Tom Heinsohn

American basketball player and coach

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Tom Heinsohn
Tommy 2008 Celtics.jpg
Heinsohn at the 2008 championship parade for the Boston Celtics
Personal information
Born(1934-08-26)August 26, 1934
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedNovember 10, 2020(2020-11-10) (aged 86)
Newton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Listed height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight218 lb (99 kg)
Career information
High schoolSaint Michael's
(Union City, New Jersey)
CollegeHoly Cross (1953–1956)
NBA draft1956 / Pick: Territorial Pick
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career1956–1965
PositionPower forward
Coaching career1969–1978
Career history
As player:
19561965Boston Celtics
As coach:
19691978Boston Celtics
Career highlights and awards
As player:

As coach:

Career statistics
Points12,194 (18.6 ppg)
Rebounds5,749 (8.8 rpg)
Assists1,318 (2.0 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Basketball Hall of Fame as coach
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Thomas William Heinsohn (August 26, 1934 – November 10, 2020) was an American professional basketball player. He was associated with the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for six decades as a player, coach and broadcaster. He played for the Celtics from 1956 to 1965, and also coached the team from 1969 to 1978. He spent over 30 years as the color commentator for the Celtics' local broadcasts alongside play-by-play commentator Mike Gorman. He is regarded as one of the most iconic Celtics figures in the franchise's history, known during his lifetime for his charisma and loyalty to the team and its traditions.

Heinsohn was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his contributions as a player. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for his success as a head coach. He also helped form the NBA Players Association. Heinsohn was the only person to have the distinction of being involved in an official team capacity in each of the Celtics' 17 championships, as well as each of their 21 NBA Finals appearances.


College career

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Heinsohn was a standout at St. Michael's High School in nearby Union City. He accepted a scholarship to Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and became the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,789 points, an average of 22.1 points per game. During his senior year, Heinsohn scored a school record 51 points in a game against Boston College, and averaged 27.4 points per game and 21.1 rebounds per game for the season.[1]

Professional career

Heinsohn during a game against the Philadelphia Warriors, circa 1962

In 1956, Heinsohn was chosen as the Boston Celtics 'regional', or 'territorial', draft pick. In his first season, Heinsohn played in the NBA All-Star Game and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year over teammate Bill Russell. He finished his rookie season by winning his first championship ring, scoring 37 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in the double overtime 7th game of the NBA Finals.[2]

Heinsohn was part of a Celtics squad that won eight NBA titles in nine years, including seven in a row between 1959 and 1965. In NBA history, only teammates Russell and Sam Jones won more championship rings during their playing careers, and Heinsohn's streak of going to the NBA Finals each season of his nine-year career is unmatched. Heinsohn retired after nine seasons due to a foot injury.[2]

During his playing career, Heinsohn was named to six All-Star teams.[2] On the day his teammate and fellow Holy Cross Crusader Bob Cousy retired, Heinsohn scored his 10,000th career point. His number 15 was retired by the Celtics in 1965.

Off the court, Heinsohn played an important leadership role in the NBA Players Association. He was the association's second president (following founding president Bob Cousy), and was instrumental in the league's acceptance of a pension plan for players following a showdown at the All-Star game in 1964, in which the All-Star players, led by Heinsohn, threatened to strike.[3]

Coaching career

Heinsohn became the Celtics' head coach beginning in the 1969–70 season. He led the team to a league best 68–14 record during the 1972–73 season and was named Coach of the Year, although Boston was upset in the playoffs. The next season Heinsohn and the Celtics won the championship, and they claimed another title in 1976. He accumulated a career coaching record of 427–263.

On February 14, 2015, it was announced that Heinsohn would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for a second time as a coaching inductee.[4] He is one of five members of the class of 2015 who were directly elected and is just one of four people to be inducted as both a player and coach.[4]

Broadcasting career

Heinsohn's broadcasting career began in 1966, calling play-by-play for WKBG's Celtics broadcasts, after being asked by Red Auerbach.[5] He spent three seasons in this role before becoming coach in 1969. From 1990 to 1999, Heinsohn was the Celtics' road play-by-play man on WFXT, WSBK and WABU. In 1981, Heinsohn joined Mike Gorman as color commentator in the Celtics' television broadcasts; they became one of the longest-tenured tandems in sports broadcasting history. Occasionally, Bob Cousy made appearances with the tandem of Heinsohn and Gorman. On Celtics broadcasts, Heinsohn liked to point out players who displayed extra hustle to help the team by giving them "Tommy Points." One player in each game had exceptional play and hustle highlighted for the "Tommy Award".[permanent dead link] During broadcasts he was known for his sense of humor and indignantly questioning game officials when calls against the Celtics appeared to have been made in error.

For a time in the 1980s, Heinsohn was in the same capacity during CBS's playoff coverage of the NBA (with Dick Stockton), calling four Finals from 1984 to 1987, three of which involved the Boston Celtics against the Los Angeles Lakers. Heinsohn also teamed with Brent Musburger, Verne Lundquist,[6] and James Brown during his time with CBS. Heinsohn also called NCAA college basketball during the Men's Tournaments starting with the 1986-87 season, later devoting more time to calling college games for CBS than the pros, being used for regular season as well as tournament games until the 1990 NCAA men's basketball tournament. For NCAA games, Heinsohn was typically paired with Verne Lundquist. After the 1987 NBA season, Heinsohn was moved from the primary color analyst role to 2nd on the network's depth chart, being paired with Brent Musburger for the 1987-88 season, calling solely playoff games.[6] Heinsohn in the 1988-89 season again only called playoff games, paired with Verne Lundquist.[6] In his final season, Heinsohn called a regular season game for CBS as well as early round 1990 NBA playoff games with James Brown.

Personal life and later career

Away from the court, Heinsohn enjoyed painting and playing golf; he once headed a life insurance company. In 1988, he wrote a memoir titled "Give 'em the Hook",[7] with writer Joe Fitzgerald.

In the later years, Heinsohn worked fewer games due to age and health issues. Brian Scalabrine, the Celtics' studio analyst, filled in for Heinsohn during his absences at home games and took over for Heinsohn on all road games. He started to take on this role during the 2012–13 NBA season, and during the 2014–2015 NBA season became full-time on road games. When the Celtics had an away game, Heinsohn worked as a studio analyst on the Celtics' television broadcasts.


Heinsohn died on November 10, 2020, at the age of 86.[8]

Awards and honors

The number-15 jersey was retired by the Boston Celtics in 1966.
  • 10-time NBA Champion (eight as a player, two as a head coach)
  • 1957 Rookie of the Year
  • Six-time NBA All-Star
  • 1973 Coach of the Year
  • Two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (as a player in 1986, and as a coach in 2015)[9]
  • Recipient of the 1995 Jack McMahon Award by the National Basketball Coaches Association
  • Recipient of the 2009 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award by the NBA Coaches Association
  • Number 15 retired by the Boston Celtics.
  • Number 24 retired by Holy Cross

NBA career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship

Regular season

1956–57 Boston 72 29.9 .397 .790 9.8 1.6 16.2
1957–58 Boston 69 32.0 .382 .746 10.2 1.8 17.8
1958–59 Boston 66 31.7 .390 .798 9.7 2.5 18.8
1959–60 Boston 75 32.3 .423 .733 10.6 2.3 21.7
1960–61 Boston 74 30.5 .400 .767 9.9 1.9 21.3
1961–62 Boston 79 30.2 .429 .819 9.5 2.1 22.1
1962–63 Boston 76 26.4 .423 .835 7.5 1.3 18.9
1963–64 Boston 76 26.8 .398 .827 6.1 2.4 16.5
1964–65 Boston 67 25.5 .383 .795 6.0 2.3 13.6
Career 654 29.4 .405 .790 8.8 2.0 18.6


1957 Boston 10 37.0 .390 .710 11.7 2.0 22.9
1958 Boston 11 31.7 .351 .778 10.8 1.6 17.5
1959 Boston 11 31.6 .414 .661 8.9 2.9 19.9
1960 Boston 13 32.5 .419 .750 9.7 2.1 21.8
1961 Boston 10 29.1 .408 .767 9.9 2.0 19.7
1962 Boston 14 31.8 .399 .763 8.2 2.4 20.7
1963 Boston 13 31.8 .456 .765 8.9 1.2 24.7
1964 Boston 10 30.8 .389 .810 8.0 2.6 17.4
1965 Boston 12 23.0 .365 .625 7.0 1.9 12.7
Career 104 31.0 .402 .743 9.2 2.1 19.8

Coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Boston 1969–70 82 34 48 .415 6th in Eastern Missed playoffs
Boston 1970–71 82 44 38 .537 3rd in Eastern Missed playoffs
Boston 1971–72 82 56 26 .683 4th in Eastern 11 5 6 .455 Lost in Conference Finals
Boston 1972–73 82 68 14 .829 1st in Atlantic 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conference Finals
Boston 1973–74 82 56 26 .683 1st in Atlantic 18 12 6 .667 Won NBA Championship
Boston 1974–75 82 60 22 .732 1st in Atlantic 11 6 5 .545 Lost in Conference Finals
Boston 1975–76 82 54 28 .659 1st in Atlantic 18 12 6 .667 Won NBA Championship
Boston 1976–77 82 44 38 .537 2nd in Atlantic 9 5 4 .556 Lost in Conference Semifinals
Boston 1977–78 34 11 23 .324 3rd in Atlantic (released)
Career 690 427 263 .619 80 47 33 .588

See also


  1. ^ Snow, Taylor (November 10, 2020). "Tommy Heinsohn's 65-Year Legacy With Celtics Will Forever Be Unmatched".
  2. ^ a b c Goldstein, Richard (November 10, 2020), "Tom Heinsohn, Champion Celtic as Player and Coach, Is Dead at 86", The New York Times
  3. ^ Bresnahan, Mike (February 16, 2011), "NBA All-Star ultimatum paid off for players", The Los Angeles Times
  4. ^ a b Forsberg, Chris (February 14, 2015). "Tommy pointed to Hall again as coach". ESPN. Retrieved December 11, 2015.
  5. ^ Jason Gay 2016. "Tommy Heinsohn Is Forever Celtic Green," Wall Street Journal, April 10, p. D10.
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Celtics legend Tom Heinsohn, champion as player and coach, dies at 86". The Boston Globe. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "Five Direct-Elect Members Announced for the Class of 2015 by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame" (Press release). Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. February 14, 2015. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015. Retrieved February 14, 2015.

External links

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