Listen: Russell Cousy, Bill Russell, Cousy Russell discussed on Dale & Keefe
"There for the basketball pain in your life. You ought to pick up. It's called the last pass Cousy Russell the Celtics, and what matters most in the N Gary Pomerantz joins us right now. He's the author of the book and conducted one hundred fifty interviews for this, including Fifty-three with the Celtics legend Bob Cousy himself. Gary, how are you doing great? How you doing? I'm well, I'm well. So one of the things about the book which stood out to me. Is it Bob Cousy told you he felt he did not do enough to help Bill Russell. So ended up writing a letter after reading a book on race call between the world in me. And look for those who don't know Bill. Russell went through stuff in Boston. Eight people ended up breaking into his house sprang graffiti on house housing defecating on in the man's home. I mean, there were some terrible things that happened to Bill. Russell. Terrible things. I mean, it was horrific stuff. And no wonder Bill Russell has said through the years. You know, I didn't play for Boston. I played for the Celtics. This is really a story knew about what matters in the end Bill. Russell and Bob Cousy that's the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of that great, Celtics dynasty. It's hard to believe that Cousy is now ninety and Bill Russell eighty four. And and working on the last pass, I interviewed Cousy fifty three times as you say, and and you know in his house on the phone. He would call me sometimes. And in say, you know, it's all number fourteen calling and more often than Nadi. He had been thinking about our last interview. And he had more that he wanted to say about it. And usually it was about race. And russell. Bill. Russell took three years to respond to the letter in which Cousy tried to to apologize. Why did he take that long? Well, I'm not sure Russell is not in great health. And you know, he's lived in epic life five MVP awards those eleven NBA championships in the capstone came in two thousand eleven when Barack Obama awarded Bill Russell the presidential medal of freedom, which is, you know, the highest civilian honor this country bestows, it's the American equivalent of knighthood, and you know, Cousy was the captain of that team. And it's important to remember he was perceived as one of the good guys by the league's early African American players. In fact in nineteen fifty when he was a rookie. This is only three years post. Jackie robinson. He roomed with Chuck Cooper forward. From Duquesne was the first black player drafted by an NBA team. And they developed a great lifelong friendship. You know with Russell Cousy. Now, this has been in him this regret for fifty years and more he wishes that his captain of the Celtics. He'd spoken out publicly against the racism that that Russel was facing in Boston and around the league, and he wishes that privately pulled Russell aside and said Russia had got your back, but he didn't do it. He didn't say that. And one of the many things that separates Guzzi from most great athletes is that, you know, he's not embellishing or burnishing the stories. He tells about himself to the contrary in this case, he's drawing attention to a to a failing or a flaw. You know, he saying, you know, I did not do enough. And it's his final declaration. I should have done more. I am reading this book that you wrote Gary did not realize how important and how great a player Bob Cousy was not just for the Celtics, but for the NBA, and you like it him to Alexander Hamilton in what he did the NBA Hamilton. Of course is the is the forgotten founding father until the great stage play carrying his name comes out, and that's sort of been Cousy. You know, his story. He's been lost time. You know, in the way basketball history is remembered and told, but here's why Bob Cousy matter so much I his theatricality is the so called Houdini, the hardwood, you know, those no look passes the the dribbling behind his back. He was kinda like James Dean or Elvis in the fifties pushing against the conservative norms in the game. And in every, you know, no look pass that Kyrie Irving throws today, and every, you know, imaginative moved at Steph curry or James. Jordan makes there's a little bit of Cousy flowing through it. Cousy also founded the NBA players association in the nineteen fifties. And as a matter of comparison in Cousy is last year with the Celtics nineteen sixty three he earned thirty five thousand dollars last year, Steph curry and LeBron James thirty five million dollars. So the decimal point has moved three places to the right and also in the fifties. That's a long time ago Cousy and his coach the legendary read our back traveled abroad as representatives of the US State Department selling the the American game of basketball in Europe, and in Asia and Africa, and you know, last year on NBA rosters opening night. There were a hundred nee players from forty to foreign nations. And territories that's a big a big footprint that Cousy has left. Gary Pomerantz is our guest right here on the newest Greg show. He's the author of the book the last pass Cousy Russell the Celtics, and what matters most in the end Bill. Russell called Boston as a city a flea market. Of racism, you didn't get opportunity to interview him though, you got to talk to one hundred and fifty different people. If you could interview Bill, what would you wanna ask? Well, you know, I tried hard to get to him, you know, including sending him a letter to his home in Seattle through the Celtics in which essentially I asked him to questions one to describe the evolution of his relationship with Bob Cousy and to what was his reaction to the letter that Cousy sent him in February two thousand sixteen way, back in two thousand one ESPN did a sport segment on our sports century segment. I'm Bill Russell is one of the greatest athletes of the twentieth century. Russell did not agree to be interviewed for it. But Bob Cousy did in the cameras came to his house in Worcester. Mass and Cruces talking on camera and kind of a breezy way. Remember two thousand and one this year that this happened. He's talking in a breezy way about Russell's extraordinary athleticism is a shot blocker and rebounder. But then the conversation shifts to race and Cousy says, you know, I should have been more sensitive to Russ's anguish. And then he just stops any pauses, and you can see on camera his face facial muscles twitching, and he just breaks down sobbing right there on camera holding his head in his hands two months later. He saw Russell at a celebrity golf tournament in southern California. And Cousy is never been sure through the decades, whether Russell's gonna give him a big embrace when he sees them or or the famous Russell glower that we all saw when he walked onto the court in pre-game introductions in this case Russell gave him a big embrace and sat down at the coffee shop breakfast table with Cousy and he told Cousy and what Cousy views is the most meaningful conversation. They ever had that he he saw Cousy interview on ESPN. And and told him, you know, not to worry about it there. There's nothing he could have done to make Russell's life easier. During those seven years they were together as teammates Cousy could feel his his pain his own pain, releasing and he hoped that would take their relationship to a higher ground, but it didn't. And it was about fourteen fifteen years later two thousand fifteen and sixteen seventeen when I was interviewing Cousy that. You know, this was all coming up again. Cousy is watching TV. And and and he sees these flashpoints in American race relations coming up on his screen, Ferguson. The rise of black lives matter Trayvon Martin, Tamir rice and any time. Bob Cousy thinks about race he thinks about his personal life and he returns to Russell. I mean, look it's rare in American life for ninety year old white man to reconsider race and how it played out in his life. But that's what Cousy is doing. And that's why one morning after a restless night thinking about Russell in two thousand sixteen. He took a pen and pad and and wrote a page and a half letter to Russell apologizing for his violence. What about ran our back? I mean, you know, you've got Bob Cousy who felt this way. But rent was running the team. He was the one guy in charge of the hotels. And I mean, what about read roll well role? Can you know, look the Celtics were the first team to reg credit to to draft an African American player in a black coach why black coach Bill Russell nineteen sixty six the first all black starting lineup in December of nineteen sixty four. I think right read is is well established for his racial credentials as a fair minded, man. But Red Auerbach was old school read our backyard to about pragmatism in the bottom line. And he told his players look don't don't talk about controversial things stay out of the the social stuff and the political stuff because they were trying to fill Boston Garden. They didn't want to alienate fans white fans and empty Boston Garden. So so there was that part of red to and and you know, there was a game in in October. Nineteen sixty one played in Lexington Kentucky an exhibition game against the St Louis hawks where the Celtics stayed in a hotel players black and white. We're able to lodge their, but when fat Sanders and Sam Jones to the African American Celtics went to the coffee shop, they were denied service. They went back and told Russell about it. And and they agreed. They weren't playing. They were not gonna play and they got on a plane and flew back home. Even after our back spent about two hours trying to convince them to stay, you know, there was a big payday. It wasn't about the university of Kentucky was just about some as he said to bid waitress, but the seven white Celtics including Cousy played when I asked Cousy about it. He had almost no memory of it. He said, why would I have played, you know? And he he he says maybe that speaks to my sensibilities my sensitivities at that time. So, you know, it's complex. Gary. This was fun. I appreciate your time. Another great book. I enjoyed there's lives their life's work on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Chuck. No, you're gifted man, you know, how to write some good books. Well, I appreciate it. It was fun to talk about with the and thanks for having me on the show. We all right. Merry christmas. Thank you you too. Bye. Bye. Gary Pomerantz, author of the last past Cousy Russell the Celtics, and what matters most in the end would make a great Christmas gift for the sports fan in your life up next. Look at sport to entertain together. NBC's Showtime, second newest."