Dave Cowens never wanted to be a public person. But by simply being himself he ensured that he would never be allowed a completely private life. What others would call eccentricity he would term natural behavior. Eschewing the "swinging singles," live-in-the-downtown-high-rise life-style then very much in vogue among young, affluent athletes, he spent his first five years as a Celtic living in a converted one-room bathhouse in Weston. He was immediately characterized as a man apart, and there was ample evidence to support that thesis.
Didn't he attend that auto mechanics course during his spare time back
in his second year? Didn't he attempt to learn sign language? Didn't he
spend the night sleeping on a park bench on Boston Common when the
Celtics won the 1974 championship? Didn't he drive a Boston cab, however
briefly? Five more people like him and People magazine would be kept in
business for the next twenty years.
Some people linked his behavior with what they perceived to be his
background. Maybe, Bostonians reasoned, people from Kentucky are just
that way; don't they still have all those moonshiners down there? People
were under the assumption that he was just a lovable Huck Finn type. At
the very least, they assumed him to be a farmer.
The reality is that Cowens was raised in a row house in Newport,
Kentucky, right across the river from Cincinnati. His father, a barber
by trade, also sold insurance and managed a finance corporation. Urban
cowboy? Maybe. Farmer? Never.
I never milked cows. I was raised on asphalt. I played baseball,
football, basketball. I ran track. I swam. I'm just a kid who went
through everything everyone else did and survived. It just so happened I
was geared to be a basketball player. It just happened.