For generations of Celtics fans, Mike Gorman is just as revered as many beloved Hall of Fame players who spoke in Boston.
Gorman has been the team’s play-by-play broadcaster since 1981, a stable and reliable voice documenting some of the team’s most memorable moments, from the rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s to the resurrection of the team in the late 2000s. He was there during lean times, like the Rick Pitino era of the 1990s and the death of Reggie Lewis in 1993. For nearly 40 years, right next to him was Temple player and coach Tommy Heinsohn. of fame.
Heinsohn and Gorman couldn’t have been more different as voices. Heinsohn, as a color commentator, was a gregarious personality known for his scathing criticism of umpires who dared to make calls against the Celtics. Gorman is more reserved, raising his voice only for the big hits with his catchphrases “Takes it. Does it!” or “I got it!”
After Heinsohn’s death in 2020, Gorman, a former Navy pilot from Dorchester, Mass., considered moving away without the other half of “Mike and Tommy.” But Gorman stayed, largely to see if he could make another championship.
Maybe he got his wish. The Celtics have made an unlikely run to the NBA Finals, where they face Golden State. Boston is down in the series, 3-2, and faces elimination in Game 6 on Thursday.
Gorman, alongside Heinsohn’s successor Brian Scalabrine, called the games through to the first round of the playoffs. (Under NBA television agreements, only national networks air playoff games after the first round.)
In an interview with The New York Times about his career, Gorman, 74, said he most likely has two years left as the voice of the Celtics.
“I want to go see the world,” Gorman said. “I want to go do a lot of things that my wife and I sacrificed not to do because of a basketball game dispute.”
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What was it like to call this season, which could lead to a championship, without Tommy by your side?
I mean there was a real void, because there was a real void. Scal had nothing to do with it. Scal couldn’t change that. No one could change that. No one was going to fill Tommy’s shoes and be able to instantly get the chemistry that Tommy and I had.
Calling all these games without Tommy, #1, I thought a lot once he passed that maybe I should quit too and let the legacy be the two of us and nothing else. But I could see promise with this team, and I think this team is ahead of schedule right now. But they have a chance of winning a title or two if they can keep this group together for an extended period of time.
Why did you stay?
I could see that this team had potential. It’s great to make a good team because when you make a good team, everyone thinks you’re a good broadcaster. When you’re a bad team, everyone thinks you’re a bad broadcaster.
How was it to be with the team in the first half of the season compared to the second half?
Very different from being around the team, period, because of all the restrictions with Covid. And it really hurts, ’cause what we got was when Brad [Stevens] left, a majority of his assistants left with him.
So all of a sudden there were a lot of guys there that I had no relationship with. I had no relationship with Ime [Udoka]. I had no relationship with any of his assistant coaches. So it was very difficult to get any relationship. I would say there wasn’t really, really, necessarily any effort to befriend the players, but over the years you have guys that you become friends with. But you become friends with them in hotel lobbies. This is where relationships are made. So when I stopped playing away games, like I did last year due to the virus more than anything else, I didn’t see any players at all.
The season is off to a difficult start. Is there a part of you that said, “I don’t want to do this anymore?”
I started having these thoughts when we had such a terrible start.
Last year you did something I’ve never seen you do, which was you publicly criticized the Celtics in a radio interview, specifically Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for being too played individually rather than as a team. You said the team was “really sad to watch”. Now that they are in the final, what do you think of these comments now?
I did them a favor, to be honest with you. Because I relieved some of the other people who felt the same way in the organization who weren’t going to say anything.
And then Marcus Smart comes out, and he says the same thing as me. And then to someone in the hierarchy – I’ll just say, Celtics – I said, “Why are you so mad at me for what I said? It’s true.” And he said, “Oh, we know it’s true. We just wish you hadn’t said it by now. I could understand that. But I love the Celtics. been my life. However, I don’t work for the Celtics. I work for NBC.
What was your favorite Celtics season?
2008. The one with [Paul] Pierce, [Ray] Allen and [Kevin] Garnett.
A decade. Probably the 90s, where we didn’t make the playoffs for a whole bunch of years.
What do you think Tommy Heinsohn would say about this year’s Celtics squad?
I think he would be very proud of what they have done and how they have changed things. I think he would have yelled at them before I didn’t move the ball and do some of the things that would make them a better team.
I would see a player bring the ball across the half court and stop, then suddenly no one was moving. Put on any game in November or December and watch for five minutes. Now put on a game from last week, and all of a sudden the same players are going through the half court with the ball, and the guys are cutting. The guys are moving. The guys are setting up screens. Everyone is on the move all the time. It’s just a completely different game. It’s day and night.