Happy Birthday Tommy

Today is Tommy Heinsohn's 76th birthday.  And to honor his day, I thought I'd write a little bit about Tommy and what he means to the Celtics, to the NBA, and to Celtics fans.   In 2009, Tommy was chosen as the first recipient of the NBA's Chuck Daily Lifetime Achievement Award. And no one deserves it more.  

Tommy Heinsohn loves the Celtics and has given most of his life to them in one facet or another as player, a coach and an analyst. He has been with the organization since he was drafted as a regional pick by the Celtics in the 1956 pick and in his rookie season, he helped lead the Celtics to their very first championship. Tommy and Bill Russell came into the league in the same season and along with Russell, Tommy was a big reason for all those titles that were won in the early years. He has been with the Celtics for 54 years.

Since 1981, Tommy Heinsohn has been the color analyst on the Celtics' television broadcasts and like Johnny Most, Heinsohn bleeds green and sees everything through green colored glasses. He is part of a team with Mike Gorman that has been broadcasting Celtics games for 26 years and they make up TV's longest running telecast duo.

Tom Heinsohn is a true representative of Boston Celtics' pride. Known for his hard-nosed style of play, yet possessing a superb shooting touch and good body control, Tom Heinsohn was vital in the Boston Celtics' dynasty of the 1950s and 1960s. Chosen as NBA Rookie of the Year in 1957, he helped the Celtics win eight NBA titles during his nine-year tenure, was named to the All-NBA Second Team for four years, and was an All-Star for six. His number 15 was retired by the Celtics in 1966.

But that isn't the end of Tommy's time with the Celtics. In 1969, three years after Red Auerbach retired, Tom Heinsohn was offered the post of head coach of the Boston Celtics. In what he called "guerrilla warfare," his teams kept the pressure on opponents at all times, controlling the tempo of the game and playing with great intensity.

During Heinsohn's eight full seasons as coach, Boston won five Eastern Division titles in a row, took two NBA Championships and compiled a 416-240 record. Heinsohn was replaced during the 1977-78 season as his veteran team got off to a slow start.

But Tommy still wasn't done with the Celtics. In 1981, the now-retired Heinsohn joined Mike Gorman as color commentator in the Celtics' TV broadcasts; they have since become one of the longest-tenured tandems in sports broadcasting history. Tommy was enshrined in the Hall of Fame on May 6, 1986.

As a broadcaster, Tommy has also made his mark. He has coined the term Tommy Points and every game he gives Tommy Points to players who make hustle plays throughout the game. And, at the end of the game, he gives the player of the game the Tommy Award. Tommy Points have been immortalized in the Urban dictionary with this entry:

An award given to an NBA player, usually a member of the Celtics, by Celtics color commentator Tommy Heinsohn (NBA Rookie of the Year 1956-57 for the Boston Celtics, NBA Hall of Fame Inductee 1986) for a great play that goes up and beyond the call of duty expected of the player. E.g. A steal, a blocked shot or great defensive play, etc.

Tommy's influence on the NBA isn't just with the Celtics. He was also one of the founding members of the NBA Coaches' Association along with Lenny Wilkins, Jack Ramsay and Bill Fitch in 1974. The Association grew from 18 members in 1974 to  over 225 today.

Only two men in this league have more championship rings than Tommy Heinsohn and that is Red Auerbach who was there for every one of the Celtics 17 championships while he was alive and Bill Russell, who has 11 rings as both a player and a coach. Tommy is right behind him with 10 championship rings as a player and coach. I highly the book "Heinsohn, Don't You Ever Smile?" by Tommy Heinsohn.  It gives a very good look behind the scenes into his career as a player and coach.

No one represents the game of basketball in all its facets more than Tommy Heinsohn. And no one deserves a wonderful birthday more than Tommy. Happy 76th Birthday Tommy!   If only the Redhead in Needham could be here to share it with him!