball at the school.
"He was a classy gentleman who will be missed by many people but never forgotten," Davalos said.