In appreciation of Tommy Heinsohn

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In appreciation of Tommy Heinsohn

This afternoon in Houston, the Basketball Hall of Fame announced their 12 finalists for the Class of 2013, and among them was a name that's synonymous with greatness throughout the annals of Celtics history.

Of course, I'm talking about Gary Payton.

Nah. I'm kidding. The Glove is in there, but in this case I'm talking about Tommy Heinsohn. Yes, the same Tommy Heinsohn who was inducted into the Hall as a player back in 1986. And yes, the same Tommy Heinsohn who now has a chance to become only the third person EVER to be bestowed the ultimate basketball honor as both an NBA player AND a head coach.

At this point in time at least by the, let's say, 35-and-under generation Heinsohn's success on the sidelines is probably the most overlooked aspect of his career. Why? Well, it's been a really long career. And there are quite a few aspects. And you know kids today, with their Ataris and color TV . . .

Everyone remembers Tommy Heinsohn: The Player. That's what brought him to Boston to begin with back in 1956. April 30, 1956 was his draft date, to be exact. (For some perspective, that was two weeks after "videotape" was introduced and demonstrated for the first time at the National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters convention in Chicago.) And Tommy was an instant success. He averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds as a rookie, while also making the All-Star Game, winning Rookie of the Year and helping lead the C's to their VERY first NBA title. When he retired in 1965, Heinsohn had won eight titles in nine seasons and finished with career averages of 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. He was recognized for all this in 1986, when he earned his plaque in Springfield.

Everyone remembers Tommy Heinsohn: The Broadcaster, too. We live it every day. That's what keeps Tommy around, and has helped extend his legacy here in Boston for longer than anyone could have dreamed. And I don't say that to suggest that he shouldn't still be here, I'm just saying that it's been 57 years! No one's dreams extend that far. But we're all grateful that Tommy has. At least I am.

But for a nine-year period between The Player and The Broadcaster, there was Tommy Heinsohn: The Coach. From 1969-78, this guy led the Celtics to two more titles (meaning that he's had a heavy hand in 10 of 17). He won 427 games; he won .619 percent of his games. In 1973, he was the NBA Coach of the Year.

To be accurate, there was a brief broadcasting stint right after Heinsohn retired from playing (he did TV play-by-play for the Celtics), but he didn't hit the big time until after coaching.

Anyway, with today's announcement from the Basketball Hall of Fame, Heinsohn's somewhat overlooked coaching career is finally back in focus. And the fact that his nomination puts him on the brink of joining Lenny Wilkens and Bill Sharman as the only dual NBA playerhead coach Hall of Famers, is another reminder of just how legendary of a figure Heinsohn is. Not only in Boston, but in all of basketball.

So, will Heinsohn's name be called again when the official Class of 2013 is announced at the Final Four in Atlanta?

It's hard to say. Even though he's a big name, and won two rings from the bench, the truth is that his resume doesn't hold up all that well when compared to other Hall of Famers.

Today, there are 13 NBA head coaches in the Hall of Fame, and of that crew, 11 have won at least 600 games (Tommy only won 427). The two who didn't are former (obviously) Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla, who won 423 games, but won four titles; and the aforementioned Sharman, who won 466 games and two titles between the NBA and ABA.

As it turns out, Sharman (one of Tommy's former teammates) might be the best argument for why Heinsohn should get in. The numbers are very comparable, and when you consider that Heinsohn did all his damage in the NBA, it has to count for a little more. At the very least, Sharman gives Heinsohn a fighting chance. But in the end, whether he makes it or not, nothing will change how we ultimately remember Tommy Heinsohn.

Either way, it won't be as a coach. It won't be as a player. It won't be as a broadcaster.

It will be as a Celtic.

And something tells me that will be more than enough for Tommy.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

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Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
 
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
 
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
 
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
 
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
 
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
 
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
 
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
 
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
 
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
 
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
 
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
 
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
 
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
 
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
 
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”