9.09.2009

Bob Cousy: The Post-Celtics Years

Part 8 of the Bob Cousy Series

In 13 seasons, Cousy had scored 16,955 points for an 18.5 average and had dished out 6949 assists, 5.4 a game. In 109 playoff games, he'd also averaged 18.5 points. He'd played in 13 straight All-Star Games, twice being named the MVP. And when anybody sat down to pick an all-time NBA team, Bob Cousy's name was sure to be on it.

After his retirement, Cousy coached for six seasons at Boston College, the school he had almost attended 18 years previously. His teams performed extremely well, twice going to the NCAA regional tournament and in 1969 losing to Temple in the final of the NIT in New York City. His top players at BC were Terry Driscoll, who later played in the NBA, all-time school scoring leader John Austin, Jimmy O'Brien, who played in the ABA, and playmaker Billy Evans.

Cousy's record with the Eagles was 117-38, with four seasons of 20 victories or more. However, the recruiting game - promise them anything but get them to your school - gnawed at Cousy, and, in 1968, he resigned. For the first time in 25 years, he would be away from the game that had been so much of his life.

Not for long. The competitive spirit within him wouldn't stay quiet. The pros came calling, and after turning down a job to coach the New York Nets of the ABA, he took one, at more than $100,000 a year, to coach (and later be player-coach for) the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA.

Cousy the coach didn't become Cousy the player until December 1969, and in order to activate him, the Royals had to make a trade with the Celtics.

"Cousy is still our property," Auerbach insisted. "If you want him, you'll have to deal with us."

Said Cousy: "I think this has kind of chipped away at a friendship established 20 years ago." But if there was animosity, it didn't last long. The bond of 20 years was too strong for that.

After three seasons in Cincinnati the Royals moved to Kansas City, and Cousy, who had thought seriously of resigning, instead moved with them.

The K.C.-Omaha Royals, with Archibald leading the league in scoring (30 points per game) and assists (11 a game), were an improvement over the Cincinnati version, but still finished under .500, at 36-46.

After training camp in the fall of '73, he told the Royals' general manager Joe Axelson he wanted to resign. Axelson persuaded him to stay the season. On the night before Thanksgiving, the Sixers walloped the Royals, 103-90. It was Cousy's last game as coach. He resigned. The flame had finally gone out, or at least been smothered.

Cousy remained on the fringe of basketball afterward, of course. You don't have to stop eating after you give up pizza. He became the TV analyst for college games in the Worcester area, and later for Celtics games, and drew high praise for his candid comments. The pro game was truly bigtime by 1980. The average salary was $97,000 a year, with the stars making seven or eight times that. The league had expanded to 23 teams by 1980 and the playoffs ran almost to June.

And it would be well to remember that the man who lit the fire to the modern era was the one nobody wanted, the French-American from Long Island whose name was picked out of a hat in a Chicago hotel in 1950.

"Hey kid, who d'ya think ya are, Bob Cousy?"

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