INDIANAPOLIS––Former Pacers head coach and IU basketball great Bobby “Slick” Leonard has passed away at the age of 88.
The Terre Haute native led IU to an NCAA championship in 1953, played professionally with the Minneapolis-Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, and made his mark back in his home state as a head coach of the young Indiana Pacers of the old ABA.
In 12 years with the franchise, Slick led the Pacers to three ABA championships in 1970, ’72 and ’73, and along with wife Nancy, was instrumental in keeping the Pacers afloat as a pro franchise, holding a telethon to raise money to keep the team financially stable.
After his coaching career, he came back to the Pacers where he worked in TV and radio for the team, making his trademark phrase “Boom Baby!” an Indiana tradition when a Pacer hit a three point shot.
His career was capped with his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Pacers Sports & Entertainment owners Herb Simon, Steve Simon, and the Simon family released the following statement on Leonard’s passing:
“Pacers fans will remember Bobby ‘Slick’ Leonard as the spirit of our franchise. With a charisma, intensity, and wit to match his nickname, Slick made us champions. He was our biggest fan and our most loving critic, and he personified Pacers basketball for generations of Hoosier families.
“Most importantly, though, Slick and Nancy are our family, and his passing leaves an unfillable void in the hearts of everyone associated with this organization. We keep the entire Leonard family in our prayers, and we recognize and honor Slick for what he meant to our state both on and off the court.”
Indiana leaders and organizations have taken to Twitter to express their condolences.