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Walt Hazzard had various roles with Lakers

November 18, 2011 | 10:58 pm

Wes_matthewsHe became the Lakers' first pick of the 1964 NBA draft. Years later, he became the team's advance scout. And soon after, he remained as a special consultant.

Most of Walt Hazzard's life, which ended Friday  at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center because complications following heart surgery, was defined by his stellar UCLA career. That included helping the late John Wooden to his first NCAA championship and becoming the fifth coach to follow him. But Hazzard also had various stints with the Lakers, and left a lasting impression with the organization.

"Walt was a man of extremely high character, who served the Lakers for many years as a player, a scout and a consultant," Lakers Owner Jerry Buss said in a statement. "Our sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time, and we feel fortunate that he was part of the Lakers family for so many years."

Hazzard spent his first three NBA seasons playing with the Lakers, though his best years were spent with the Seattle Supersonics, whom acquired him in the 1967 expansion draft. His connection to the Lakers still remained, as Hazzard joined the team's front office and became its primary West Coast advance NBA scout. Although he suffered a stroke in 1996, Hazzard remained on staff as a special consultant, focusing primarily on community relations. In turn, Hazzard's son, Rasheed, became an advance scout and a special assistant under Phil Jackson.

"First and foremost, our condolences go out to the Hazzard family," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "Not only was Walt an outstanding player, but his knowledge of the game was extremely valuable to our front office as well over the past 17 years. In the years since his stroke, he has been an inspiration to many of us with his perseverance and his passion for the game."

--Mark Medina

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Photo credit: Los Angeles Times.