Bill Russell and KC Jones forged a bond before they ever played for the Celtics. Here is Bill's account of their interaction at USF and how KC was preparing to coach way before he took over the Celtics.
KC Jones took up where Guidice (Bill's Freshman Coach) left off. When I was assigned a room with him in a USF dormitory, I had no way of knowing that we'd become lifelong friends. At first I didn't think we'd be friendly at all, because KC didn't speak a word to me for a sold month. Not a word. He'd slap my bunk on the way out of the room in the mornings, and he'd nod at the salt or sugar during the silent meals we ate in the school cafeteria. That was the extent of our communication, until one day when he suddenly started talking like a normal person. Nothing in particular had happened; he just started talking. It was as if somebody had forgotten to plug him in before then. To my relief, I found that he'd just been shy, even more than I was. Once he got used to me we became inseparable. At a Jesuit university, we were in an alien world, so we leaned on each other. At first I did most of the leaning; KC was a year older and had a slightly better scholarship, so he looked after me. He seemed to spend his money more freely on me than he did on himself. He bought me shoes, meals, movie tickets and books. KC was usually silent except when basketball was being discussed. The barest mention of the game would throw him into a Socratic dialogue that would go on for as long as anyone would carry his half of the conversation. Since I was always around, the conversations would ramble on for hours. We decided that basketball is basically a game of geometry - of lines, points, and distances - and that the horizontal distances are more important than the vertical ones. If I were playing against someone a foot shorter, the vertical distances could be important, but in competitive basketball most of the critical distances are horizontal, along the floor at eye level Height is not as important as it may seem, even in rebounding. Early in my career at USF, watching rebounds closely, I was surprised to discover that three quarters of them were grabbed at or below the level of the basket - a height all college players can reach easily. (This is also true in the pro game.) Generally, the determining distances in those rebounds were horizontal ones. KC and I spent hours exploring the geometry of basketball, often losing track of the time. Neither of us needed a blackboard to see the play the other was describing. Every hypothetical seemed real. It was as if I was back on the Greyhound assembling pictures of moves in my mind, except that KC liked to talk about what combinations of players could do. I had been daydreaming about solo moves, but he liked to work out strategies. KC has an original basketball mind, and he taught me how to scheme to make things happen on the court, particularly on defense. In those days almost every player and coach thought of defense as pure reaction: that is, you reacted to the player you were guarding. If he moved to the left, you moved with him, shadowing him. Whatever he did, you reacted to guard the basket. KC thought differently. He tried to figure out ways to take the ball away from the opponent. He was always figuring out ways to make the opponent take the shot he wanted him to take when he wanted him to take it, from the place he wanted the man to shoot. Often during games he would pretend to stumble into my man while letting the player he was guarding have a free drive to the basket with the ball, knowing that I could block the shot and take the ball away. Or he'd let a man have an outside shot from just beyond the perimeter of his effectiveness, and instead of harassing the player would take off down the court, figuring that I'd get the rebound and throw him a long pass for an easy basket. He and I dreamed up dozens of plays like these and fed into our equations what we knew about the weaknesses of our opponents. On both offense and defense, our plans included two or three alternatives if the primary strategy failed to work. We liked to think ahead, and before long KC's way of thinking erased my solo images. Whenever I got the ball near the basket, I tried to have two or three moves in mind in advance. They didn't always work, but at least they were there. I found that such planning cut down on my mental hesitation on the floor and generally reduced the number of times I messed up teamwork. I began to daydream about sequences of moves instead of individual ones. Gradually, KC and I created a little basketball world of our own. Other players were lost in our conversatins because we used so much shorthand that no one could follow what we were saying. Most of the players weren't interested in strategy anyway. Basketball talk was mostly an ego exercise in which they flapped the breeze and pumped themselves up over their last performance or in preparation for the next one. The prevailing strategy was that you went out, took your shots and waited to see what happened. It was not considered a game for thinkers. KC and I were thought to be freaks because of our dialogues on strategy, which were fun for us but dull to everyone else. I used to get a kick out of a remark by Einstein, who said that his most difficult thinking was enjoyable, like a daydream. We were inspired, rocket scientists in sneakers. After a game, only KC and I would appreciate certain things that had happened out on the court - at least that's the way it felt. We shared an extra fascination for the game because of the mental tinkering we did with it in our bull sessions. For example, KC was instantly aware of what I thought was the best single play I ever made in college. We were playing Stanford in the San Francisco Cow Palace, and one of their players stole the ball at half court for a breakaway layup. He was so far ahead of us that nobody on our team bothered to chase him except me. As he went loping down the right side of the court, I left the center position near our basket and ran after him as fast as I could. The guy's lead was so big that he wasn't hurrying. When I reached half court I was flying, but I took one long stride off to the left to change my angle, then went straight for the bucket. When the guy went up for his layup in the lane, I too went up from the top of the key. I was flying. He lofted the ball up so lazily that I was able to slap it into the backboard before it started down. The ball bounced back to KC trailing the play. Probably nobody in that Cow Palace crowd knew anything about how that play developed. They didn't see where I came from, and they saw only the end of the play. But to KC and me, I the sweetness of the play was the giant step I took to the left as I was building up speed. Without that step the play would have failed, because I'd have fouled the guy by landing on him after the shot. The step to the left gave me just enough angle coming across to miss him and land to the right of him without a foul. KC was the only guy in the Cow Palace who noticed that step and knew what it meant. I noticed similar things about his game and they were the starting points of our daydreams.