1.20.2016

Jerry Sichting Still Remembered . . . as a Celtic



November 8, 2012

He played 10 years in the NBA, suiting up for five teams along the way. Since then, he has twice been an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves and also worked the bench for the Golden State Warriors and, for three years, Marquette at the college level.

After a brief respite during which he went to his Indiana hometown to serve as interim coach for Martinsville High School, he is now back in the NBA as an assistant for the Washington Wizards.

But Jerry Sichting will forever be known to the world at large mainly for the two-plus years he spent playing guard for the Celtics in the 1980s.

'Most people only know me as a Celtic,' said Sichting, who had people to greet on his latest visit as the Wizards met up with the C's last night at the Garden. 'Most people outside of Indiana, anyway - and even there most people associate me with playing for the Celtics.'

That's saying something, considering he was a high school star in that prep-mad state and went on to a big college career at Purdue. But after getting into a fight with Houston Rockets big man Ralph Sampson in Game 5 of the 1986 NBA Finals, his place in history was pretty much sealed.

'People ask me about that all the time,' he said. 'Our owner (the Wizards' Ted Leonsis) came over during training camp and talked to me about it. Then he found it on his iPhone and I could hear it playing. What can I say? The guy sucker punched me and I got my 15 minutes of fame.'

And even with that classic moment, Sichting has been seen more times on video as the guy who was guarding the Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas when Larry Bird stole a pass and fed Dennis Johnson to win Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals.

'You know, that was right when teams started getting on TV a lot more,' Sichting said. 'And then once you're with Boston, you were on TV a lot more than any other teams, so I think that kind of sealed it. And winning the championship (in 1985-86) probably had a lot to do with it, too.'

After surviving the wild swings of Sampson, Sichting and the Celts closed out the Rockets for the title. Sichting was one of the first players off the bench on a team that is still regarded as one of the best in league history. He shot 57 percent from the floor that season and was one of just two players, Bird was the other, to play in all 82 regular-season games.

'After we won it, (general manager) Jan Volk said, 'You're always going to be known as a Celtic after this,' ' Sichting said. 'He was right. People always remember the championship teams.'

After being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in February 1988, Sichting finished up his playing career with stints for the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks in 1990. Sichting returned to Boston and worked as a color commentator for the Celts on radio for a while before getting into coaching.

'It's been good, and being a Celtic for that time is what people always come back to,' he said. 'I did the broadcasting for Boston, too, for four years, so it's right around 30 years that I've been on the bus or the plane doing something.'

Then, with a smile, Sichting added: 'I'm getting old.'

Hardly.

At 55, he was back 'home' last night, still working the game.

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