Hall of Famer, Celtics great Heinsohn dies at 86
BOSTON–Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics great Tom Heinsohn, who was involved in all 17 NBA titles won by the franchise, has died at the age of 86, the team confirmed Tuesday.
Heinsohn’s association with the Celtics spanned six decades as a player, coach and commentator. The six-time All Star won eight NBA titles in nine seasons as a player and two more as coach.
“For all of his accomplishments as a player, coach, and broadcaster, it is Tommy’s rich personality that defined the man,” the Celtics said in a statement. “A loving father, grandfather, and husband. A talented painter and a lively golf partner. Unofficial mentor to decades of Celtics coaches and players. A frequent constructive critic of referees. Originator of the most ‘Celtic stat’ of them all, The Tommy Point. And a boundless love for all things Boston Celtics, a passion which he shared with fans over 64 years.”
Heinsohn is just one of four people to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and coach, joining Celtics teammate Bill Sharman, Lenny Wilkens and John Wooden.
Heinsohn, playing alongside Bill Russell and Bob Cousy in the golden years of Celtics basketball, scored 18.6 points per game in his nine seasons in Boston (1956-65). He was the 1956-57 NBA Rookie of the Year.
His retired No. 15 hangs from the rafters at TG Garden, home of the Celtics. The team retired it in 1965.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver touched on Heinsohn’s legacy in a statement.
“Tommy Heinsohn’s remarkable contributions to our game bridged generations and personified the Boston Celtics for more than 60 years,” Silver said.
“He was synonymous with success, winning eight NBA championships in nine seasons with Boston as a player and two more as its coach, which led to his rare distinction of Hall of Fame status in both capacities. Tommy was equally renowned as an NBA broadcaster who made his mark on both the national and local stage. Celtics games will not be the same without Tommy, and he will be dearly missed by those who share his fervor for basketball. We extend our deepest sympathies to Tommy’s family, his friends and the Celtics organization.”
Heinsohn led Boston to a 427-263 record as head coach, leading the team to NBA titles in 1974 and 1976. He was the 1972-73 NBA Coach of the Year. He led the Celtics to the playoffs six times, finishing with a 47-33 postseason record. His 427 wins trail only Red Auerbach’s 795 in team history.
In the 1977-78 season, with the team off to an 11-23 start, he was fired by the Celtics. Three seasons later, he kicked off his broadcasting career, providing color commentary alongside Mike Gorman for the next 40 years. Heinsohn created and doled out his legendary “Tommy Points” for exceptional plays — mostly by Celtics players.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson was among the people in the NBA community paying tribute.
“Boston Celtics Hall of Famer, Champion, & legend Tommy Heinsohn passed away today. I will always remember Tommy & Dick Stockton calling my Showtime Lakers & Larry’s Celtics games on CBS. RIP! Cookie and I are praying for the entire Heinsohn family and all of his loved ones,” Johnson said on Twitter.
Current Celtics head coach Brad Stevens publicly paid his respects with a Twitter post.
“Rest In Peace, Tommy. You have meant so much to the six decades of Celtics’ fans that you shared the game with as a HOFer in every facet… An Incredible person, teammate and mentor,” Stevens wrote.
Boston guard Jaylen Brown also expressed his condolences.
“RIP Tommy Heinsohn you were joy to listen to and learn from my heart is heavy today,” Brown said on Twitter.
Heinsohn, who was born Aug. 26, 1934, grew up in Union City, N.J. He played collegiately at Holy Cross and became the Crusaders’ all-time leading scorer, ranking fifth at the time of his death. The Celtics drafted the 6-foot-7 forward as their regional pick in 1956.
Heinsohn’s passing follows that of Celtics great John Havlicek, who played with Heinsohn and then for him, and who died in April at the age of 79.
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