by Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist
The Celtics And Walter Brown
While watching the Celtics’ wonderful 115-105 Game #7 victory over the Washington Wizards last week at the “new” Boston TD Garden, I was struck, as always, by the occasional camera shots of all the championship banners and retired numbers hanging from the Garden rafters.
As I pondered the incredible long-term success enjoyed by the NBA’s most storied franchise, I focused on one of the retired numbers in particular—Number 1.
Many fans are oblivious as to whom that number represents, but Walter Brown is someone that all Celtics fans should revere—for many reasons.
A Massachusetts native who attended Philips Exeter Academy, Brown succeeded his father George as manager of the old Boston Garden, which was then a hockey mecca. First and foremost a hockey guy, Walter actually coached the USA hockey team to its first Gold Medal in the 1933 Ice Hockey World Championships .
An ongoing challenge for the Garden back then was what to do with the building when the Bruins weren’t playing. After World War II, entrepreneurs planned for a new professional basketball league—one that would eventually become the NBA. Brown wanted in. So he took out a mortgage on his house to come up with the money to reserve rights to the franchise that became the Celtics, who played their first game in Boston in 1946.
The team struggled early on, but Brown stayed with it. Attendance improved with the acquisitions of former Holy Cross star Bob Cousy and Coach Red Auerbach in 1950. The Celtics became a playoff team which generated crucial extra revenue. Still, Brown couldn’t always make the payroll. One year he was months late in paying the Celtics their playoff bonuses. The players knew they had money coming their way, but patiently cut the owner some slack because they trusted Brown and knew he had the team’s best interests at heart.
Can you imagine modern-day players tolerating missing paychecks?
The early NBA featured numerous franchise shifts, and went from 17 teams down to eight. Aside from Boston, the only other 1946 charter team that survived was the New York Knickerbockers. Almost any other owner would have sold or disbanded the non-profitable Celtics, but Brown hung on.
The 1956 acquisitions of Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn set the stage for Boston’s first NBA championship in 1957 and the birth of a dynasty. Revenues were still a problem in those old days before the big TV network deals, but Brown made it work. .
The beloved Brown unexpectedly passed away in 1964 at the age of 59. The Celtics played the next season with black cloth on their uniforms in his honor, and ended up winning their seventh straight NBA title in 1965—thanks in part to Havlicek stealing the ball.
The ensuing decades brought Celtics fans countless thrills and more championships. In 1995 the team moved the banners (and the parquet floor) from the old Garden to the new. And while there were some lean years in the new venue, in 2008 the team won its 17th NBA title. Thus the storied tradition continues.
If the Celts somehow get by the Cavaliers to take on the Warriors in what would be a thrilling 2017 NBA Final, the winner of which would win the Walter Brown Trophy—the league’s equivalent to the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy.
Much as Bob Kraft kept the Patriots in New England, Walter Brown kept the Celtics in Boston. Can you imagine our sports landscape without either of these franchises?
Think of that the next time you look up at the Number 1 hanging in the Garden rafters.
RUNNERS … JUNE 3rd RACE
On Saturday, June 3, at 9 a.m., NHTI-Concord will host the “Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness for a Cure 5K Run.” The event will include awards, a raffle, and special surprises for Physical Therapy employees. Proceeds go to educating healthcare providers, materials for support groups, and other activities that raise awareness about EDS. See you there!
How many World Series did the Boston Braves win? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on May 25 include Boston Celtic back-court great (and later an NBA Champion head coach) Bill Sharman (1926) and Boston Celtic back-court great (and later an NBA Champion head coach K. C. Jones (1932)
“Ask not what your teammates can do for you, ask what you can do for your teammates.” – Magic Johnson
The Miracle Boston Braves won the 1914 World Series, after being in last place on July 4. The 1948 Braves lost a six-game World Series to the Cleveland Indians in 1948—Cleveland’s last MLB title. The Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and then to Atlanta in 1966.
State Representative Michael Moffett was a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.