RIP Tommy Heinsohn

oumbi

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Jun 15, 2006
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RIP Tommy. I grew up knowing the Celtics through him.

I am shedding tears as I type this.
 

lexrageorge

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Jul 31, 2007
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Really would like to see Heinsohn inducted posthumously as an announcer in the NBA Hall of Fame, giving him 3 slots in Springfield. I always felt he was underappreciated calling those Celtics-Lakers games as part of the CBS crew during the Showtime era. He and Stockton made a good #1 pairing.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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What a odd coaching career. Takes over in 1970, and has to guide the husk of a dynasty that no longer had Russell and Heinsohn himself. The roster was built around Hondo Havlicek (age 30) and some holdovers from the glory years (Don Nelson and Satch Sanders). That team shuffled to 6th place.

In 1971 the Celts improved to 3rd place, but the roster was still leftovers --the two new guys --Jo Jo White and Dave Cowens-- have yet to take over. But still, you can see the "bridge" to the next championship. Add in Paul Silas in the offseason and they were ready to make another run.

Then you get the mini-dynasty of '72-77: Deep playoff runs and two rings ('74 and '76). Lost in the history is the fact that the '73 team might have been the best of the bunch. They went 68-14 and lost to the Knicks in an epic conference finals that was all Walt Frazier playing out of his mind.

But in '78 the team was absolutely gutted-- Hondo was finished, defensive linchpin Silas was traded for Curtis "Last time I checked, there weren't any W's and L's in my paycheck" Rowe. The roster had no chemistry, the play was listless, and Tommy got fired.

Career .616 coaching record, two rings in nine seasons, and never coached again.
 

lexrageorge

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Jul 31, 2007
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What a odd coaching career. Takes over in 1970, and has to guide the husk of a dynasty that no longer had Russell and Heinsohn himself. The roster was built around Hondo Havlicek (age 30) and some holdovers from the glory years (Don Nelson and Satch Sanders). That team shuffled to 6th place.

In 1971 the Celts improved to 3rd place, but the roster was still leftovers --the two new guys --Jo Jo White and Dave Cowens-- have yet to take over. But still, you can see the "bridge" to the next championship. Add in Paul Silas in the offseason and they were ready to make another run.

Then you get the mini-dynasty of '72-77: Deep playoff runs and two rings ('74 and '76). Lost in the history is the fact that the '73 team might have been the best of the bunch. They went 68-14 and lost to the Knicks in an epic conference finals that was all Walt Frazier playing out of his mind.

But in '78 the team was absolutely gutted-- Hondo was finished, defensive linchpin Silas was traded for Curtis "Last time I checked, there weren't any W's and L's in my paycheck" Rowe. The roster had no chemistry, the play was listless, and Tommy got fired.

Career .616 coaching record, two rings in nine seasons, and never coached again.
I'm certain he would have gotten the chance of pursuing additional coaching opportunities had he wanted. He was basically burnt out when he was fired and, IIRC, he took some time away from the game to restore his health. Then he got the chance at broadcasting Celtics games a couple of years later and never looked back. I also think he really liked living in Boston and enjoyed raising his family here, so it's understandable why the broadcasting gig was where he most felt at home.

There's not a lot of playing career highlights, and it was well before my time, but I did find one video from Game 6 of the 1963 NBA finals. Seems like he would have been the prototypical "wing" player in today's NBA (scoring, defense, rebounding, shooting).

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vB9pAaIKMvo


FWIW, the clip shows Bill Russell throwing a number of on-the-money outlet passes to start the break. This game in the clip also was Bob Cousy's last "real" NBA game, and if you look carefully you can see the 8 Hall of Fame players the Celtics had on that roster (Russell, Heinsohn, Cousy, Sam Jones, KC Jones, Havlicek, Sanders, and Ramsey).
 

Kliq

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Mar 31, 2013
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What a odd coaching career. Takes over in 1970, and has to guide the husk of a dynasty that no longer had Russell and Heinsohn himself. The roster was built around Hondo Havlicek (age 30) and some holdovers from the glory years (Don Nelson and Satch Sanders). That team shuffled to 6th place.

In 1971 the Celts improved to 3rd place, but the roster was still leftovers --the two new guys --Jo Jo White and Dave Cowens-- have yet to take over. But still, you can see the "bridge" to the next championship. Add in Paul Silas in the offseason and they were ready to make another run.

Then you get the mini-dynasty of '72-77: Deep playoff runs and two rings ('74 and '76). Lost in the history is the fact that the '73 team might have been the best of the bunch. They went 68-14 and lost to the Knicks in an epic conference finals that was all Walt Frazier playing out of his mind.

But in '78 the team was absolutely gutted-- Hondo was finished, defensive linchpin Silas was traded for Curtis "Last time I checked, there weren't any W's and L's in my paycheck" Rowe. The roster had no chemistry, the play was listless, and Tommy got fired.

Career .616 coaching record, two rings in nine seasons, and never coached again.
That 1973 team was definitely the best team that season. MVP Cowens, Havlicek still at his peak, JoJo was an all-star and near All-NBA player. Paul Silas was a double-double machine, Nelson and Chaney were good supporting players that could score. In Game 3 of the ECF, Havlicek dislocated his shoulder and missed Game 4 (Knicks fans at MSG cheered loudly when they showed him in street clothes) and he was severely limited in the following games, barely scoring. The Celtics lost in 7 games, so it is likely if they had a healthy Hondo they would have made the playoffs and had a good chance of beating the Lakers.
 

Zincman

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Jul 31, 2006
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New London
When I was a freshman at Holy Cross in 1962 I was a bit of a gym rat. On many days before the start of the NBA season, both Heinsohn and Cousy would come to the old field house to play in pickup games, generally including members of the HC Varsity and they were wonderful to watch. Cousy was just trying to get in some running shape for the season and would generally glide through these sessions. Not so with Tommy. Bodies would be flying as Tommy showed no mercy while scoring inside at will. He was just so incredibly competitive even in a pickup game. When the games ended Tommy made sure he hung out a bit with the players and would always give them some encouraging advice. I got to play in a couple of these scrimmages and they remain a highlight for me. Heinsohn may be the most interesting man I ever met. He talked with equal facility about any subject you could imagine. He was an intellectual with a common man's touch. He was brilliant without being overbearing. He was a brute and an artist. He was a jock who was a top flight student immersed in his education. If I sound very proud of Cousy and Heinsohn as being reps for what student-athletes aspire to be, please forgive me. They are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met and I am unlikely to meet their likes again. Go with God, Tommy. AMDG
 

slamminsammya

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Jul 31, 2006
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When I was a freshman at Holy Cross in 1962 I was a bit of a gym rat. On many days before the start of the NBA season, both Heinsohn and Cousy would come to the old field house to play in pickup games, generally including members of the HC Varsity and they were wonderful to watch. Cousy was just trying to get in some running shape for the season and would generally glide through these sessions. Not so with Tommy. Bodies would be flying as Tommy showed no mercy while scoring inside at will. He was just so incredibly competitive even in a pickup game. When the games ended Tommy made sure he hung out a bit with the players and would always give them some encouraging advice. I got to play in a couple of these scrimmages and they remain a highlight for me. Heinsohn may be the most interesting man I ever met. He talked with equal facility about any subject you could imagine. He was an intellectual with a common man's touch. He was brilliant without being overbearing. He was a brute and an artist. He was a jock who was a top flight student immersed in his education. If I sound very proud of Cousy and Heinsohn as being reps for what student-athletes aspire to be, please forgive me. They are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met and I am unlikely to meet their likes again. Go with God, Tommy. AMDG
Amazing story!
 

Dim13

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Jul 14, 2005
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When I was a freshman at Holy Cross in 1962 I was a bit of a gym rat. On many days before the start of the NBA season, both Heinsohn and Cousy would come to the old field house to play in pickup games, generally including members of the HC Varsity and they were wonderful to watch. Cousy was just trying to get in some running shape for the season and would generally glide through these sessions. Not so with Tommy. Bodies would be flying as Tommy showed no mercy while scoring inside at will. He was just so incredibly competitive even in a pickup game. When the games ended Tommy made sure he hung out a bit with the players and would always give them some encouraging advice. I got to play in a couple of these scrimmages and they remain a highlight for me. Heinsohn may be the most interesting man I ever met. He talked with equal facility about any subject you could imagine. He was an intellectual with a common man's touch. He was brilliant without being overbearing. He was a brute and an artist. He was a jock who was a top flight student immersed in his education. If I sound very proud of Cousy and Heinsohn as being reps for what student-athletes aspire to be, please forgive me. They are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met and I am unlikely to meet their likes again. Go with God, Tommy. AMDG
This is why I'm here. Thanks for sharing this!
 

Strike4

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Jul 19, 2005
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He was such a larger than life guy that many people outside Boston don't know much about his career as a player it coach. Tommy Heinsohn scored 37 points and had 23 rebounds in a double overtime game 7 win over the Hawks to win the 1957 NBA Finals. As a rookie!
 
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ifmanis5

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Sep 29, 2007
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In honor of Tommy, I thought it would be therapeutic to put together an All-Tommy Team of Celtics who were going to be truly great some day:

PG: Milt Palacio, Orien Greene, Sebastian Telfair
SG: Ricky Davis, Jiri Welsch
SF: Jeff Green, Kedrick Brown, Adrian Griffin
PF: Walter McCarty (captain), Brian Scalabrine (co-captain)
C: Vitaly Potapenko, Greg Stiemsma

Coach: Ryan Gomes
This is great.
 

bigq

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Jul 15, 2005
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That was fun. Thanks for sharing. Tommy played before my time and this was the most extensive video I have seen of his game. Looks like he was consistently a high effort player - uniquely qualified to give out Tommy Points in his post playing days. His hook shot was close to unblock-able and he had a unique hitch in his jump shot as well that I had not previously noticed.
 

Bunt4aTriple

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Deathofthebambino

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The regulars of the C's game threads know how much I love Tommy. If I had a bucket list, "having a beer with Tommy while watching a C's game" would be directly behind "Having a beer watching anything with my late father." Damn, damn, damn...Between this and Alex Trebeck, the hits just keep coming to the memories I shared with my dad for so many years.