Celtic Nation spent several days with Boston Celtics legend John “Hondo” Havlicek, and here is some of what he had to say:
Havlicek on being drafted by the Celtics:
It didn’t really surprise me. It never hurts to be on a team that is successful, and I knew Red Auerbach often times would draft a person based on the type of program the person was involved with. He was well aware of Ohio State’s program and the success that we’d enjoyed, and he knew the caliber of players we had on those teams. He knew that we had won a national championship, and that we were competing for a championship every year. So there were a lot of good things about me that he took into consideration based on the kind of program that I came from. He knew that if I could contribute at a high level on such a successful team, he figured that I should be able to make the transition to the pros and be able to help the Celtics.
Havlicek on the battles between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain:
It wasn’t a matter of Wilt-versus-Russell with Bill. He would let Wilt score 50 if we won, and there were times when that was the case. The most important things to Bill were championships, rings and winning. He was never after the personal stats. Wilt could raise the level of his game, he could do things that were eye-popping when you reviewed the box score, but he could never figure out how to make his teammates around him better. Bill was always there to win the important possessions, to grab the key rebounds, to make the key blocks, to trigger a key fast breaks. He played a completely different game than Wilt. It was a mental game, a psychological game. And it was a big weapon whenever Bill went up against Wilt, because in Wilt’s mind, Bill already had Wilt’s number. The battle was already won before it ever started. Wilt would never admit it, but Bill knew he was in Wilt’s head. And he used that to his advantage.
Havlicek on being drafted by the NFL’s Cleveland Browns:
I had decent speed, especially for that era, but it wasn’t great speed. I believe I was timed at 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. That’s slow by today’s standards. Today you have plenty of defensive linemen who run faster than that. But I could catch the ball. I had really good hands. That, and my height, were the things that really caught the Browns’ interest.
Havlicek on his role as Boston’s Sixth Man:
Coming off the bench never bothered me, because basketball is a team game. It takes a total team effort, and it takes everyone buying into their role and playing it to the best of their ability. The sixth man role is very important to a ball club – it was back then, and it is equally as important today. I had confidence in my game, and I knew that I had the ability to start, which is something that evolved over time, but joining a team loaded with talent meant that I would have to wait my turn. We had Tom Heinsohn, Satch Sanders, Frank Ramsey, Jim Loscutoff and Gene Guarilia. All of these guys played the forward position, and all of them had the NBA experience that I lacked as a rookie. So coming off the bench didn’t affect me in a negative way. Like I said, I was confident in my ability to play the game of basketball. Besides, one thing I learned from Red Auerbach was that it’s not who starts the game, but who finishes it, and I generally was around at the finish.
Havlicek on his remarkable level of fitness as a player:
Running was a very important part of my game, no question about it. And I knew from the first time I played a basketball game that the toughest guy to score on was the guy who kept after me all the time, nose-to-nose, basket-to-basket, on every single possession. So I stayed in motion, and I used the constant movement to my advantage. I also knew that the opposite was also true. The toughest guy to defend against was the guy who kept running. The guy who never let up, never stopped moving, never let you relax. I knew that I could be successful doing those types of things, and that over the course of a game it would wear down the guy guarding me and open up valuable scoring opportunities late in the fourth quarter. Those were the types of advantages that I wanted to have, especially in the close games. If you were in better shape than the man guarding you, you could take advantage of the fatigue factor. That’s the edge I wanted to have.