As we plunge into the off season, there isn't a lot of Celtics news and probably won't be until after the playoffs are over. Then we will get into the draft, summer league, and free agency. But for now, there is plenty of time to settle in with a good book and I'd like to recommend some that I have read and enjoyed.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY by Red Auerbach and John Feinstein, Little, Brown and Company; 2004.
In more than 50 years with the green and gold, Auerbach collected countless friends, admirers and stories. Now 86, he’s forgotten nothing and has an opinion on everything. These great storytellers make this book so effortless to read that you can almost hear Red reciting each line and smell him lighting up that famous cigar.
DYNASTY’S END – Bill Russell and the 1968-69 World Champion Boston Celtics by Thomas J. Whelan, Northeastern University Press; 2004.
Thomas J. Whalen chronicles Russell's memorable last season and the Celtics' dazzling triumph. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous 1960s and Boston's own turbulent and bitter struggles with race, he tells the fascinating story of how an improbable championship team overcame poor health, indifferent fans, disruptive personnel changes, and internal morale problems. Whalen recounts how Russell transformed the game of basketball during his remarkable career and revisits the outspoken superstar's conflicted relationship with Boston. He also tells why the Celtics, the first team to break several NBA color lines, failed to attract a loyal following among the city's largely white sports fanatics and press corps
SECOND WIND (The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man) by Bill Russell and Taylor Branch, Random House; 1979.
Bill Russell takes you back to his childhood and guides you through all of the influences in his life that molded his opinions and persona. He takes you though the pains of racism and his struggles to find himself both in and outside of basketball. The path he takes from rural, segregated Louisiana to media superstar is a very fascinating read. Along with his personal struggles and victories, he gives you some keen insights into his Celtics teammates and the camaraderie that they shared. Bill Russell like you have never seen him before. I just finished this book and have to say it is definitely worth the read.
BIRD WATCHING, On Playing and Coaching The Game I Love by Larry Bird with Jackie MacMullan, Warner Books; 1999.
Just as he stunned opponents with over-the-shoulder passes, killer steals, and jaw-dropping long-range jumpers on the court, Larry Bird now offers one startling revelation after another as he candidly recounts his rise to become one of the most respected NBA coaches in the game today. He tells us for the first time what really happened in "Celtics Land" after he retired and why he chose Indiana for his first coaching job. He shares a last look back at the Celtics dynasty, at Robert Parish and Bill Walton, at Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson. He describes his last duels with Magic Johnson and with Michael Jordan, as well as his experience playing on the great 1992 Olympic team ... Knowing that it was the last time he would be sharing a court with them. But Bird Watching is more than a book about basketball. Recalling his own painful shyness, battles with the press, and the demands of stardom, Bird also talks about the world he never left behind: drinking a beer at Jubil's bar in French Lick, doing his own yard work, and remembering the lessons he learned from his hardworking mother. I think my favorite story in this book is from the Olympics. He was telling how they could never get out of the hotel without being mobbed and so he rarely ventured out. Then one day he was shown a back door and he would sneak out to watch the USA baseball team play and he was just one of the crowd there.
THE LAST BANNER - The Story of the 1985-86 Celtics, The NBA’s Greatest Team of All Time by Peter May, Simon & Schuster; 1996.
Whether the 1985-86 Boston Celtics were the greatest NBA team of all time is certainly debatable, but there is little doubt they were the best of a long line of outstanding Celtic squads. May (The Big Three, S. & S., 1994) argues here that although Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge formed a potent starting five, it was the bench, led by Bill Walton, that lifted the team to championship status. As for the team's place in history, he contends "they played at a time when the competition was never better and the game was not yet contaminated by the ravages of expansion." How such a surfeit of talent came to be assembled and blended in a cohesive unit makes for an interesting study.
THE BIG THREE by Peter May, Simon & Schuster, New York; 1994.
The Boston Celtic front line of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish dominated the National Basketball Association with three championships in five years in the early 1980s. May, a veteran Celtic beat reporter, examines each player's career from youth through college and into their NBA years. Though he relies to a great extent on game accounts and basketball anecdotes, May tries to probe beneath the surface. Not only does he reveal the private side of each player's personality, he also examines why they were able to work so well as a unit.
Top of the World: The Inside Story of the Boston Celtics' Amazing One-Year Turnaround to Become NBA Champions by Peter May, 2008.
In yet another offering by Peter May, you can read the inside story of the way last year's championship team came together and stayed together to win it all. Just as The Last Banner did for the 1986 team, May tells the story of how the 2008 Celtics were assembled and paints a brief background sketch of coach Doc Rivers and of each of the key members of the title squad. The author takes the reader through the highlights of the team's regular season and describes Boston's playoff march. Very good read.
DRIVE - THE STORY OF MY LIFE by Larry Bird with Bob Ryan; Doubleday, New York; 1989.
The Boston Celtic forward addresses his troubled past, discussing his teammates and telling basketball anecdotes in the process. This book gives you a look into the private Larry Bird that you rarely see in the media or in the spotlight.
THE BIRD ERA - A HISTORY OF THE BOSTON CELTICS 1978-1988 by Bob Schron and Kevin Stevens; Quinlan Press, Boston, MA; 1988.
This is a great book that gives a behind the scenes look at the Celtics during the Bird Years, including the three championships won during that time. Great insights into the building of the 3 championship teams of that era as well as the interactions between the players and coaches on those teams.
REGGIE LEWIS - QUIET GRACE by Craig Windham; ACTEX Publications, Winsted, CT; 1995.
It has a positive,inspiring message, especially for young people (and not just basketball fans). Reggie was not overly-talented,but he made the most of the gifts he had."Quiet Grace" is a wonderful account of his life, from his boyhood in Baltimore to his stardom with the Boston Celtics (It also includes an interesting photo album section.)And "Quiet Grace" lays to rest the rumors surrounding Reggie's tragic death. This is an excellent, fascinating biography.
HIGH ABOVE COURTSIDE – The lost Memoirs of Johnny Most by Mike Carey with Jamie Most, Sports Publishing LLC; 2003.
If you think Tommy Heinsohn is the biggest Celtics homer, you never listened to Johnny Most. Every opposing player was the enemy and every Celtic was a saint. This book is a tribute and a memoir of one of the great figures in Celtics History. Who can ever forget the call.. "Havlichek stole the ball! Havlichek stole the ball! It's all over!!"
UNFINISHED BUSINESS - On and Off the Court with the 1990-91 Boston Celtics by Jack McCallum; Summit Books, New York; 1992.
For any Celtics fan of the Bird Era, this book opens doors that would have otherwise have stayed closed: we get to see the biting yet inclusive humor of the aging C's, especially McHale, as well as the overall intelligence of the team that produced a slew of future NBA coaches and GM's. This was a team to be admired and maybe even loved, despite their lack of a championship. This is the book I am reading right now. I have just read how instead of having veterans against kids or green/white teams in practice, they used to play blacks against whites. A very interesting read. This is the year I got to see the Celtics in person and so this season is special to me, in spite of not winning a championship.
Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel.
Pistol Pete has always been one of my favorite players. Pistol is more than the biography of a ballplayer. It's the stuff of classic novels: the story of a boy transformed by his father's dream--and the cost of that dream. Even as Pete Maravich became Pistol Pete, all the Maraviches paid a price. Pistol is an unforgettable biography from Press' discovery of basketball to take him away from his dreary life to Pete's personal demons to his untimely death playing the game he loved. By telling one family's history, Kriegel has traced the history of the game and a large slice of the American narrative. Definitely a must read for anyone who loves the game of basketball.
Next up on my reading list are Maravich by Wayne Federman, Marshall Terrill, and Jackie Maravich; Heinsohn, Don't You Ever Smile? by Tommy Heinsohn with Leonard Lewin; and Bob Cousy - the Killer Instinct by Bob Cousy with John Devaney. I'll try to report in on them as I finish them.