1981-82 Boston Celtics
Try this one on for size, Celtics fans:
How do you think this year's team would have fared against the 1959-60 Celtics?
The Great Debate began in earnest last night just moments after the Celtics destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers, 136-115, at Garden, and tied the club record of 17 straight wins set in the 1959-60 season. Just how well this present Celtics team of Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Nate Archibald, Cedric Maxwell, Kevin McHale, M.L. Carr, Gerald Henderson. Danny Ainge, Rick Robey, Chris Ford, Charles Bradley and Eric Fernsten would have done against the 1959-60 Celtics is a matter of conjecture.
But the Celtics team of 22 years ago, coached by Red Auerbach, also was awesome. The star-studded Boston roster was comprised of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tommy Heinsohn, the Jones boys (K.C. and Sam), Frank Ramsey, Gene Conley, Jim
Loscutoff, Gene Guarilia, and Jon Richter.
Three of those players - Heinsohn, Loscutoff and K.C. Jones - from that memorable team were on hand last night to watch this year's Celtics team finally match the long standing winning streak. Auerbach was there, too, but he quickly disappeared after visiting with coach Bill Fitch in the Celtics dressing room.
Even if Auerbach had stuck around, it's unlikely he would have allowed himself to be put in an embarrassing spot by comparing teams. Heinsohn. Loscutoff, and Jones were available, though. Their attempts to compare the 1959-60 team with the present Celtics proved to be an exercise in diplomacy. They carefully avoided giving candid views concerning the outcome of any such confrontation between the two teams of different eras.
"I'd have to say that our Celtics team had an edge in speed and quickness over this present bunch," said Heinsohn, a former Celtic coach who had just finished doing his color commentary of the Celtics-Cavs game for PRISM TV. "We could play any style. We pressed all over the court, and we controlled the pace of the game. It's not fair to compare. We had a great team, and two of the greatest players in NBA history in Russell and Cousy. And now Larry Bird appears to be on his way to becoming a future Hall of Famer, too.
"I'll tell you this," added Heinsohn. "Fitch has done a great coaching job, especially the wayhe has brought along Parish. And he's facing a lot more pressure than Auerbach did. After all, it was Red who started the Celtics winning tradition, and now when the team wins, people say, so what.' "Heinsohn said he feels the Celtics' winning streak is "a great thing because it came at a time when it appeared that the club was in trouble. The winning has galvinzed them."
K.C. Jones, now an assistant coach under Fitch, thinks this year's Celtics is "more talented" but regards his 1959-60 gang as better shooters and "smarter." Loscutoff, big and burley, just grinned when the question was put to him. "If Red Aurebach was our coach, we'd beat this year's Celtics team," he declared.
Fitch says that Auerbach never discussed the streak the Celtics enjoyed under him back in 1959-60. "He (Auerbach) is of the old school," explained Fitch. "He never talked about his streaks. It's like an old superstition with a no-hitter in baseball, you don't talk about it. But we talk about it. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty, we hope it goes on forever."
But the Celtics right now will settle for just tomorrow night when they go after their record-breaking 18th win in a row against the Detroit Pistons at the Garden. And perhaps end any further comparisons with the 1959-60 Celtics