Former Houston Rockets guard and current player development coach John Lucas has had quite a basketball journey. From a stellar college career that saw him three times achieve All-American status with the University of Maryland and earn the number one draft pick in 1976 with the Rockets, to a tumultuous NBA career that saw him voted to the All-Rookie team in 1977, but later implode in the mid-80s due to drug addiction.
But there’s no doubting what Lucas did at the collegiate level, and he’s being rewarded for that by being inducted to the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.
Two classes will be inducted this year due to last year’s cancellation because of COVID-19, so Lucas will join a group of 13 others going in.
But Lucas is the most successful of the group, averaging 18.3 points and 4.7 assists per game during his collegiate career and was the first player in Maryland history to finish with 2,000 points and 500 assists. He also led the Terps to two Elite Eight appearances and they finished ranked in the top 10 all four years he played there.
After a hot start to his NBA career, Lucas infamously struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction and was booted off the Rockets during their NBA Finals run in 1986. Throughout his career, he found himself suspended several times and moved around to multiple teams before retiring at the end of the 1990 season at age 33.
Lucas went through drug rehabilitation and re-invented himself as coach, leading the San Antonio Spurs to back-to-back playoff appearances in 1993 and 1994 before leaving for the Philadelphia 76ers and then the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he had less success. He has a 173-258 career record as a head coach.
He was also an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers, before taking over as an assistant with the Rockets. He’s since cultivated a reputation as one of the best player development coaches in sports, using his own past struggles to help young athletes reach their full potential.
He also runs wellness and substance abuse care programs and has worked with multiple players throughout various sports in order to help better their lives.
He was a candidate for Houston’s head coaching gig after the departure of Mike D’Antoni, but the team elected to keep him in the player development role, which is likely where he is best suited anyway.
Congrats to Lucas. He’s the posterchild for turning one’s life around, and he’s gone to the top of the mountain to the bottom of the valley and back again. The Rockets are lucky to have him on staff, and the D.C. Hall is a nice accolade to add to his resume.