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

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.