CELTICS VOICE GORMAN HAS HECK OF A RIDE

Not all Celtics greats have played on the Boston Garden parquet or coached on the side-lines.

He might not have scored a point or coached a win, but for the fans he is still a big part of the team and it wouldn’t really be the same without him.

That man is Mike Gorman, whose voice has been broadcast into the homes of Celtics fans for the best part of four decades.

Working alongside the legendary former player and coach that is Tommy Heinsohn, Gorman has been there for it all; from Larry Bird to Kyrie Irving, the joys of winning a title to those bad years in the 90s.

“You know, we’re into our 38th year of broadcasting together,” said Gorman, before adding with a laugh, “most marriages don’t last that long!”

Last month, Gorman accompanied the Celtics to London for the annual NBA London game and took some time out to talk about his time covering the team.

We know ‘Mike and Tommy’ as the voices of the Celtics on television since 1981, but you have to go back a little further for the start of the partnership.

“I was working at a television station in Providence, Rhode Island,” Gorman recalled.

“I was doing Providence College basketball and when I got that gig, they asked me if I had anybody I wanted to work with.

“I said, let’s try to get Tommy Heinsohn and they said Tommy would never do that.

“I said give him a call and see what happens.”

“After getting his number off the Celtics, I called Tommy out of the blue and he agreed to do the games, and we did six or seven games together.”

Little did he know at the time what that would lead to.

“The following year the Celtics went to Prism, which was the first of the paid cable TV networks.

“They asked Tommy who he wanted to work with and he said ‘Mike, this guy in Providence, he’s really good.’”

And so, on 6th November, 1981, Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn broadcast their first Celtics game together.

At this time, it was one of the Celtics’ golden eras, when Larry Bird ruled the old Boston Garden.

Having a great team at the time, it made Tommy and Mike’s job a whole lot easier in those early days.

“It was fortuitous for us that Larry was there!” said Gorman, who got to see the work ethic of Bird up close.

“What you saw more than anything else was how hard he worked.

“In the old Boston Garden they didn’t have stairways, they had huge ramps that led up to the Garden, as it was built for the circus so the trucks could get in with all the animals.

“Right from the very beginning, I’d be walking in at 4 o’clock for a 7.30pm game and you could hear the pounding of a ball, and one guy out on the court.

“It was Larry all by himself and he had to work out for an hour and a half before a game.

“Where you and I would be hurting for a week, he was doing that before the game!”

The voice of Celtics’ radio back then was another broadcasting legend, the late Johnny Most, whose raspy voice filled the airwaves for close to four decades.

Gorman got to know him very well over the years.

“He gave me lots of advice right from the beginning,” he recalled.

“Johnny never had any designs on television, so it wasn’t like I was doing anything that conflicted with him and he was great friends with Tommy.”

“This used to be my routine,” he added. “I would go into the press room and Tommy and Johnny would always be there. I’d sit and have dinner with them and Tommy would say, ‘let’s go see Red [Auerbach].’

“We’d go sit in Red’s office and he would tell us the way of the world and why it was that way, then we’d go upstairs, broadcast the game and go home.”

Nowadays, unless it’s nationally-televised game you’ll find Gorman and Heinsohn sitting courtside at home games, but in the old Boston Garden they sat upstairs in front of the upper tier.

“They used to call it the overhang and it was literally a gondola,” said Gorman.

“It was the best position ever to broadcast from and it was about 20 feet back from the court and at a height of 15 to 18 feet.

“It was great because the whole game was in your field of vision, you could see things develop and that really helped me as a play-by-play guy because I could anticipate what was going to happen.”

He added, “I miss the building, I miss the ambience and the broadcast location.

“It had character, and because we were in this gondola thing, when the Garden was loud, it would really shake!

“It was like being in a surround sound movie and it was really cool.”

The Celtics claimed three titles during the 1980s but the 1990s were another story.

Retirements, injuries, a tragedy and sheer bad luck dogged them throughout the decade and at times it felt like the good times might never come back.

“The ’90s were really trying,” admitted Gorman.

“What we’re trying to do at the start of the game is tell you why it’s worthwhile you spending two and a half hours with us and during that decade, that was a hard sell!”

Perhaps fittingly with his number newly hanging in the Boston Garden rafters, the one good thing to come out of the 90s was the drafting of Paul Pierce, who is Gorman’s favourite Celtic since he began calling games.

“He brought a lot to the Celtics,” he reflected.

“Tommy Heinsohn will tell you, which I think is fascinating, given everything that he’s seen, but if he had the ball with ten seconds left and could put it in one guy’s hand, he’d put it in Pierce’s hands, not Bird’s.”

Gorman basked in the spotlight beyond Boston last week when he hosted Pierce’s jersey retirement ceremony on an emotional evening which hinted at why the now-retired forward, not Bird, is his favourite Celtic.

“The first fifteen years that I did the games, I did the home games and when the team went out on the road, I did the Big East,” he said.

“When you don’t travel with the team, you don’t really develop relationships, because you’re not on buses at 3 o’clock in the morning and shovelling your car out at Hanscom Air Force base.

“I did Paul’s whole career from day one to the last day, got to know him on the road and see him every day, so I just feel much closer to him.

“With Larry, if he were here tonight he’d say hi and we’d shake hands for a moment but I never really dealt with them as I just did their home games.”

Pierce remains Gorman’s favourite Celtic

One of his favourite memories from broadcasting came in the memorable 2007-08 season when the Celtics ended a 22-year wait for banner #17.

“Hindsight is always 20-20, but I can remember we played our first pre-season game in Rome that year and we played Toronto,” Gorman recalled.

“It was Kevin Garnett’s first game as a Celtic and even though it was a pre-season game, he played with such ferocity and intensity that I came out of there thinking we had a shot [at the title].”

While you can still find Gorman calling the games on the road, Heinsohn stepped back a while ago and nowadays just does the games at the Garden.

“Tommy’s 83 now and at that age you don’t want to be getting off planes at three in the morning and shovelling snow,” Gorman explained.

“We’d talked about it for a couple of years, so it wasn’t a surprise when it happened.”

The fact that after all these years that Heinsohn is still working some Celtics games is great for the fans watching at home, who love the Hall of Famer’s broadcasting style.

“Tommy’s very pro-Boston, but people wouldn’t have it any other way,” Gorman insisted.

“The thing is people aren’t turning in for a neutral broadcast, they want to hear the home-town guys.

“Now, in this day and age with the League Pass, you can get the other team’s announcers if you want them.”

Taking Heinsohn’s place on the road trips and any home games he can’t cover is Brian Scalabrine and Gorman loves the contrasting styles that they have.

“It’s really good because Scal’s new blood,” he said. “He’s played against a lot of the guys we see and he’s fresh off of coaching in Golden State for a year.

“Whereas Tommy is comparing to players generations ago, Scal is much more current and it’s good for me as it keeps me up to date.

“Scal is a terrific kid and he’s really a lot smarter that people think in terms of basketball, he’s a real X and O guy.”

He added, “I’d like to do more games with the both of them on the commentary as I’d like to facilitate conversations between those two on how they see the game, but we don’t have the physical space to do it more.”

Thirty-six years after he first began covering the Celtics, Mike Gorman has no plans to hang up the microphone any time soon.

“I’ll continue as long as my voice holds out,” he said.

And his one wish before he retires?

“I think this is reasonable but I’d like to see them win another championship and I think within two to three years that’s a real possibility.”

As he looks back on a long career with the Celtics, Mike Gorman is grateful for everything that has happened since that day he decided to call Tommy Heinsohn.

He never scored a point or coached the Celtics to a victory but there’s no doubt Mike Gorman is a part of the very fabric of the Boston Celtics, even if he feels humbled by that very suggestion.

“There was a film called Almost Famous and it was the story of a young journalist who got to tour around with a rock band,” he said.

“That’s how I feel sometimes and especially with the Garnett team, that was very much like touring a country with a rock band.

“I feel like that journalist, who’s just along for the ride.”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login