Tom Heinsohn Rumors

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today, at NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, an elite list of players and coaches, as the 12 finalists from the North American and Women’s committees to be considered for election in 2013. The recognition of being honored as a Hall of Fame finalist is a career highlight in the sport of basketball. This year’s list includes six first-time finalists: five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, three-time National Coach of the Year Sylvia Hatchell, two-time NBA Championship coach Tom Heinsohn, nine-time NBA All-Star Gary Payton, five-time WNBA All-Star Dawn Staley and six-time NBA All-Star Mitch Richmond. Previous finalists included again this year for consideration are four-time NBA All-Star Maurice Cheeks, four-time NBA All-Star Spencer Haywood, four-time NBA All-Star Bernard King, five- time NCAA Final Four coach Guy Lewis, six-time NCAA Final Four coach Rick Pitino and four-time NCAA Final Four coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Class of 2013 will be unveiled at the NCAA Final Four in April.
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Heinsohn sees pros and cons on both sides of the current debate. He mostly doesn’t want either to kill a golden goose; the NBA, Heinsohn said, always has been a great place to make a living. “Some guys of my era, they’re totally resentful,” he said. “Hey, all I know is, when I got out of Holy Cross I signed for $9,000 and I got a $2,000 bonus for making Rookie of the Year [in 1957]. Ten years later, at my reunion, the average salary for my classmates was $5,000. I bought an 11-room house for $18,000. “It was a good thing that we had to ‘participate’ in the world — all of us had jobs in the offseason. Over the years, even when I was playing, I made more money in the insurance business than I made playing basketball. The most I ever made was $28,500. The most Cousy made was $35,000. Russell made $101,000 because Wilt made $100,000 and Red gave him the extra thousand.”
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Heinsohn kind of got snookered into his union role by more of teammate Bob Cousy’s sleight of hand. The Celtics point guard, the first NBPA president (1954-58), had asked Heinsohn to cover for him while he was on a trip to Europe. Then he came back and resigned. “Cousy founded the association. I organized it,” said Heinsohn, the NBPA president from 1958 to 1965. “I picked Larry Fleisher [eventually the NBPA executive director] and I think that’s a key thing. Larry had been our labor lawyer, and what was great about Larry was, he knew when to hold and he knew when to fold. He was as responsible for growing the league as anyone else. In recognition of that, he is in the Hall of Fame. “But you know the reason Cousy left the presidency? He sent out a letter, and guys wouldn’t pay their dues. … I had to go into the locker rooms and fight with guys like [Lakers forward] Rudy LaRusso and say, ‘Rudy, give me the $25 for dues!’ ”
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“They paved the way and fought for this league to reach the level it is now, and we respect that. We cannot take all of their hard work and throw it down the drain.” Thomas listed the names of nearly two dozen NBA legends to drive home his point. So how do the pioneers and union bricklayers feel about their names and the NBPA’s traditions being invoked in a 2011 labor dispute? “I guess the guys on the executive committee are concerned about this,” said Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, the union’s president from 1965 to 1974. “I don’t know if a lot of the other players are concerned. A lot of work was done to make basketball the [top-paying] sport and they don’t want to retreat from that. But they have to make the best deal for the players today. And also for the owners, to make sure basketball goes forward.”
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