Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy believes Tommy Heinsohn is well deserving of the Mr. Celtic title.
"I think Tommy symbolizes, more than any other Celtic that has come through this thing since 1950, the Celtics dynasty,” the 92-year-old Cousy said Tuesday during a phone conversation from his Worcester home while reflecting on Heinsohn, who passed away Monday at the age of 86.
Heinsohn loved to tell the story of how Cousy, a fellow Holy Cross product, encouraged him to meet with Red Auerbach after Heinsohn was selected as a territorial pick in 1956. Heinsohn initially believed Auerbach didn’t want him and considered an opportunity to play in Peoria, Illinois.
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Instead, with Cousy’s encouragement, Heinsohn joined the Celtics the same year the team drafted Bill Russell and a dynasty was born. And it’s impossible to imagine the Celtics without Heinsohn given that he’s been a part of the team’s 17 titles in one form or another.
Cousy and Heinsohn both lived in Worcester early in their playing days and often commuted into Boston together. Later, they were broadcast partners with Cousy joking that Heinsohn kept him on his toes with his unpredictability during broadcasts.
But they developed a bond through the years together.
"I couldn't think of a better guy to go out and have a few beers with,” said Cousy. “Tommy was good company. He was a man's man. And he was multi-faceted, as we all know. A Hall of Fame basketball player, a decent coach with two championships, and then forever and ever telling New England fans about the greatest thing in sports was the Boston Celtics.
"I was told recently by someone that when Buster Sheary, my old coach at Holy Cross, recruited Tommy, he wasn't sure he wanted a liberal arts education. [Heinsohn] was interested in studying medicine so, who knows, he might have gone on to be a world-renowned surgeon. Tommy had a lot of talents, a lot of skills, and very personable. People liked being around Tommy.”
Cousy is also certain that Heinsohn was wildly underrated as a player, in part because of having to share the spotlight in Boston.
"He had the misfortune of playing behind a couple of showoffs named Russell and Cousy,” Cousy said with a laugh.
"I've said over the years, I think Tommy was perhaps the most underrated power forward that ever played in the NBA. I mean, for those fools to not nominate him when they chose the top 50 [players of all-time]. That was a total injustice in my mind.”