Hall of Fame Celtics player, coach and broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn died on Tuesday, November 10 at the age of 86. The cause of death was undisclosed.
In an official statement, the Boston Celtics management said, “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.”
Celtics teammate Bill Russell tweeted: “We were rookies together and friends for life. In life there are a limited number of true friends, today I lost one. RIP Heiny.”
Career and Legacy
Heinsohn’s career and legacy will always be associated with the Boston Celtics, where his involvement from player to coach to commentator played a crucial role in all of the celebrated franchise’s 17 NBA championships.
He started his longstanding affiliation with the franchise in the 1956-1957 season when he edged out Bill Russell for the NBA Rookie of the Year award. In Game 7 of the Finals for the same season, Heinsohn finished with 39 points and 23 rebounds to help win the title against the St. Louis Hawks.
During his nine-year playing career (1956-1965), Heinsohn won eight NBA championships and was named an All-Star in his final five seasons. He averaged 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a player. Shortly after his retirement as a player, Heinsohn took on the role of play-by-play commentator for local Boston Celtics game broadcasts.
Head Coach and Broadcaster
In 1969, the Boston Celtics tapped Heinsohn to be head coach, a position he would occupy until 1978. He was named Coach of the Year in 1973 and led the Celtics to two more championship titles in 1974 and 1976. He wrapped up his coaching stint with a 427-263 win-loss record, which is second only to Red Auerbach for most victories in Celtics franchise history.
Heinsohn returned to broadcasting as a color commentator for Celtics television broadcasts in 1981. He was known for his colorful and amusing game analysis, and endeared himself to Boston fans with his candid criticisms against game officials whose calls against the Celtics he perceived to be erroneous. His partnership with play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman would span nearly four decades. Heinsohn also called NCAA basketball games and a few NBA Finals games for CBS from 1984 to 1987.
Heinsohn was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1986, and as a coach in 2015. He was also admitted to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 for his stellar career at the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts.