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Tom Heinsohn
Tom Heinsohn
Heinsohn during the Celtics' championship parade in June 2008.
No. 15
Position: Power Forward / Small Forward
League: NBA
Personal information
Full name: Thomas William Heinsohn
Born: August 26, 1934
Jersey City, New Jersey
Died: November 9, 2020 (aged 86)
Newton, Massachusetts
Nationality: Flag of the United States American
Physical stats
Listed height: 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight: 218 lbs (99 kg)
Career information
High school: Saint Michael's
(Union City, New Jersey)
College: Holy Cross (19531956)
NBA Draft: 1956 / Pick: Territorial Pick
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Playing career: 19561965 (9 years)
Coaching career: 19691978 (9 years)
Best record: 68–14 (.829) (1972–73)
Career history
As player:
19561965 Boston Celtics
As coach:
19691978 Boston Celtics (Head coach)
Career highlights and awards
As player:
As coach:
NBA career statistics
Points: 12,194 (18.6 PPG)
Rebounds: 5,749 (8.8 RPG)
Assists: 1,318 (2.0 APG)
Career coaching record
NBA: 427–263 (.619)
Stats at
Stats at Basketball–
Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted in 1986)
Coach Hall of Fame (inducted in 2015)
College Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted in 2006)

Thomas William "Tom" Heinsohn (August 26, 1934 – November 9, 2020) was an American professional basketball, coach, and broadcaster. He was associated with the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for six decades as a player, coach, and broadcaster. He played for the Celtics from 1956 to 1965 (winning eight NBA championships), and also coached the team from 1969 to 1978 and won two more championships. He spent over 30 years as the color commentator for the Celtics' local broadcasts alongside play–by–play commentator Mike Gorman. He is regarded as one of the most iconic Celtics figures in the franchise's history, known during his lifetime for his charisma and loyalty to the team and its traditions. From this, he earned the nickname "Mr. Celtic".

Heinsohn was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions as a player. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for his success as a head coach. He also helped form the NBA Players Association. Heinsohn was the only person to have the distinction of being involved in an official team capacity in each of the Celtics' first 17 championships, as well as each of their first 21 NBA Finals appearances.

Early life[]

Heinsohn was born on August 26, 1934, in Jersey City, New Jersey. He moved while in elementary school to Union City, New Jersey, where he was a standout at St. Michael's High School.

College career[]

Heinsohn accepted a scholarship to Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and became the school's all–time leading scorer with 1,789 points, an average of 22.1 points per game. During his senior year, Heinsohn scored a school–record 51 points in a game against Boston College, and averaged 27.4 points per game and 21.1 rebounds per game for the season.

Professional career[]

Boston Celtics (1956–1965)[]

Tom Heinsohn Celtics Warriors

Heinsohn during a game against the Philadelphia Warriors circa 1962.

In 1956, Heinsohn was chosen as the Boston Celtics 'regional', or 'territorial', draft pick. In his first season, Heinsohn played in the NBA All–Star Game and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year over teammate Bill Russell, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry Lucas as the only four territorial picks to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Heinsohn finished his rookie season by winning his first championship ring, scoring 37 points and grabbing 23 rebounds in the double–overtime 7th game of the NBA Finals. His 37 point game was later tied with LeBron James of the Miami Heat against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 Finals for the record of most points scored in a Game 7 Finals win.

Heinsohn was part of a Celtics squad that won eight NBA titles in nine years, including seven in a row between 1959 and 1965. In NBA history, only teammates Russell and Sam Jones won more championship rings during their playing careers, and Heinsohn's streak of going to the NBA Finals each season of his nine–year career is unmatched. Heinsohn was also the first player in NBA history to score at least 1,000 points in the NBA Finals. Heinsohn retired after nine seasons due to a foot injury.

During his playing career, Heinsohn was named to six All–Star teams. On the day that his teammate and fellow Holy Cross Crusader Bob Cousy retired, Heinsohn scored his 10,000th career point. His number 15 was retired by the Celtics in 1966.

Off the court, Heinsohn played an important leadership role in the NBA Players Association. He was the association's second president (following teammate and founding president Bob Cousy), and was instrumental in the league's acceptance of a pension plan for players following a showdown at the All–Star Game in 1964, in which the All–Star players, led by Heinsohn, threatened to strike.

Coaching career[]

Boston Celtics (1969–1978)[]

Tom Heinsohn press photo 1970

Heinsohn in 1970.

Heinsohn became the Celtics' head coach beginning in the 1969–70 season, following Bill Russell's retirement as both player and coach. Initially, the team missed Russell's impact, and the Celtics struggled in both 1969–70 and 1970–71, failing to reach the playoffs in both seasons.

The team broke through the following season, making the Conference Finals. Heinsohn then led the team to a league–best 68–14 record during the 1972–73 season and was named Coach of the Year, although Boston was upset in the playoffs in seven games by the eventual champion New York Knicks. To date, this is the best regular season record in Celtics history.

The next season Heinsohn and the Celtics won the championship, and they claimed another title in 1976. Between the 1971–72 and 1975–76 seasons, the Celtics would win at least 50 games a season. The team would take a step back in the 1976–77 season, finishing 44–38, and was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in seven games to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Celtics started poorly in the 1977–78 season, and were 11–23 after a loss to the Chicago Bulls in late December. Heinsohn would leave the team shortly thereafter, replaced by his former teammate and coaching assistant Tom "Satch" Sanders. He accumulated a career coaching record of 427–263.

Tom heinsohn press photo 1975

Heisohn as the Celtics' head coach in 1975.

On February 14, 2015, it was announced that Heinsohn would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame for a second time as a coaching inductee. He is one of the five members of the class of 2015 who were directly elected and is just one of the four people to be inducted as both a player and coach.

Broadcasting career[]

Heinsohn's broadcasting career began in 1966, calling play–by–play for WKBG's Celtics broadcasts, after being asked by Red Auerbach. He spent three seasons in this role before becoming coach in 1969. From 1990 to 1999, Heinsohn was the Celtics' road play–by–play man on WFXT, WSBK, and WABU. In 1981, Heinsohn joined Mike Gorman as color commentator on PRISM New England, which held the Celtics' television broadcasts. They became one of the longest–tenured tandems in sports broadcasting history. Occasionally, Bob Cousy made appearances with the tandem of Heinsohn and Gorman. On Celtics broadcasts, Heinsohn liked to point out players who displayed extra hustle to help the team by giving them "Tommy Points". One player in each game had exceptional play and hustle highlighted for the "Tommy Award". During broadcasts he was known for his sense of humor and indignantly questioning game officials when he felt calls against the Celtics were made in error.

For a time in the 1980s, Heinsohn was in the same capacity during CBS's playoff coverage of the NBA (with Dick Stockton), calling four Finals from 1984 to 1987, three of which involved the Boston Celtics against the Los Angeles Lakers. Heinsohn also teamed with Brent Musburger, Verne Lundquist, and James Brown during his time with CBS. Heinsohn also called NCAA college basketball during the Men's Tournaments starting with the 1986–87 season, later devoting more time to calling college games for CBS than the pros, being used for regular season as well as tournament games until the 1990 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. For NCAA games, Heinsohn was typically paired with Verne Lundquist. After the 1987 NBA season, Heinsohn was moved from the primary color analyst role to second on the network's depth chart, being paired with Brent Musburger for the 1987–88 season, calling solely playoff games. Heinsohn in the 1988–89 season again only called playoff games, paired with Verne Lundquist. In his final season, Heinsohn called a regular–season game for CBS as well as early–round 1990 NBA Playoff games with James Brown.

Personal life and later career[]

Heinsohn was married to Diane Regenhard. Their marriage ended in divorce. Tom and Diane Heinsohn had three children: Paul, David, and Donna. He had five grandchildren: Danielle, Victoria, Brooke, Adrian, and Christopher. Heinsohn's second wife was Helen Weiss, who died in 2008.

Away from the court, Heinsohn enjoyed painting and playing golf; he once headed a life insurance company. In 1988, he wrote a memoir titled "Give 'em the Hook", with writer Joe Fitzgerald.


Heinsohn died at his home from kidney failure on November 9, 2020, at the age of 86.

NBA career statistics[]

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
 †  Won an NBA championship

Regular season[]

1956–57 Boston 72 29.9 .397 .790 9.8 1.6 16.2
1957–58 Boston 69 32.0 .382 .746 10.2 1.8 17.8
1958–59 Boston 66 31.7 .390 .798 9.7 2.5 18.8
1959–60 Boston 75 32.3 .423 .733 10.6 2.3 21.7
1960–61 Boston 74 30.5 .400 .767 9.9 1.9 21.3
1961–62 Boston 79 30.2 .429 .819 9.5 2.1 22.1
1962–63 Boston 76 26.4 .423 .835 7.5 1.3 18.9
1963–64 Boston 76 26.8 .398 .827 6.1 2.4 16.5
1964–65 Boston 67 25.5 .383 .795 6.0 2.3 13.6
Career 654 29.4 .405 .790 8.8 2.0 18.6


1957 Boston 10 37.0 .390 .710 11.7 2.0 22.9
1958 Boston 11 31.7 .351 .778 10.8 1.6 17.5
1959 Boston 11 31.6 .414 .661 8.9 2.9 19.9
1960 Boston 13 32.5 .419 .750 9.7 2.1 21.8
1961 Boston 10 29.1 .408 .767 9.9 2.0 19.7
1962 Boston 14 31.8 .399 .763 8.2 2.4 20.7
1963 Boston 13 31.8 .456 .765 8.9 1.2 24.7
1964 Boston 10 30.8 .389 .810 8.0 2.6 17.4
1965 Boston 12 23.0 .365 .625 7.0 1.9 12.7
Career 104 31.0 .402 .743 9.2 2.1 19.8

Coaching record[]

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Boston 1969–70 82 34 48 .415 6th in Eastern Missed Playoffs
Boston 1970–71 82 44 38 .537 3rd in Eastern Missed Playoffs
Boston 1971–72 82 56 26 .683 4th in Eastern 11 5 6 .455 Lost in Conference Finals
Boston 1972–73 82 68 14 .829 1st in Atlantic 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conference Finals
Boston 1973–74 82 56 26 .683 1st in Atlantic 18 12 6 .667 Won NBA Championship
Boston 1974–75 82 60 22 .732 1st in Atlantic 11 6 5 .545 Lost in Conference Finals
Boston 1975–76 82 54 28 .659 1st in Atlantic 18 12 6 .667 Won NBA Championship
Boston 1976–77 82 44 38 .537 2nd in Atlantic 9 5 4 .556 Lost in Conference Semifinals
Boston 1977–78 34 11 23 .324 3rd in Atlantic (released)
Career 690 427 263 .619 80 47 33 .588

Awards and honors[]


The number–15 jersey was retired by the Celtics in 1966.

See also[]