Not many remembered the “Miracle of Richfield” mainly because some of us were not yet born on that year yet. It happened in the 1975-1976 NBA season when Bill Fitch coached the overachieving Cavaliers to its first winning season and surprising playoff appearance. Even though, they don’t have a chance of winning against future hall of famers Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Jojo White of the Boston Celtics. They still fought to the end, losing the series to a 4-2 record.
Bill Fitch anchored everything, meticulously putting all the pieces inside the puzzle. He always sees every stone into a gem in the making. And every challenge as an opportunity to become better, no matter how bad or how hopeless it may seem. It was always Fitch’s trademark throughout his career in the NBA—putting every team he coached to be a playoff contender.
A native of Davenport Iowa, Fitch who used to coached baseball and works as a scout for the Atlanta Braves. Found himself to the bleachers in Williston North Dakota, watching a lanky young man playing basketball. He notices how this young player set pick, plays good defense and has an unusual long arm. He was basically limited in offense, but he always has a knack for the ball. It was one basketball memory that stuck to his mind, that when Fitch was hired by University of North Dakota as coached, he successfully recruited him.
That player was Phil Jackson, who eventually played in the NBA as a second round pick by the New York Knicks. Phil was an ever reliable substitute but his playing days were always highlighted with injuries. Fitch sees something different on Phil, ever since he saw him in the bleachers in Williston. He saw a leader, a tactician who sacrifices his stats for setting picks, and a cerebral player who sees the game differently….
As Phil Jackson ended his magical career with 11 championships, he thanked Bill for believing in him. It has been such a wild ride throughout, but it was all worth it. For 22 coaching years, Phil has already achieved more than what he expected. Nobody thought how a mainly low-level professional league tactician becomes one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. However, Fitch was never surprised about Phil’s capabilities. He knows how passionate and determined Phil is. Fitch has been a coached all his life and his greatest achievement was not always about championships or winning. It was about how he molds each player into a better person. It was always his legacy, and it was always his masterpiece in the canvass called life.
For 76 years, as far as Bill Fitch knows, he witnessed two miracles in his life.
One was the “Miracle of Richfield”, the other the miracle that happened in the bleachers of Williston North Dakota.
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