Longtime Santa Barbara resident Bill Bertka, 91, has another award to add to his mantle, as the the National Basketball Coaches Association announced that he is the recipient of the 2019 Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award winner.
“I am honored and proud to have been selected for the Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award by a committee of my coaching peers,” Bertka said in a press release. “I am sincerely grateful to the National Basketball Coaches Association for this recognition.”
Bertka is well known in the NBA circles for advocating for film study, advance scouting and player development.
Bertka started his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, who hired him to scout for the NBA Draft — the first full-time scout in league history. Alongside his wife, Solveig, he started a college scouting service in the mid-60s, lasting until the early 90s.
Bertka left the Lakers in 1974 to become the general manager of the New Orleans Jazz, while also serving as an assistant coach for Elgin Baylor.
He returned to the Lakers in 1981 as one of Pat Riley’s assistant coaches, staying with the organization ever since — taking on roles as an assistant coach, director of scouting, special assistant to the GM and basketball consultant. He has spent 45 of his 52 years in the NBA with the Lakers organization.
“Bill Bertka is an NBA coaching legend and a true basketball lifer,” said Dallas Mavericks Head Coach and National Basketball Coaches Association President Rick Carlisle. “He is extremely passionate about his craft and has coached and mentored so many of our great NBA players from Wilt Chamberlain to Kobe Bryant. Congratulations to Coach Bertka on this prestigious recognition.”
Bertka worked with a multitude of Lakers greats, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal — and has 10 NBA Championship rings to show for it.
Bertka is a member of the Santa Barbara Sports Hall of Fame (1989) and Santa Barbara Court of Champions (2014).
Bertka attended Kent State, where he was also head basketball coach for four years.
“Assistant Coaches often operate behind the scenes and may not receive public recognition for their team’s success. However, if you ask any head coach, they would say that their team could not operate without the hard work of these men and women,” said NBCA Executive Director David S. Fogel. “Coach Bertka certainly exemplifies these values on and off the court, and his tireless work ethic has led to successful seasons throughout his coaching career. Congratulations to Coach Bertka, this honor is well deserved.”