Former Coach and Executive Dick Versace Passes Away at 81

The Indiana Pacers announced former head coach Dick Versace passed away at the age of 81.

The Indiana Pacers are saddened to learn of the passing of former head coach Dick Versace. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Versace took over as head coach for the Pacers several games into the 1988-89 season after serving as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons for three years, from 1986-88.

Indiana had lost 45 of their last 61 games and were 6-23 when Versace took over.

“I will not accept losing with this team or any team I coach,” Versace said at his introductory news conference. “When I speak to the players, that will be my opening comment,” per an 1989 LA Times article.

Versace took an unconventional route to NBA coaching.

He coached a Wisconsin high school football team and considered a career in plant pathology.

“I was going to be a research scientist,” Versace said. “But I was too much of an extrovert to sequester myself in a greenhouse doing research on corn rust,” per the LA Times.

Versace went 42-40 his second season with Indiana before being let go 25 games into his third season.

He worked as an assistant for two seasons with Milwaukee before becoming an executive with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002.

Eventually, Versace was named Grizzlies’ general manager during the 2004-05 season.

Versace started his coaching career at Bradley University.

The school paid tribute to their former coach in a Tweet.

Our thoughts are with the family of former Bradley head coach Dick Versace as the two-time MVC Coach of the Year who led BU from 1978 to 1986 passed away at the age of 81 on Friday.”

Versace, a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, led the Braves from 1978-1986 and won three MVC titles and an NIT victory.

No cause of death was given.