Mike Gorman didn’t know who was calling from a 401 area code early Saturday morning but spying “Springfield, MA” on the caller ID and knowing broadcast buddy Mike Breen was being honored as part of this weekend’s Hall of Fame class, Gorman elected to answer.
It wasn’t the call from the Hall that Gorman was expecting. But it was a Hall call.
The voice on the other end informed Gorman that he was a recipient of the 2021 Curt Gowdy Award and he will be inducted into the media wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame as part of a star-studded 2021 class that also includes one of Gorman’s favorite players in Paul Pierce.
"I was making some coffee and I looked and saw Springfield pop up. You really don’t get a lot of telemarketers calls out of Springfield, Massachusetts,” said Gorman. "Mike Breen is one of my best friends and Mike was going in this weekend and so I knew he was in Springfield, so I said, ‘Well, maybe it’s Mike.’ Hit the button, said hello. Turned out to be the gentlemen who’s in charge of the Hall of Fame and he said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that you’ve been named the recipient of the Gowdy award.’ And I was like, 'I’m alone here, there’s nobody to celebrate with.’”
The 75-year-old Gorman, now in his fourth decade of calling Celtics games, phoned his wife, Teri, who was in Florida on business, and then some of his friends. He waited a little bit before calling his daughter, Kristen, in Scottsdale, Arizona as not to spook anyone with an early-morning call.
He’s still wrapping his mind around the honor.
"There really is a wave of emotions because I grew up listening to Curt Gowdy,” said Gorman. "As a kid, you heard him all the time. Now to be mentioned in the same sentence, that’s kinda scary. I look at the list of people that have won this award before me, my good friend Mike Breen just got it this past year, down the list, Johnny Most, Chick Hearn, you name any of them -- Joe Tait … it’s a long list. The more I could think that somebody wanted to put me in that group, the harder it is to talk about it.”
Gorman became a play-by-play voice of the Celtics by calling home games starting in 1981. Gorman’s broadcasting roots in Providence also led to calling Big East games and he voiced “Big Monday” games for ESPN. But he’s best known as one half of the legendary television duo alongside Tommy Heinsohn for 39 seasons.
“I’m so thrilled for Mike. He has brought so much joy to Celtics fans for so many years, let alone his early stuff with the Big East and calling college games,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "The way that he goes about his work, the way he calls his games, the unbelievable relationship that he had with Tommy for all those years — his ability to truly impact every television set in New England is something that we’re all so appreciative for.”
Gorman considers himself fortunate that Big East basketball found him during his time in Providence and jokes that the Celtics’ success in the 80s went a long way towards him winning over fans.
“You find out early as a broadcaster, if the team was good, you’re probably looked on by people as being pretty good,” said Gorman. “If the team sucks, you suck, too.”
Gorman is smitten to be involved in a Hall class that includes Pierce and Bill Russell. And despite all the words he’s said on air, he’s already studying hard for what he’ll say on his induction night.
“I got home from the game [Saturday], flipped on the TV out of habit when I walked into the door, and there was Breeny giving his acceptance speech,” said Gorman. "I look forward to [the speech], to be honest with you. It’s funny, I spent 39 years talking about what’s going on in front of me, not what’s going on in my head. I decided this year -- Teri said to me, ‘You’re crazy,’ I said, ‘No, it’ll be fine' -- I decided this year that I was going to just say what I think a lot more.
"Then with the passing of Tommy, he would want me to say more. So I say more and this happens. So I should have said more 10 years ago, maybe it would have happened sooner.”
But the notion of Mike Gorman: Hall of Famer hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
“I don’t think they let us in the building [at the Hall of Fame],” quipped Gorman. “But, no, it hasn’t sunk in … I thought this was beyond my reach.”