Current Issue

Feb.13, 2008

Vol. 108, No. 8


Willem Hendrik Van Breda Kolff ’45

Published in the Feb.13, 2008, issue

On Aug. 22, 2007, the class lost arguably its most colorful member with the death of Bill “Butch” van Breda Kolff.

Butch prepared at The Hill School, where he starred in basketball. At Princeton, he joined Dial Lodge. He played freshman and varsity basketball and freshman soccer, and was captain of the varsity soccer and basketball teams senior year. In wartime, Butch served as a physical education instructor with the 2nd Marine Division.

After graduating from Princeton he played professional basketball with the Knicks for four years, then began his coaching career in 1951 at Lafayette College, where he coached Pete Carril in his final year there. After a stint at Hofstra, Butch came to Princeton just in time to coach another legendary figure, Bill Bradley ’65, culminating in the famed final NCAA game with Michigan.

Butch moved on to 10 seasons with the pros, mentoring the Lakers, Detroit Pistons, and Phoenix Suns. Eventually, he coached in the New Orleans area and dropped out of the sport for a few years before returning to coach 10th graders at a Mississippi high school. He then recycled himself through Lafayette and Hofstra, quitting in 1994.

Legally separated from his wife, the former Florence Smith, Butch is survived by his son, basketball coach Jan; daughters Karen, Kristine, and Kaatje; and seven grandchildren. One obituary described Butch as “a happy-go-lucky nonconformist.” The class extends sympathy to the family.

The Class of 1945

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