Celtics Forgotten 50: Part 2 — Behind the Dynasty
The ultimate game-changer for the Celtics was Red Auerbach, whose leadership and coaching acumen transformed the Celtics into a basketball powerhouse. Having failed to make the playoffs in the franchise’s first four years, Auerbach took over in Year 5. The Celtics franchise — and the NBA as a league for that matter — was never the same.
His arrival ushered in a 16-year stretch in which the Celtics made the postseason each year while he was the team's coach/GM, and would be the last team standing when the season ended by claiming an astounding 11 NBA titles within a 13-year window.
No team from the four major professional sports has ever been that dominant.
Of course, bringing in great players was a key to the team’s unprecedented run of success. But you don’t build a dynasty of that magnitude without contributions coming from a talented supporting cast whose behind-the-scenes impact proved vital to the franchise’s evolution, even if they were often overlooked for the role they played in the team's growth.
14. Jim Loscutoff
For years, the Boston Celtics have honored their best by having their jersey numbers retired after their playing days were over. That’s exactly what they wanted to do for Jim Loscutoff, a gritty, physical forward whose selfless play factored into Boston winning seven NBA titles during an eight-year stretch in the 1960s.
But Loscutoff, better known at the time as “Jungle Jim” or “Loscy,” preferred the Celtics not retire his jersey number so that another player could wear it someday. So the Celtics instead hung a jersey with his nickname “Loscy” on it, high atop the rafters at the Garden.
Loscutoff wore jersey No. 18 and it soon found its way up the rafters after being worn by future Hall of Famer Dave Cowens.
15. Don Chaney
When you think about the Boston Celtics and greatness, Bill Russell and Larry Bird are often the first names that come to mind.
There was only one man whose time in Boston overlapped with both larger-than-life Celtic legends — Don Chaney.
The 6-foot-5 Chaney was a rookie during Russell’s final season (1968-1969) in Boston, appearing in 20 games while averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. And in Chaney’s final NBA season (1979-1980), he was on the Celtics roster with then-rookie star Larry Bird.
In between Chaney’s 10 seasons in Boston (1968-1975; 1977-1980), he spent time with the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis (1975-1976) team and the Los Angeles Lakers (1976-1978) before the Lakers traded him back to Boston in December of 1977 as part of a deal that sent Charlie Scott to Los Angeles.
16. Arnie Risen
Arnie Risen (pictured, left) was nearing the end of his pro career, but still had enough in the tank to be a starting center for a talented Boston Celtics team in 1956.
But that all changed when the Olympics that year had ended, and Boston was getting a late addition to the lineup.
His name was Bill Russell.
Risen, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, would become a vital backup to Russell in helping Boston to win the first of 11 NBA titles in a 13-year span.
17. Mal Graham
Mal Graham didn’t put up gaudy stats during his two seasons with the Boston Celtics, but the 6-foot-1 guard delivered a huge assist in helping Boston land one of the franchise’s all-time great players. After his days as a Celtics player ended in 1969, Graham (back row, far right) was hired as the team's chief scout.
With Boston holding the fourth overall pick in the 1970 draft, there was a clear need for the C's to add an impact player in the frontcourt. Bob Lanier of St. Bonaventure was everyone’s top pick, so the Celtics would have had to trade up to land him. Sam Lacey, a 6-foot-10 center, had just led New Mexico State on an improbable Final Four run in 1970. Michigan’s Rudy Tomjanovich was another highly-regarded frontcourt player.
Meanwhile, Graham was urging the C's to draft an undersized center from a relatively unknown school in the south when it came to basketball. That player was Florida State’s Dave Cowens, who would go on to have a Hall of Fame career while helping lead the Celtics to a pair (1974 and 1976) of NBA titles.
Graham is now a retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
18. Gene Guarilia
A 6-foot-5 forward, Gene Guarilia (back row, left, #20) was good enough to help the Boston Celtics in a pinch, but not good enough to secure a steady roster spot when the playoffs rolled around.
Guarilia got his shot at playing meaningful minutes in Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals in limiting Lakers star Elgin Baylor down the stretch in regulation which was a key to Boston closing out the game — and the series — in overtime for the franchise’s fifth NBA title.
19. Steve Kuberski
It’s easy to forget that there was a Boston Celtics player who wore jersey No. 33 before Larry Bird.
He just wasn’t as good.
But that doesn’t mean Steve Kuberski wasn’t a player who made a difference, albeit much smaller, for the Celtics.
The Moline, Ill., native was not on the Celtics’ radar until former Celtic Don Nelson told them that they should keep an eye on him after the two played at a local YMCA in Moline.
Kuberski was selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 1969 NBA draft. That is where he spent the bulk of his nine NBA seasons which included winning a pair of NBA titles (1974 and 1976).
20. Bill Dinwiddie
Bob Cousy will always be thought of as a Boston Celtic. But there was a time — seven games, actually — when the iconic Celtic played for another team after he was “traded” to the Cincinnati Royals for Bill Dinwiddie.
The Royals convinced Cousy to come out of retirement and coach their team. When they continued to struggle, they thought a 41-year-old Cousy on the floor would at least generate attention for the fledgling team. But before he could play for them, he would have to be “traded” to the Royals and in return, Boston wound up with Dinwiddie.
The 6-foot-7 Dinwiddie (pictured, #18 on left) was a rotation player who saw limited action both before and during his time in Boston. With the Celtics, he averaged 11.8 minutes per game while averaging 4.9 points and 3.4 rebounds.
The 1970-1971 season would be Dinwiddie's only time in Boston. He was traded to Milwaukee prior to the 1971-1972 season for a sixth round pick which was used to select Wally Wright.
21. Bob Brannum
It didn’t take long for Bob Cousy to distinguish himself as one of the NBA’s best players, which means taking him out of his game became a focus of most opponents.
Some went so far as to try and be overly physical with the 6-foot-1 guard, only to learn the hard way that Bob Brannum (pictured, middle) was not having any of that … ever.
“Bob Brannum was my bodyguard on the court,” Cousy said in a 2004 interview with Celtic Nation. “He was (6-foot-5) and built like a bulldog. Teams learned pretty quickly not to pick on the 5-11 skinny kid from Holy Cross. It was a great luxury to have Bob on the team, and to have him playing the role of protector. It definitely made my job a lot easier.”
Brannum retired following the 1955 season and would go into coaching with a number of stops, including Brandeis University where he won a school-record 204 games.
22. Frank Ramsey
The Boston Celtics have been on the cutting edge of innovation when it has come to the NBA and the use of players.
Nowhere was this more apparent than the way in which the Celtics utilized Frank Ramsey, the first in what would be a long line of great sixth men to don the Green and White. Ramsey spent his rookie season with the Celtics before spending the following year in the military.
Upon his return, he became a key reserve in Boston, winning seven titles during the following eight seasons. His 13.4 points per game career average may not seem that impressive, until you realize he put up those numbers at a time when the league scoring was much lower than it is now, and he did so with a roster that had other future Hall of Famers.
23. Emmette Bryant
The NBA career of Emmette Bryant was a relatively nondescript one in which he averaged 6.6 points, 3.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 566 games.
But the speedy 6-foot-1 guard stepped up in the most important game of the Celtics’ season in 1969 — Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
John Havlicek (26 points) and Sam Jones (24 points) were up to their high-scoring ways, and Bill Russell had yet another dominant performance on the glass (21 rebounds).
But it was Bryant who proved to be the wild card in that Game 7 by scoring 20 points — the most he had scored in any game, regular season or playoffs, that season.
24. Willie Naulls
The plan for Willie Naulls when he arrived in Boston in 1963 was to do his part in helping the Celtics continue on its championship-winning ways. The 6-foot-6 forward did just that with NBA titles coming Boston’s way in each of the three seasons he was on the roster.
But Naulls’ lasting legacy in Boston — and the NBA for that matter — goes far beyond points, rebounds and assists.
On Dec. 19, 1964, Naulls made history when he filled in for Tommy Heinsohn which created the first all-Black starting five in the NBA with Naulls joining a starting lineup that included Satch Sanders, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones and Bill Russell.
Naulls spent 11 seasons in the NBA which included four All-Star selections (1958, 1960-1962) with all coming with the New York Knicks.
25. Glenn McDonald
A common basketball adage you hear players say frequently goes something like this: if you stay ready, you never have to get ready.
That is very much the Glenn McDonald story in Boston.
McDonald was a seldom-used reserve for the Celtics who came up big in what was arguably the greatest playoff game in NBA history — Boston’s 128-126 triple overtime Game 5 win over Phoenix in the 1976 NBA Finals.
McDonald, a career 4.2 points per game scorer in his three NBA seasons, scored six points in the third overtime helping Boston get the win that set the stage for them to close out the series in six games and claim the franchise’s 13th NBA title and second in three seasons.
26. Rickey Brown
In 1980, the Boston Celtics shipped out the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 13 pick to Golden State in exchange for Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick (Kevin McHale), which is one of the most memorable trades in Celtics history.
So, whatever happened to the guy taken with the 13th overall pick that year?
That would be 6-10 center Rickey Brown from Mississippi State who went on to have six rather uneventful seasons in the NBA while never averaging more than 5.7 points in a given season.
While he was by no means a central figure in the trade, Brown is still very much a part of what’s widely considered one of the more lopsided trades in NBA history.
27. Gerald Henderson
Gerald Henderson spent 13 seasons in the NBA, but they paled in comparison to the 1983-1984 season in Boston.
Henderson, who started a career-high 78 games that season while averaging a then-career high 11.6 points per game, delivered one of the more memorable plays in franchise history with a game-changing steal in the closing seconds of Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals at the Boston Garden against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Michael Cooper’s pass to James Worthy was intercepted by Henderson, who drove into the lane for a game-tying lay-up with 13 seconds to play. The Celtics would go on to win that game 124-121 in overtime, and eventually bring home their 15th NBA title by eliminating the Lakers in seven games.
28. Wayne Embry
Wayne Embry had a good NBA career, but was ready to move on in 1966 after securing a job with Pepsi that paid more than he was making with the Cincinnati Royals. But then a conversation with Boston Celtics player/coach Bill Russell and time spent around Red Auerbach changed everything.
Not only did Embry (back row, #28) sign with the Celtics and help them win an NBA title in 1968, but Embry’s time in Boston also set in motion his post-NBA career as a league executive.
Embry became the first African-American GM and/or team President in NBA history after serving in one of those capacities with the Milwaukee Bucks (1972-1979), Cleveland Cavaliers (1986-1999) and the Toronto Raptors (2006).
Embry, a five-time All-Star as a player, was also named the NBA’s Executive of the Year twice (1992 and 1998) — one of 12 men so honored.
29. Rick Carlisle
History has shown that the Boston Celtics produced some pretty good coaches from the 1980s, standouts on the floor who went on to become standout coaches, too.
But Rick Carlisle is the exception.
Regarded as one of the better coaches in the NBA right now, Carlisle saw limited time during his three seasons in Boston. He was indeed a role player who beat some pretty hefty odds just to make the team as a third round draft pick in 1984.
A career 2.2 points per game scorer, Carlisle would go on to win an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks (2011) with an overall coaching record of 791-654. His 791 wins rank 16th all-time among regular season wins among NBA coaches.
30. Rick Robey
Rick Robey was part of the 1981 Boston Celtics squad that won the franchise’s 14th NBA title, averaging 9.0 points and 4.8 rebounds that season.
But the former All-American from Kentucky’s impact was greatest for Boston on his way out the door.
A 6-foot-11 center, Robey was part of a trade package in 1983 for Phoenix's Dennis Johnson who, similar to his time in Seattle, had clashed with the coaching staff and was on the trading block despite being one of the top guards in the NBA.
Johnson became a Celtic icon for his elite-level defense while helping Boston win a pair of NBA titles (1984 and 1986) while Robey spent three lackluster seasons with the Suns before retiring after the 1986 season.
31. Ed Macauley
Ed Macauley (pictured, right) was a standout player during his time in Boston and the NBA as a whole.
But he’s most remembered for his exit from Boston via trade which paved the way for the Celtics to acquire the draft rights to the legendary Bill Russell.
A 7-time All-Star, who at 32 years of age was the youngest ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Macauley’s impact on the Celtics was great — not only for what he did as a player but also for what his departure netted Boston afterwards.
32. Hank Finkel
The good news for Hank Finkel in the summer of 1969 was that he was being traded to the Boston Celtics.
The bad news? He would be replacing the legendary Bill Russell as the team’s starting center.
“Nobody could take Russell’s place,” Finkel, 77, said in a phone interview with NBC Sports Boston. “That was absurd.”
The 7-foot Finkel was a solid performer for the Celtics, but he wasn’t Russell in terms of play or impact on winning (Boston failed to make the playoffs that year).
But Finkel fell into a reserve role the following year with the arrival of Dave Cowens, and was a member of the Celtics’ championship team in 1974.
33. Terry Duerod
If you didn’t know better, the chants of “Doooo” for Terry Duerod might be confused with boos when he was ready to enter games.
The 6-foot-2 guard from Detroit saw limited playing time during his time in Boston, but became a fan favorite courtesy of his 12th man status.
Often his insertion into a game was the unofficial waving of the white flag that this particular game was a wrap.
Duerod would wind up playing a total of three-plus NBA seasons which included him being part of Boston’s 1981 championship team.
34. Bill Fitch
Before Doc Rivers and the 2008 Big Three took the Celtics from the outhouse (24 wins in 2007) to the penthouse (Banner 18) in just a few short months, there was Bill Fitch’s impressive worst-to-first run in 1980.
Of course it helped having a rookie named Larry Bird, too. But building bad teams into contenders was a Fitch specialty, something he did that year as Boston won 61 games after having won 23 the season prior to that.
It landed him a second NBA Coach of the Year Award for Fitch whose 1,044 career wins — 242 in Boston — rank 10th on the league’s all-time list of coaching victories.
35. Greg Kite
Greg Kite was a reliable big man who spent the bulk of his time in Boston playing behind Celtics center and future Hall of Famer Robert Parish.
But to Kite’s credit, he was indeed ready when called upon.
With Parish in foul trouble and Bill Walton struggling physically, Kite stepped up to play strong defense against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game 3 of the 1987 NBA Finals.
Boston didn’t win that series, but Kite was part of a pair of NBA title teams (1984 and 1986) with the Celtics.
36. Scott Wedman
The lineup for the Boston Celtics in the mid-1980s was full of elite, Hall-of-Fame bound talent.
But there were some critical role players as well, with Scott Wedman being among the best.
He was a player who had shown himself capable of doing much more than he was asked to do for Boston.
A double-digit scorer in each of his nine seasons prior to arriving in Boston, he never averaged more than eight points as a Celtic. But his play off the bench was important during his five seasons in Boston, two of which (1984 and 1986) ended with NBA championships.
37. Jerry Sichting
The Boston Celtics have made a habit out of adding talent at the last minute that puts them over the top.
That was indeed the case prior to the start of the 1985 season when the Celtics traded for Jerry Sichting. The 6-foot-1 guard had spent the previous five seasons with the Indiana Pacers.
With the Celtics, he became a key role player off the bench in helping Boston come away with an NBA title in 1986.
38. Clyde Lovellette
One of the college game’s most dominant players while at Kansas, Lovellette was a game-changer of sorts for future big men in the NBA.
A 6-foot-9 center in college, Lovellette expanded his range in the NBA, allowing him to play multiple frontcourt positions which proved to be quite challenging for opposing defenses.
A three-time All-Star, Lovellette won two of his three NBA titles (1963 and 1964 in Boston, 1954 with the Minneapolis Lakers) and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1988.