Richard Patrick Versace (born April 16, 1940) is a former basketball coach and executive. He is also the first American of Puerto Rican descent to have coached a National Basketball Association (NBA) team.
Versace was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His parents were Colonel Humbert Joseph Versace, an Italian American and Marie Teresa Rios, a Puerto Rican-Irish American author. The 1960s television sitcom The Flying Nun was based on one of her books. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, though he did not play basketball.
Versace has coached at the high school and collegiate level and in the NBA. Versace coached at St. Joseph High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Gordon Tech in Chicago. Oddly, his first coaching position after college was at Forrest-Strawn- Wing High School in the small Central Illinois community of Forrest during the years of 1964 and 1965. The odd thing being that he was the head football coach. He led the team to an 8-1 record and a Vermilion Valley Conference championship. He coached junior varsity basketball that winter. Versace began his college coaching career at St. Louis University in 1973, after compiling a 204-66 record at the high school coaching level. He then moved to Michigan State University, where he was heavily involved in the recruitment of Magic Johnson. Versace's first head coaching assignment was at the Jackson Community College in 1976. In the early 1980s, he was head men's basketball coach at Bradley University, where he led the team to the NIT championship and was named National College Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers' Association. That year, his Bradley Braves went 32-3 and were ranked #7 in the nation during the season. His back court players included future NBA star Hersey Hawkins and former Bradley Head Coach Jim Les.
He later served as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons under head coach Chuck Daly. Versace then became head coach of the Indiana Pacers for two years, from 1988 through 1990. After leaving the Pacers job, Versace became a sportscaster on TNT and on WMAQ TV in Chicago. Versace served as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1997-98 season.
In 1999, Versace was named President of Basketball Operations for the then-Vancouver Grizzlies. After one season in Vancouver, the Grizzlies were relocated and became the Memphis Grizzlies. And in 2002, the Grizzlies hired NBA legend Jerry West as President of Basketball Operations, and Versace assumed the role of General Manager and remained with the team through the end of the 2004-2005 season. Prior to joining the Grizzlies, Versace worked for Michael Heisley's acquisition team as Versace oversaw Heisley's pursuit and ultimate purchase of the Vancouver Grizzlies.
On October 8, 2007, Versace announced that he would run as a Democrat for the 18th Congressional District seat then held by Republican Congressman Ray Lahood, who was retiring. On December 8, 2007, however, Versace announced that he would not be running due to "unforeseen personal circumstances."
Versace is the brother of Medal of Honor recipient Rocky Versace, who was executed by the Viet Cong in 1965. He is the brother of Dr. Stephen (his twin), Trilby Versace, and Michael Versace Rios. Versace is divorced and has two children, David and Julie.
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