Jim Fitzgerald, a former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, passed away Monday morning at the age of 86.
Fitzgerald originally joined the Bucks in 1973 and rose to become President and Chairman of the Board in 1976. The Janesville, Wis., native held that post until 1985, when he sold the team to its current owner, Herb Kohl.
“Jim Fitzgerald was the right man at the right time for the Bucks franchise,” said John Steinmiller, Milwaukee’s Vice President of Business Operations, in a statement.
“He was a Wisconsin guy with good business instincts and a competitive spirit who always provided hope. He will be dearly missed.”
Fitzgerald presided over an era of Bucks basketball that included the hiring of hall of fame coach Don Nelson and a string of seven straight division titles from 1979-86.
“Jim was a great man,” said former Milwaukee star Junior Bridgeman, “and he taught us more than just basketball. A lot of what I try to do in the business world is patterned after things I saw him do with the Bucks. … It was a family, and today we lost a member of that family.”
Said former Bucks standout Jon McGlocklin: “He was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. He was infectiously positive.”
Former Milwaukee PR director Bill King also praised Fitzgerald, noting that Fitzgerald “was the lead owner of the Milwaukee Bucks during an era that we later recognized the club to be the Camelot among NBA franchises.”