Sam Jones on Robert Williams, Tom Heinsohn, Wilt Chamberlain, Jalen Rose & more

I interviewed former Celtics great Sam Jones, and the author of his biography, Ten Times a Champion, Mark C. Bodanza, this morning. It was fun, informative and a bit tense on one subject. I loved all of it. All of the blockquotes are from the interview with Sam.

On Robert Williams:
Robert Williams just happened to be the name of Sam's basketball coach in the U. S. Army, but we were discussing the present Celtics rookie. I reminded Sam that he had long ago missed a dinner meeting held by Red Auerbach through no fault of his own, and Williams had missed a conference call and then a flight to Boston. I gave my thoughts on Robert being a good kid with a lot of talent, and Jones was kind in his evaluation of the incidents but gave his (and my) old-school thoughts.

I don't think a kid would over-sleep, not this day and time when you get drafted by a team like the Celtics. I would think you would be on time going to your first time with an organization like the Celtics.

On Tommy Heinsohn:
I brought up that Sam never had the demeaning rookie task of lugging the ball bag, even as a rookie, but Heinsohn had the chore two years in a row. Red was not going to have co-rookie Bill Russell lug the bag in Heinsohn's first season, and the next year, Jones' rookie season, Sam rode with Russ, and Russ would not allow the ball bag in his car. Per Mark Bodanza, Heinsohn remembers it well.

(Sam):I never remember carrying a ball bag. I never heard about the ball bag.
(Mark): I got that straight from Tommy Heinsohn, Tom

I asked if it was true that Heinsohn took a lot of verbal abuse from Red.

I saw a lot of it. I loved it. That means he (Red) kept off my back. That was Red's whipping boy. Better Tommy than me.

On Wilt Chamberlain and the infamous stool incident.
The top photo is courtesy of one of our readers, Frank Gibbons. It represents Jones protecting himself with a stool when an enraged Wilt Chamberlain came at him.

(Sam): Mark showed it to me on the phone.
(Mark): That came from Tom.

Sam was picked up the next day by Wilt and they had dinner together with Wilt's mom. When Wilt's mother asked Sam what he intended to do with that stool, he answered:

I was going to break your son's legs, ma'm. He was trying to kill me.

Wilt and I were always good friends. (But for the next game) He told me not to come into the lane.

On being fined for eating pancakes:
I asked if Sam was fined for eating pancakes. He said he was, and added:

(Red told me) I don't allow anybody to eat pancakes. This was the first time I ever heard this. When Russ and K.C heard this, they cancelled their orders.

On talking to Jalen Rose about his father, Jimmy Walker:

If he wanted to hear more about his (Jalen's) father, I would probably be the best one to speak with. I gave him my phone number, and that's where I left it.

His toughest opponent:

I think my toughest opponent was Oscar Robertson. Much bigger - much stronger - Oscar was a little bit meaner (than Jerry West). One thing I liked about both of them was the will to win.

On his defensive ability:

I prided myself on playing defense. K. C. (Jones) was a little better, and I liked that because he got to play Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

One guy you forgot to mention, and he was one hell of a great defender - Larry Siegfried. He had a great shot. We had some great defensive guards back in those days.

On racism and bigotry:
This where Sam got quite intense. It is obviously a matter very close, and very disturbing, to him. His reference below happened in St. Louis when they tried to order in a restaurant.

The League should have done a lot about bigotry. I found about when we really became a team. That we would support each other. "I'd love to serve you, but if I do, I'm going to get fired" (statement by waiter). We walked out and noticed the whole team was walking out with us. That's when I found that this was a great team to be part of. First of all, you have to walk in my shoes. It's tough being black, even in today's world.

I hold both Sam Jones and author Mark Bodanza in high regard, not just for their accomplishments, but also for the fact that they go about their business quietly with no flash or fanfare. Sam had much to say, and his statements brought me a tiny bit closer to being able to walk in his shoes.

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Photo via Frank Gibbons