Friday, January 29, 2010
Who Replaces the Great One?
Passing the Broadcasting Torch -- Who Steps in for Tommy?
This isn't supposed to be an obituary of any sorts. Tommy Heinsohn isn't here today, gone tomorrow. But Mr. Heinsohn is also 75 years old. That, my friends, is the back 9 of life and a fact we can't change. Did you know Chick Hearn broadcasted Laker games until he was 85 years old? So maybe this topic is pre-mature as Tommy is still calling games with clarity, passion and fervor. But some speculate that the use of Donnie Marshall on road games are a sign of things to come.
Tommy Heinsohn is Celtics basketball. Perhaps the only person who did more with the Boston Celtics is Red himself. Unlike some other greats, and this is not a knock against the likes of Russell, Bird, Cousy, etc, Tommy Heinsohn has been affiliated with one basketball franchise since he graduated from Holy Cross in 1956. One team for 50+ years. That's not just dedication to a team, but to the New England community. Basketball legends can get coaching jobs without any coaching credentials. Heinsohn won 2 championships in the 70's as a coach and then was asked to step down midway through the 1977-1978 season, at the age of 44. What I find interesting about that is he didn't take up a new coaching job the next year in somewhere like San Antonio, or Denver. One would think a basketball legend with 2 championship rings would have had offers pouring in to coach another team. No other team affiliations. Bob Cousy played and coached for the Cincinatti Royals. Bill Russell coached the Sacramento Kings and Seattle Supersonics. KC Jones -- the Bullets and Sonics. Heinsohn... One team, one community, one family.
So when Tommy decides to hang his hat, the void will be challenging to fill. The fact is -- no matter who they bring in -- no one will replace Tommy. Nevertheless, the day will come and this piece will be a speculation of who could take the reigns. Here is a list of 8 candidates. One person mentioned Antoine Walker to me, but I won't even dignify a response. Although, he could probably use the job. Let's assume Tommy continues to call games for the next 3 years, finishing in 2013.
Not in any particular order:
Donnie Marshall -- Marshall gets a bad rap. People hate him (not everyone) - but everytime I've heard him, he seems reasonable. And fans like to focus in on one or two statements that might criticize Celtics play (as though that is taboo - like they never deserve criticism.) Marshall can't win. If he plays it objectively, people will whine because he's crapping on the C's when they deserve it. If he plays the homer card, people will get all pissy and call him a fraud. And he's following the footsteps of the legendary Celtics stateman, Mr Heinsohn. The bottom line is he appears to be getting groomed for the gig by doing road games. He doesn't carry the clout as others on the list, nor does he exude the same Celtics "passion" that Heinsohn has -- and many fans want that - but Marshall does good color -- and is refreshing to some who want an objective commentary on the game - god forbid people want someone to tell it like it is. I don't think Marshall gets the gig -- or at least I'd be surprised if he did. Think about it -- Jerry Remy, Derek Sanderson, Heinsohn, Maxwell, Gino Cappiletti -- they all carried weight. True that Andy Brickley and Bob Beers are doing color commentary for the B's -- and their careers are the hockey version of Marshall -- but at least they played for the Bs. Marshall never played for the C's. If Marshall does get the gig -- then it will be based totally on merit.
Cedric Maxwell -- An obvious candidate who would need to transition from radio to television, but that is probably something that can be done with relative ease. He has good chemistry with Sean Grande who could be the heir apparent to Mike Gorman when he decides to hang it up -- Gorman is 63 yrs old. A package deal might make it easier for Maxwell. Regardless, he possesses all those traits that fans want. He has great history with the Celtics, some sour, but most great. He is loyal to the C's and you can hear it on his commentaries, especially during the championship run in 2008. And lastly, Max has personality. He's colorful, funny, and clever, which sometimes can get him in trouble, but for the most part is entertaining.
Bill Walton -- Bill Walton has retired of broadcasting after 19 years. While he may be capable and always seems to associate himself with the Celtics, and believe me, he was a big part of the 1986 team. But he was here for what? 2 years? maybe 3? And he only played that one year really. And while he was important to the 1986 team, they were already great. Walton has a good personality, is a true professor of the game, and has a fond-ness for Celtics basketball. But there's a few things in his way -- for starters, he's retired -- from broadcasting. As much as we think the basketball universe spins on the Celtics axis, get over it. Walton probably considers John Wooden every bit the legend that we do Red. DSo this isn't a dream job for everyone. Some people may even prefer national coverage. And secondly, he's a West Coast guy -- moving to the East Coast may not be in the cards for a 57 year old hall of famer who has nothing to prove and just wants to listen to the Grateful Dead.
Kevin McHale -- McHale could have the job whenever Heinsohn was ready to step down. It may be a bit of a struggle if Maxwell wanted TV, but McHale has the same traits as Maxwell - great history, will always be recognized as a Celtic, and has a good personality for the gig. The bigger question comes down to whether or not he wants to get back into management or front office work, and if he prefers to go National which he's doing now, and if he wants to be back living in this area.
Dave Cowens -- His name is not often associated with broadcasting. And that's because he's never done it. Cowens has been more involved on the coaching side of basketball. He's remained involved in basketball over the years as a head coach, assistant coach, and is currently a special assistant to the Pistons President of Basketball Operation, Joe Dumars, whatever that means. Cowens is 62 yrs old. He hasn't been a head coach since 2001, and I'm not sure if he's looking to get into a front office job or if he's just tinkering around with this "Special Assistant" gig. Cowens hasn't been associated with Celtics basketball since 1980. But any player whose number hangs in the rafter always keeps his clout. Not sure if he has the charisma for the job, but Cowens has some unique stories about him. My favorite one is the story of him taking a leave of absence during the early part of the 1977 regular season and took a job as a cab driver to prevent basketball burnout. Anyone with that kind of stuff in him could probably entertain us over 82 regular season games.
Doc Rivers -- You might be scoffing at the notion, right? I mean Doc is only in his late 40's and could be coaching well beyond 2013 -- However, when these big 3 go, it'll be a very different Celtics team than we see now. How long before the Celtics decide it's time for a change? And could this be an opportunity for Doc to settle down, fade affectionately into a cushy gig calling games with very strong job security? Doc's in his 6th season as a Celtic coach. In the Celtics' 63 year history, he already has the 3rd longest tenure of any Celtic coach, behind only Red and Tommy Heinsohn. If he were to continue as the team's coach through 2013, he'd tie Heinsohn for 2nd. That's pretty good company. Doc was a former broadcaster nationally, but if he can put up another banner with this team he has, and this year may be the last chance to do so, Doc will become an adopted Celtic, if he isn't already. Doc has the pedigree of a player, the understanding of a coach, and the respect of Celtic nation.
Who Do I Want To See?
Mchale - having him and Maxwell doing color could provide very entertaining cross-over as stories would come out as they would psuedo working together
Who Do I Think Should Get It?
Max and Grande -- if they want to transition to telvision
Enjoy Heinsohn now, because time passes before we know it.