Tom Heinsohn is an American professional basketball player, coach and broadcaster. He is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players and coaches of all time. Introduced to basketball at an early age, Heinsohn’s talent showed throughout his school and college days. When he was drafted into the ‘Boston Celtics’ team Heinsohn turned out to be the most sensational rookie. Heinsohn and his team ruled the game of basketball. Heinsohn was aggressive and agile in his play. His teammates nicknamed him ‘Tommy Gun’ referring to the number of times that he tossed up the ball in each game. Once he retired from active play Heinsohn moved to broadcasting and coaching. He continues to be an expert commentator and is one of the most recognisable voices. Heinsohn has an artistic side to him when he is not into basketball he works at his easel.
Tom Heinsohn’s professional career started when he was picked up by the ‘Boston Celtics’ in 1956. In his very first year, he was named NBA ‘Rookie of the Year’. His winning streak continued throughout the time he played as starting forward with the ‘Boston Celtics’. In the nine seasons that he played, the team won eight NBA titles. Heinsohn has the unique achievement of playing in six NBA All Star Games. He retired from the game at 30 years of age. In his honour the ‘Boston Celtics’ retired his number 15 jersey in 1965.
Tom Heinsohn’s broadcasting career started in 1966. He had started working for an insurance company when his former coach Red Auerbach suggested him to try sports commentary. He often teamed up in the commentary box with Auerbach.
Heinsohn was coach of the Boston Celtics from 1969 to 1978. He took over from his former teammate Bill Russell. Russell, announced his retirement suddenly and Heinsohn had just a week’s time to prepare to take over the reins of the team.
It was at the same time that one of the star players of the team Sam Jones left. In his first season as a coach two other experienced players left and Heinsohn had the Herculean task of rebuilding a team from scratch. The Boston fans had high expectations and expected the team to win a championship every year.
It was in these circumstances that Tom Heinsohn’s career as a coach began. The first few seasons the team were dismal, the Celtics went down to the bottom of the NBA. Heinsohn had new players to work with he redesigned strategies using the players’ strengths. By his fourth season the Celtics were division champions. In his fifth season they had won the world championship. They won the NBA championship again in 1976.
His coaching career ended only 18 months after winning the championship. It was said that with the ownership of the franchise changing, the team was in a disarray and Coach Heinsohn had lost the will to fight.
Tom Heinsohn joined Mike Gorman as an expert commentator in 1981. The two of them have created history as the longest-running commentator pair in sports broadcasting. He is known for giving out ‘Tommy Points’ to players who hustle. When his wife was sick with cancer he would often refer to her in his commentary saying things like “The Redhead from Needham” wouldn’t like that”.
Tom Heinsohn is a very popular commentator and his take on the game, his vociferous support for the ‘Boston Celtics’ and hearty and fun style has struck a chord with viewers. He has also won three Emmy awards as a broadcaster.
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Awards & Honours
Tom Heinsohn was named ‘Coach of the Year’ in the 1972-73 season. In 1986, he was elected to the ‘Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of fame’. In 1995 he was awarded the ‘Jack McMahon’ award for special contribution to the coaching profession by the ‘National Basketball Coaches Association’.
Family & Personal Life
Tom Heinsohn was born on August 26, 1934, in Jersey City, New Jersey. He studied in St. Paul of the Cross School till fifth grade. His family moved to Union City, New Jersey when he was in the sixth grade. He started attending St. Joseph’s school where he was introduced to basketball.
He was a committed player and spent many hours practicing both in school and at other playgrounds. By the eighth grade he was the highest scorer in his team.
His game continued to shine throughout his high school years. When the time came for him to choose a college he was inundated with offers of scholarships. Among the 40 colleges that offered him a scholarship, he chose to go to Holy Cross College. Worcester, Massachusetts.
At Holy Cross, he became the top scorer of all time. He also excelled in academics and was named in the dean’s list of scholastic excellence in his last four semesters.
Heinsohn was married to Helen J. Weiss till 2008 when she died of cancer. Heinsohn has three children; sons Paul and David, and daughter Donna. His granddaughter Brooke Heinsohn is an upcoming soccer player.
Tom Heinsohn started painting as a kid and later honed his skills by learning from a professional artist during his broadcasting career. He has done numerous art shows over the years.