15 years ago today. It was November 19, 1996, around 8:30 AM when a Kentucky police officer approached a 1991 Buick LeSabre, about 32 miles east of Louisville, to find the 6'8 body of Phil Hankinson, dead from a single bullet to his temple with a .22 automatic, that was next to him.
He was several hundred miles away from Great Neck, NY, a posh Long Island town. That's where Phil made his name a long time ago as one of the best players Long Island has ever produced.
He was also several hundred miles from the University of Pennsylvania, where Phil attended college and played under the legendary Chuck Daly. And he was several hundred miles from Boston, where he played for the Celtics, earning a championship ring in 1974.
Everyone who knew Phil talked about what a great person he was. Chuck Daly used to mention how he had "no enemies" and was a joy to coach. Don Chaney, a teammate of Phil remembers Phil going around Boston saying he was Don Chaney (the two looked similar) so the rookie could eat a free meal. Chaney may have been joking but wasn't when he had this to say about Phil:
I thought Phil had a tremendous upside and we all felt he had the look of a Celtic. He played unselfish basketball, played extremely hard and was fundamentally strong. I thought he'd be a career NBA player, without a doubt.
Phil's career was cut-short. After just one season with the Celtics he suffered from a knee injury during the summer league going into his second year. He had gone out to a summer league in LA with his roommate at the time, Paul Westphal. Back in the 1970s pre-microfracture surgery, guys would be hindered much more so. Phil had some other opportunities but if he couldn't be a "world champion Boston Celtic," he didn't want much else.
We all know about Len and Reggie. If you're a frequent visitor of Celticslife than you may have even acclimated yourself with Derek Smith. Maybe the next time you think of Celtics who died too young, Phil Hankinson may cross your mind.