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Subject: He either played on, coached or broadcast all of the team's championships ..

Ed Tracey
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Date Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 04:12:33pm
In reply to: ...Dies at 86. 's message, "Tommy Heinsohn, former Boston Celtics player and Broadcaster..." on Tuesday, November 10, 03:31:43pm

.... and even was on the old Miller Light "Tastes great! Less Filling" TV commercials.

Celtics, Holy Cross legend Tommy Heinsohn dies
Bill Doyle; Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Bill Russell won more championships. Bob Cousy was more iconic. John Havlicek scored more points. Larry Bird had more shooting range.

But no legend was associated with the Boston Celtics longer than Tommy Heinsohn. After graduating as the all-time leading scorer at Holy Cross in 1956, the 6-foot-7 forward played nine seasons for the Celtics, coached them for another nine and spent more than 40 years broadcasting their games on television and radio.

So Celtics fans everywhere are mourning the death of Heinsohn at the age of 86. Heinsohn had been in poor health recently, had undergone multiple surgeries for blood clots and had lost a great deal of weight. He didn’t broadcast Celtics games when they resumed play this season after being sidelined for months by the pandemic.

Heinsohn won eight NBA championships as a player and two as a coach. He was a Celtics broadcaster for the franchise’s other seven titles.

Cousy, 92, starred at Holy Cross before Heinsohn, won six NBA championships with him in Boston and broadcast Celtics games with him for years.

“Too often we’re searching for positive things to say about people who pass away,” Cousy said Tuesday from his home in Worcester. “In Tommy’s case, it’s easy to find positive things. But I think I would probably say he symbolizes our dynasty years perhaps better than any high profile Celtic that you would think of, including Russell, myself, Bird, Havlicek. He’s had more to do with the Celtics than any of us over the years.”

Cousy called Heinsohn the “most underrated power forward perhaps in the history of the league,” and berated “the fool” who left him off the NBA’s all-time top 50 team.

Wyc Grousbeck, Steve Pagliuca and the Celtics ownership group issued this statement on Tuesday: “This is a devastating loss. Tommy was the ultimate Celtic. For the past 18 years, our ownership group has relied hugely on Tommy’s advice and insights and have reveled in his hundreds of stories about Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, and how the Celtics became a dynasty. He will be remembered forever.”

During Celtics broadcasts, Heinsohn was known for awarding “Tommy Points” to players who hustled, and for criticizing referees who made calls against the Celtics, often shouting, “Give me a break.”

“His blood ran green,” Cousy said. “If you ever heard him do a game, you knew where his loyalties were. Whether you agreed with him or not, you had to respect the fact that he loved the Celtics so dearly.”

Cousy said Heinsohn sounded weak when they spoke on the telephone three weeks ago, but he felt encouraged when Heinsohn told him he planned to have lunch with him in Worcester.

Heinsohn’s former Holy Cross and Celtics teammate Togo Palazzi said in 2017 that the Celtics should erect a statue to salute Heinsohn.

“He’s Mr. Celtic,” Palazzi said then. “They should name the Garden after him, he’s been there for 60 years. He’s been a player, he’s been a coach, he’s been a TV announcer. He’s even been sent to lottery meetings by the Celtics.”

Heinsohn was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and later as a coach. Holy Cross retired his No. 24 and the Celtics retired his No. 15.

Heinsohn was voted NBA Rookie of the Year in 1957 when Russell, who won 11 NBA titles in his 13 Celtics seasons, was also a rookie. Heinsohn was an All-Star six times.

“Besides that,” Cousy said, “he was a fun guy to sit around and have a beer with.”

Heinsohn played only nine years before retiring. “We used to needle him all the time because of his smoking,” Cousy said a few years ago. “We used to tell him, ‘Tommy, if you just ran as fast on the court as you do from the court to the locker room at halftime to light up your cigarette, you’d be all-world.’”

Heinsohn announced Celtics games on the radio before joining Mike Gorman on Celtics television broadcasts in 1981. They became the longest running broadcast duo in sports.

On Tuesday, Gorman Tweeted, "Roughly 2800 times I sat down with Tommy to broadcast a game. Every time it was special. HOF player...HOF coach...HOF partner. Celtics Nation has lost its finest voice. Rest In Peace my friend. It has been the privilege of my professional life to be the Mike in Mike & Tommy."

In recent years, Heinsohn provided color commentary at home games, but no longer traveled to road games. He remained involved, however, by offering commentary in the NBC Sports Boston studio. Heinsohn missed several games last year because of sleep apnea.

Thomas “Tommy” William Heinsohn was born Aug. 26, 1934, in Jersey City, New Jersey. After starring at St. Michael’s High School in Union City, N.J., he attended Holy Cross on a basketball scholarship and helped the Crusaders win the 1954 NIT championship his sophomore year under coach Butch Sheary.

“When Buster originally recruited him,” Cousy recalled, “Tommy said he wasn’t that interested in a liberal arts education because he wanted to study medicine.”

The multi-talented Heinsohn was also an accomplished artist with several public showings of his paintings.

Heinsohn scored 1,789 points in his college career, which was the most in HC history when he graduated and which is tied with Chris Potter for fifth today.

“Tommy Heinsohn was a young player when we played together,” Palazzi said in 2017. “He wasn’t as strong as he was when he was in the NBA. He was slight, he was thin, but he was tough and he could play. He played the greatest centers in America that year (in the 1954 NIT) and held them to at least even. They didn’t do more than he did. He offset them. He was really the key ingredient to us winning the championship because in New York he was really unbelievable, especially the last game, he took it right over. Those were the beginnings of him becoming the great player he was. He’s one of the best forwards of all-time.”

Ron Perry Sr. was the co-captain and starting point guard on HC’s 1954 NIT championship team. He appreciated Heinsohn’s passing skills.

“He was an excellent passer,” Perry said a few years ago. “I did a lot of cutting without the ball and if he had it, he’d get it to me, as opposed to Togo.”

Palazzi was known for his shooting, not his passing, but Heinsohn learned early on that sharing the ball was important.

“He started playing basketball as a guard and then he grew,” Perry said. “He was a great passer because he could see the court looking down the court, not with his back to the basket. He could see the court as a guard would see it and not just strictly as an inside player.”

Heinsohn followed Cousy as the second president of the NBA Players Association and led a threatened strike at the 1964 All-Star Game that helped convince the league to accept free agency.

After Heinsohn retired as a player, Auerbach wanted to concentrate on his duties as general manager and asked him to replace him as coach of the team. Heinsohn urged him to hire Russell instead. So Heinsohn broadcast the team’s games and Russell led the Celtics to two more titles over the next three years as player-coach. Auerbach used to pick on Heinsohn because he knew he could take it and he wanted to motivate the team, but he chose him to replace Russell as head coach in 1969.

“I was Red’s whipping boy, but I knew what he was doing,” Heinsohn once said. “So that was a surprise to the team that I became the coach after everybody knew I was the whipping boy.”

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Subject Author Date
Excellent obit. (NT)Thanks for posting, Ed.Tuesday, November 10, 10:24:37pm

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