[公告] 痞客邦新服務上線 每日星座運勢測算[公告] 痞客邦應用市集全新改版![公告] 痞客邦「應用市集」新 App 上架-iFontCloud Professional[公告] 痞客邦後台發表文章提供插入多張圖片新功能[公告]痞客邦新服務上線 部落客商店聚集就在《痞市集》

 

 

Sam Jones

 

 

http://www.celtic-nation.com/interviews/sam_jones/sam_jones_page1.htm

 

MR. CLUTCH

Michael D. McClellan

 

Imagine:   The greatest athletic deal-closer of the twentieth century is celebrated endlessly, his name floating atop every all-time championship list and dropped into every serious debate over who has exerted the greatest influence on their sport, his close personal friendships awash in celebrity, royalty and head-of-state chutzpah.  His likeness is iconic, a symbol of championship excellence against which all others in team sport are measured.  His legacy as the ultimate bottom line, results-oriented exclamation point is long since secure, the label ‘winner’ perhaps more synonymous with his name than any athlete in history.  And yet when Bill Russell – yes, that Bill Russell, the one with the signature laugh and all of those championship rings, many of them coming at the expense of a certain statistical glutton named Wilt Chamberlain – is asked to name the single greatest player he has ever been associated with, the answer comes quickly and without hesitation.

 

“In the years that I played with the Celtics,” says Russell, “in terms of total basketball skills, Sam Jones was the most skillful player that I ever played with.  At one point, we won a total of eight consecutive NBA championships, and six times during that run we asked Sam to take the shot that meant the season.  If he didn’t hit the shot we were finished – we were going home empty-handed.  He never missed.”

 

Imagine:   You are Sam Jones, and Russell’s words waft over you from just a few feet away.  You are humbled by them, and your usual loquaciousness evaporates at the sincerity of the proclamation.  The loss of words is easy to understand; Russell, never one to offer undeserving praise, is beautifully matter-of-fact in his assessment of his close friend and former teammate.  It is the ultimate show of respect, and you are reminded of 1969, when Jones had announced his retirement and Russell had decided to keep his own retirement plans under wraps, so as not to detract from the magnitude of Jones’ twelve seasons in a Boston Celtic uniform.

 

“No one compares to Bill Russell,” Jones finally responds.  He is seated with six other NBA legends, some of the greatest to ever pick up a basketball – Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving among them.  This is the Bill Russell Adult Fantasy Basketball Camp, a one-time opportunity to rub elbows with hoop royalty.  “With all due respect to the gentlemen around me, Bill Russell was the smartest, most driven basketball player the game has ever seen.  To this day he remains the single most influential force in team sports of any kind.”

 

And so it goes.  Friends for life, Russell and Jones share a mutual respect forged by the blast furnace temperatures of championship basketball, one that comes from laying it on the line together, night in and night out, and ultimately walking away together, on top.  For Jones, the journey began in the small town of Laurinburg, North Carolina, where sports flowed freely from one season to the next, and where baseball appeared to be his strongest suit.  Not that he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete; times were different in the 1940s, and the teenaged Jones saw himself becoming a teacher.  Sports represented a shot at a scholarship, a chance to experience life as a college student, an opportunity to pursue his dream career as an educator.

 

Determined to make athletics a means to that end, Jones played basketball well enough at Laurinburg High School to generate genuine interest from a number of prominent colleges.  He attended North Carolina Central, a small black NAIA school in Durham, where he played for the legendary John McClendon, who had learned the game from Dr. James Naismith, and where Jones found himself free to push the boundaries of his emerging talent.  Had Jones played today he would be considered a blue chip basketball phenom, but back then many of his sublime collegiate performances went largely unnoticed.  There simply were no Internet chat rooms, no cell phones, no text messages, no 24 x 7 sports channels beaming coverage to all points on the globe.  Jones’ exploits traveled slowly instead, by word-of-mouth, which is how another legendary coach, Arnold “Red” Auerbach, came to take a chance on the unknown talent from a school that was barely on the basketball map.

 

Selected eighth overall by Auerbach in the 1957 NBA Draft, Jones arrived in Boston wary of his chances of making a team that had just won its first championship.  The Celtics boasted two All-Star guards in its starting lineup, eventual hall of fame players Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman, and there was plenty of veteran competition for the reserve spots on the bench.  Jones considered himself a long shot at best.  Auerbach, for his part, had never seen Jones play, and he approached the rookie with skepticism.  He wondered whether Jones would have the heart to survive training camp, well-known to be the most demanding in the league, and he doubted the rookie’s mental toughness to battle his way onto the season-opening roster.  All of that changed as soon as he saw Jones run the first set of drills.  He was sprinting without breathing hard.  He was clearly prepared, and serious about the opportunity.

 

"When he arrived," Auerbach recalled years later, "there were three other guys almost just like Sam who were trying to make the team.  The difference was the other three just thought about shooting.  After a couple of days, Sam started handing out some nice passes and blocking out so other guys could shoot.  You could see that he was committed to becoming a complete player."

 

Forced to cut veteran and former ACC star Dick Hemric to make room for Jones, Auerbach played his rookie shooting guard sparingly during the 1957-58 season.  Cousy and Sharman were at the peak of their respective games, Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn were another year wiser, and the Celtics appeared destined to repeat as NBA champions.  Jones averaged a meager 4.6 points while playing in just over 10 minutes per game, and few outside of Boston knew anything about the player destined to become one of the greatest clutch shooters of all time.

 

Jones’ rookie season ended in disappointment.  The Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, and were overwhelming favorites to repeat as champions.  Facing the St. Louis Hawks, a severe ankle injury to Russell torpedoed any title hopes as Bob Pettit and “Easy” Ed Macauley won their first and only NBA crown.

 

Jones saw his playing time double the following season as Auerbach began planning for Sharman’s eventual retirement.  The Celtics, now deeper with Jones playing a bigger role in the offense, steamrolled the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0 to win a second title in three years.  In a season defined by balance and capped with a crown, six Celtics (Sharman, Cousy, Heinsohn, Russell, Frank Ramsey and Jones) averaged double-figure scoring.

 

Winning it all again the next season cemented the Celtics’ stature as a dynasty in the making.  Russell was clearly the league’s defensive player nonpareil, the team’s driving force, and the primary cog in Auerbach’s title-hungry machine.  It was also clear to Red that Jones was the heir apparent to Sharman, and that his young shooting guard seemed to play his best basketball with the game hanging in the balance.  The addition of Satch Sanders in 1960, along with the grooming of fellow backup KC Jones as the eventual successor to Cousy, gave Boston a stronger defensive presence and furthered Auerbach’s need for perimeter scoring.  Heinsohn assumed that role during the 1960-61 season, leading the Celtics with a 21.3 PPG average, as Boston won its third consecutive title.  For Jones, Auerbach’s attacking, fast break offense fit like a glove.  It was similar to McClendon’s system at North Carolina Central, full throttle on both side of the ball.

 

 

"Our style of play at that time started the use of smaller, fast forwards," Auerbach told Pro Sports Weekly.  “It was up tempo,  and because it put a smaller team on the floor we had to go to the press more often.  See, Sam understood his role in this perfectly.  He would race the length of the court on the wing, and on defense he knew how to pressure his man.  Sam was a smart basketball player.”

 

The 1960-61 season marked the last for Sharman, whose body was beginning to break down from the rigors of professional basketball, and it was also noteworthy in that Jones made his breakthrough into the starting lineup.

 

“I knew I was ready,” Jones says, “but in my mind, the backcourt still belonged to Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.  They were great, great players who had earned their right to start.  Replacing Bill as the starter at that point, well that was by necessity.  He was hurting and the team needed me to step up.”

 

With Sharman retired and Jones the unquestioned starter, Boston posted a 60-20 record and earned a date with Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia Warriors in the 1962 Eastern Division Finals.  It was classic battle; in the thrilling seventh-game showdown, with the score tied at 107 and two seconds left, Jones hit a jump shot over the outstretched arms of Chamberlain to seal the win.  After the game Chamberlain hailed Jones as the Celtics' best player.  Auerbach lauded his guard’s coolness under pressure and predicted that Jones would be ready to produce further heroics if needed.  The comments would prove prophetic; in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Jones again came through, scoring five of the Celtics' 10 overtime points in Game 7 to propel Boston to a fourth straight NBA crown.

 

With Jones in his prime and his reputation as a clutch performer spreading throughout the league, it was also becoming apparent that Jones’ favorite shot – the stop-and-pop bank shot – was a deadly accurate weapon, and one of the most feared shots in the game.  His quickness, intelligence and knack for finding the open spot on the court allowed him to get the shot off even when opponents tried sticking like glue.

 

“I started shooting the bank shot in high school,” Jones says.  “I wasn’t a great outside shooter and I struggled a little making layups, so I worked on my shooting technique and I focused on using the backboard.  I picked out my target and I’d shoot for hours.  I got to the point where I could really trust that shot, and it helped the rest of my game.”

 

And about that knack for seemingly always being in the right place at the right time?

 

"You simply can't stand still," he explains. "When the ball is shot, the defender has to turn his head to see where the rebound is going.  When I see we have the rebound, I immediately go to another position on the court.  The man who is guarding me has his back to me now and he doesn't know I've moved.  He has to turn around and look for me.  It doesn’t have to be much.  Just an opening.  That’s all you need, because you only need a split second to get a shot off."

 

The Celtics would win the titles in 1963 and 1964, giving them six consecutive championships and cementing their status as a dynasty.  Jones scoring average continued to climb as well, as he, along with John Havlicek, became the focal points of the offense.  The retirement of Bob Cousy following the 1962-63 season also ushered in a new era in the Boston backcourt, and one with a distinct defensive feel.  Cousy, replaced in the starting lineup by defensive specialist KC Jones, could only marvel at the quality of play exhibited by the duo nicknamed “The Jones Boys”.

 

“It was a great pairing,” Cousy says.  “It gave Arnold [Auerbach] a different dimension that what he had with me and Sharman, and he knew how to coach to their strengths.  It helped keep the championships coming, that’s for sure.”

 

Jones averaged a career-high 25.9 PPG during the 1964-65 season, good enough for fourth in the league, and landed in the NBA All-Star Game for the third time in his career.  Noteworthy to be certain, but statistics and individual accolades were of little concern.  Sam Jones was a team player who shared Russell’s singular desire to win it all, all the time.

 

"Scoring averages don’t mean a thing, " he says.  "Making the All-Star team, and being named All-NBA, those things don’t mean a thing either.  Every guy on those Celtic teams had the ability to lead the team in scoring if that's what he was asked to do.  But we all had a role to play.  We all knew what was expected of us, and what each of us had to do in order to win the championship.  It was the most unselfish group of people I’ve ever been associated with.  It’s also why I didn’t want to be inducted into the hall of fame without my teammates.  To me, what we did wasn’t about one person.  It was only about Bill Russell or Sam Jones.  It was about the entire team, the roles we played, and the sacrifices that we made in order to achieve something bigger.”

 

The Celtics continued sacrificing and kept right on winning, adding two more titles to the coffer before Auerbach bowed out as head coach following the 1965-66 season.  Rumors swirled as to who would take over the reins, but in Auerbach’s mind there was only one other man who could coach the great Bill Russell:  Russell himself.

 

“Great choice,” Jones says without hesitation.  “Russell was at the perfect point in his career to coach the Boston Celtics.  It was a veteran team, a close team, and we were all focused on championships.  That was all that mattered.”

 

Russell’s first season as player/coach ended in disappointment, as the Celtics succumbed 1-4 to Wilt Chamberlain and the eventual champion Philadelphia 76ers.  Jones played well throughout, leading the team with a 22.1 PPG scoring average, and although he failed to make the All-Star Team for the first time in four years, Jones was named to the All-NBA Second Team.  The Celtics, meanwhile, were viewed by many as too old to challenge for another championship.  They proved the experts wrong by winning it all in 1968 and repeating in 1969, with Jones playing a huge role in Game 4 of that ’69 series against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Behind by one point with seven seconds remaining, the Celtics called a timeout and Russell didn’t hesitate in choosing the player to take the game-winning shot.  When Jones found the ball in his hands, he did what he always did best.

 

 

"I knew that last shot was good from the moment it left my hand," Jones says, smiling.  "There never was any doubt because I had time to release the shot properly, and I trusted my technique completely.  That took the pressure off.  The ball rolled right over the cylinder.  We won that game, and then we went on to win the championship."

 

The ’69 championship gave Russell 11 titles in 13 seasons, while Jones finished with 10 in 12.  Both retired as two of the greatest legends to ever wear a Boston Celtic uniform.  Perhaps the greatest compliment anyone paid to Jones was supplied by Auerbach at a special ceremony at Boston Garden. "I would like to thank Sam Jones," he said at the time, "for making me a helluva coach."

 

In 1970, Jones was named to the NBA 25th Anniversary All-Time Team, and in 1983 he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  In 1996, Jones – Mr. Clutch to you – was further honored by being named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

 

Celtic Nation is honored to bring you this interview.

CELTIC-NATION
You were born on June 24th, 1933, in Laurinburg, North Carolina.  Please tell me a little about your childhood, and some of the things that led you to the basketball court.

SAM JONES
Laurinburg is a very small town – much smaller than Wilmington, which is where many people seem to think I was born and raised.  Wilmington had a big, big school.  Laurinburg didn’t have anything like that.  It was a very small town, and my childhood in Laurinburg was very typical in many respects.  All of the boys that I knew played basketball, baseball and football.  We weren’t focused on one sport, we played them all.  That’s just the way it was back then.

It’s interesting, because at that time as a young boy, I was fortunate to have what you would call mentors – these were boys that were a little bit older than me, and these were boys that I looked up to as role models.  There were four of them in total, and three of these four mentors went on to college – and I’m proud to say that all three of them graduated from college.  They were very important people in my life.  They were born way before myself and my friends were born, and they all played sports – in fact, they were the ones that got us involved.  I’m guessing now, but these young men were five, six, or seven years older than we were, and I can tell you right now that we never got into trouble.  I think that says something about the influence that they had on us.

When they went on to college and left us behind, I remember them coming back and telling us stories about meeting people from different places in the United States – places I thought I’d never visit, of course – and that was something that really stayed with me as I grew up.  I would sit there and listen to their stories with my eyes wide open, and they would talk about cities that seemed to exist in another world.  I learned that they’d all gotten scholarships to go to college, so they didn’t have to pay, and that was something else that really stuck with me.  I knew that if I wanted to go to college, then someone was going to have to give me a scholarship.  So I guess you could say that these mentors were truly instrumental in leading me to the basketball court.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You went to high school at Laurinburg Institute – as did jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie and future Boston Celtic Charlie Scott.  What were your high school years like at Laurinburg?

SAM JONES
Yes, I went to high school at Laurinburg Institute, which was a co-ed school.  The coach’s name was Dr. Frank McDuffie, Jr., and he was the coach of football, basketball, baseball and track.  Since we were a very, very small school, we had to play several sports.  My sports were basketball and baseball, but he made me play three years of football at quarterback, which I didn’t want to play [laughs].  Somehow I made it through, and after graduation I was one of the most highly recruited basketball players in the State of North Carolina.  He never did make a football player out of me – there weren’t a lot of offers to go off and play quarterback [laughs].

By the way, you’re correct – the great Dizzy Gillespie also went to Laurinburg, but that was before my time.  Charlie Scott also went there years later, so there was a lot of history for such a small school.  I’m proud to say that I was a part of that history.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You played collegiate basketball at North Carolina Central, a small NAIA school.  What led you to attend school at this university, and what was it like to go back years later as the head basketball coach?

SAM JONES
Back in those days blacks couldn’t go to the white schools, at least not in North Carolina.  There were a lot of white schools that recruited me, but they were simply too far away – either up north or way out west.  I thought it was funny in a way; recruiting was much different then than it is today, and some of these schools contacted me even though I’d never heard of them.  I guess they had heard about me from someone who had seen me play, or from someone who had told someone about me.  Anyway, I ended up staying close to home and going to what is now known as North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.

I was recruited by head coach John McClendon, who became one of the first African-American coaches to break into professional basketball when he coached the Cleveland Pipers.  He was quite a man.  He traveled the world promoting the game of basketball.  He learned basketball from Dr. James Naismith as an undergraduate at Kansas, and he was the first coach in history to win three consecutive national titles. He did that by leading Tennessee State to the 1957, 1958 and 1959 NAIA national championships.  For many years he scouted opposing teams for the United States, as the US prepared to play basketball in the Olympic Games.  He’s also in the NAIA Hall of Fame – I think he was inducted sometime in the 1970s.  He was a great man, so it was an honor to play for him and an honor to return to the school in the same capacity as head basketball coach.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You mentioned John McClendon – in what ways was he like the legendary Red Auerbach, and in what ways was he different?
 
SAM JONES
I enjoyed my time with Coach McClendon because he gave you a lot of leeway.  You had a lot of liberty to create something in his offense.  But he was also a little bit of a dictator like Red was with the Celtics. They both stressed discipline and fundamentals and that's still important today.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You graduated from college in four years, which is the exception rather than the rule today.  And if not for basketball, you wanted to become a teacher.
 
SAM JONES
I love education.  I love teaching.  I was also interested in medicine – if there had been scholarships for black kids to go to medical school back then, and if I had qualified, I'd have done that over pro ball.  But there just wasn’t any money for me to go that route.

CELTIC-NATION
In September 1954 you entered the Army, going through the Pole Lineman's school at Camp Gordon, Georgia.  Please tell me about your military career, and also about the basketball that you played in the service.

SAM JONES
I don’t know why they sent me to Camp Gordon, and the Army must not have known either, because I wasn’t there very long.  They soon switched me to the 101st  Airborne Division.  I guess they saw me as one of those gung-ho guys [laughs].  I was surprised when I got drafted – I took my basic training at Gordon and then they sent me on down to Augusta, Georgia.  Some guy came around looking for volunteers for jump school.  He said that you’d make more money doing that.  Well, all he had to say was money – I was a pretty good athlete and I was in pretty good shape, and he was looking for guys who fit that mold.  I thought it would be interesting so I volunteered, and the next thing you know I’m at Fort Benning, Georgia, where they prepared you for jumping.  That was really interesting, because you were up early, way before five o’clock in the morning, and you were out there training with the other jumpers.  You were getting yourself into condition and preparing to jump from an airplane.  The getting up part didn’t bother me at all, because to this day I still get up very early in the morning.  The jumping part was another story [laughs].

It wasn’t long before we were actually jumping, and reality hit me – I thought I had to be out of my mind [laughs].  Well, they took us to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  At that particular time that’s where you did most of your jumping.  Most people don’t realize this, but you don’t pull your own parachute.  In the plane, you have what you call a static line.  When the jump master ordered you to stand up, you hooked yourself up to that static line, which actually stayed in the plane, and that’s what pulled your chute for you.  You didn’t do it yourself.  You also had an emergency chute, just in case, which you would pulled yourself in the event of a problem with the primary chute.  It was interesting because you’d see all of these people standing up and bailing out of the plane, and the parachutes opening up, and that’s all you want to happen when it’s your turn to jump.  It’s a thrill that everyone should try once in their lives because there’s nothing under you.

In training they work with you on how to hit the ground – they teach you to roll over because you hit pretty hard.  It’s a thud, it’s not an easy landing.  I hurt my ankle pretty badly once.  I think it was my fifth jump.  I didn’t break it, but it was about as close as you come so I got out of there – I didn’t jump anymore [laughs].  In the meantime I got shipped to White Sands Proving Grounds, which is in New Mexico.  I was given a desk job, and they were starting a basketball team – it was the first basketball team that they had ever fielded – and it was fielded by a second lieutenant named Robert Williams.  Fine man.  He is still living, resides in California, and we still keep in touch quite often by telephone.  Well, when he started the team he made me his assistant coach.  He wanted me to help because he was inexperienced and really didn’t like cutting players, and he knew he could delegate the duties that he didn’t like to his assistant [laughs].

We had twelve players on that first team.  We were very fortunate in one respect, because we had people on the team who were over 6’6”.  We didn’t think the Army was allowed to take anybody over 6’6”.  Anyway, we played our games with these twelve volunteers who were simply interested in the game of basketball.  There was nothing fancy about it – in fact, that first year we didn’t even have a gym to play in.  We scrimmaged in a Quonset hut.  Now, you don’t even know what I’m talking about, do you [laughs]?  A Quonset hut is like a metal, oval-shaped building that could be quickly assembled without skilled labor.  That’s what we used to practice in – they just put baskets on each end of the Quonset hut, and when they were finished only a small number of people could be seated in it.  I’m talking 60-to70, tops.  That’s the place we practiced.  So needless to say, we didn’t have any home games that season.  We played all of our games off base – at other air force bases, army bases, and on some college campuses against  junior varsity teams.  That year we played 34 games, and we won 30.  The current athletic director at Texas Tech, Gerald Myers, was on that junior varsity team that we played against at Texas Tech.  This was back in 1955.  And then there were people like Frank Ramsey, who was my teammate in Boston.  Frank was in the military, based at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  And there was Bobby Leonard, who was known as Slick – he played professional basketball for the Minneapolis Lakers and the Los Angeles Lakers.  Both of these gentleman are in the Hall of Fame, and both were playing basketball in the military at the same time as me.  Bobby was the one who really got me interested in playing professional basketball.  I’d never really thought about it until we played against each other at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Frank Ramsey was there, Bobby Leonard was there, Al Bianchi was there – Al Bianchi played for Syracuse and Philadelphia, and went on to coach professionally with Chicago and Phoenix.

I didn’t get a chance to play against Frank Ramsey because he had just gotten shipped out, but I played against some of these other guys and I performed pretty well.  That’s when people started asking me if I wanted to play pro ball.  Bobby Leonard left and went to Minneapolis, and the Lakers actually drafted me while I was in the service, but I decided that I wanted to go back to school and get my degree – I’d always wanted to get my degree.  So I went back to school and my name went back into the hat for the NBA Draft.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You were the eighth overall selection in the 1957 NBA Draft, site unseen, by the legendary Red Auerbach.  Your initial reaction was one of disappointment.  Please share your reaction to being drafted by the Boston Celtics.

SAM JONES
To be quite honest, I was shocked when the Boston Celtics drafted me in the first round of the 1957 NBA Draft.  I don’t think many people knew who I was because I didn’t play for a big program like Kansas or Kentucky.  In fact, I was the first African-American from a black college to be drafted in the first round of any sport.  I didn’t feel like I had something to prove, but I carried burden on my shoulders that felt very similar to what Jackie Robinson must have felt.  I wanted to succeed.  I wanted to make good so that others could follow me, and so that the people in this country could see that we had some good basketball players in our black collegiate institutions.

There is something else I would like to mention:  My father died when I was quite young, and that could have given me the excuse to go the wrong way – but I did not.  I had a very fine immediate family, and a fine extended family, and we still have family reunions every year.  So to be drafted by the Boston Celtics was more than an honor for me – it was a testament to the fine family that raised me into the man that I became.

The year that I was discharged from the army and returned to school, well, I want you to know that we had a hell of a season.  We just simply had a good team.  North Carolina Central always had good teams back then, even though it was a small, Division II school, but  that year we were particularly strong.  Bones McKinney, who had played for Red Auerbach and who had also coached in the ACC, knew who I was because we were so good, and he played a big part in my becoming a Boston Celtic.  It was during my senior season that Red called Bones McKinney and asked him who, in his opinion, was the best basketball player in the State of North Carolina.  And he said, “Sam Jones’.  Red Auerbach didn’t know anything about me [laughs], but he knew that that year UNC had won 32 straight games, had beat Kansas in triple-overtime for the NCAA championship, and had done so by beating a KU team featuring Wilt Chamberlain.  This is 1957.  This is the year that UNC had guys like Tommy Kearns and Lennie Rosenbluth – Rosenbluth averaged over 29 points-per-game that season and was named the Helms Foundation National Player of the Year.  Red knew all of this because these were the big schools with proven programs, and that’s why he really challenged Bones McKinney’s evaluation.  McKinney never wavered  - he said the best player in the State of North Carolina was Sam Jones – and that was ultimately enough to convince Red.  He ended up drafting me in the first round of the 1957 NBA Draft.

You’re right – I was disappointed that the Boston Celtics drafted me, because I really didn’t want to go up there and play with ‘em [laughs].  I didn’t want to go with them because I felt that I wouldn’t get to play.  Don’t get me wrong, I felt that I was good enough to play, but because the Celtics had just won their first world championship I didn’t think I would even have a shot at making the team.  People today don’t realize this, but back them teams were only allowed to carry ten players on the active roster.  My thinking was that Red wasn’t going to cut anybody.  I felt that he was going to be loyal to that team because it was the one that won his first world championship.  Well, I thought it over and finally decided to give it a try, and the fella that I beat out for the last spot was coached by Bones McKinney.  How ironic is that?  His name was Dick Hemric.  To me, it was almost unbelievable at the time.  Hemric was a two-time ACC Men's Basketball Player of the Year in ‘54 and ’55.  He set the conference scoring records that remained untouched for 50 years, until that kid [J.J.] Redick from Duke broke it a couple of years ago.  And like I said, he was a member of Red’s first championship team, so it was very special to beat out such a fine player for that last roster spot.

 

CELTIC-NATION
After playing college basketball in relatively small venues, what was it like to play in fabled arenas like the Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden?

SAM JONES
It was a big adjustment, believe me.  All of a sudden, you’re in these huge arenas.  All of a sudden, you’re looking at 18,000 people there to watch a basketball game, and you’re a part of it.  I remember playing in New York for the first time and performing at Madison Square Garden.  As a rookie it was very intimidating.  You’ve got to run out there, and the spotlight is on you. You just hear the noise. You feel like you’re as small as an ant, and you’re so nervous.

CELTIC-NATION
Please tell me about the great Bill Russell – your relationship with him on the basketball court, and your friendship with him away from it.

SAM JONES
Well, we still have that friendship, and that’s one of the reasons that I’m going to his fantasy camp in Las Vegas.  Bill and I stay in contact with each other – we’ve always done that since Day 1, and I mean since we retired together following that last championship in 1969.  Bill Russell was a fella determined to be the best that he could be – I hate to say that because it sounds like the Marines, but that is the absolute truth.  He was determined to be the best.  He had that will to win.  Whatever cliché you want to pick, it just isn’t a cliché when you’re talking about Bill Russell.  He was so competitive and so committed to excellence that he tried to win every play, every possession.  To me, what makes a player great is the ability to make the other players around him play better.  Bill Russell did that.  He was just an incredibly special basketball player, and nowhere was that more apparent than on defense.  From the moment Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics and on up until today, he remains the greatest defensive player to ever play the game.  And trust me, I do follow basketball – and I have not seen anyone that could block shots with the great timing that he had.  It was unbelievable.  And it was just a joy to play with him knowing that nobody you played was going into the lane and make a layup.  Not as long as Bill Russell was the protector of that basket.  He carried that level of play with him for thirteen years in the NBA, and I thank God that I had the opportunity to play basketball with him for twelve of those thirteen years.  Between the two of us, we hold the record for championships.  He won eleven and I won ten.  There are only two players in NBA history to ever win more than ten championships, and that’s Russell and I.  You can talk about great players – you can talk about Michael Jordan all you want because he was a great player.  But again, what makes a truly great player is a man who makes his teammates around him better.  Nobody did that better than Bill Russell.

 

CELTIC-NATION
You would be hard-pressed to find a classier gentleman than KC Jones.  Please tell me a little about KC, and how the starting Hall of Fame backcourt of Sam and KC Jones differed from that of Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.

SAM JONES

You couldn’t have a better situation than I did, playing with guys like that.  They were all so special  - KC Jones, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Jim Loscutoff, Tom Heinsohn, and John Havlicek.  It was unbelievable the way we played as a team, and I was really mad – yes, I’m going to put it that way, I was really mad when they started picking entire teams for inclusion into the Hall of Fame.  When I was inducted, one of my statements was that team sports were not about the individual, that sometimes forgotten are the players who may not make it to the Hall of Fame – which is the case with some of the players that I played with during my career with the Boston Celtics.  So the day that I was inducted I said that my [Hall of Fame] ring was in honor of those players that I participated with who may never find themselves standing at that podium in Springfield.  I also said that it was my wish that we could go in as a team.  At that time the Hall of Fame had never inducted a team – but just a few years ago the first team to be included was the Harlem Globetrotters.  And then, in 2007, Texas Western was inducted.  If you saw the movie Glory Road, you know that they won the 1966 NCAA National Championship and did so by becoming the first Division I school to start five African-American players.  Not to take anything away from that, but I’ve always thought that we should have went into the Hall of Fame as a team.  I went to eleven NBA Finals in my twelve years in the league, and we won ten championships.  You’ll never see that again – that will never happen, unless God gets his own team [laughs].

 

CELTIC-NATION
In Bill Russell and Sam Jones, the Boston Celtics had the perfect blend of defensive and offensive prowess.  How long did it take for you to realize that you were in a very special situation?


I wasn’t even thinking about that at the time, but it truly was special.  The whole time I was there we never signed a no-cut contract.  We just played because we loved the game.  And we even loved it better because we had Bill Russell and we had Bob Cousy, who was way ahead of his time.  When you looked at John Stockton, you would think that John Stockton was a clone of Bob Cousy.  Having those guys around was a luxury that very few teams could ever claim.  Cousy was a magician with the basketball, and Russell was the greatest defensive player - and the greatest winner – the NBA has ever seen.


SAM JONES

I remember my third year with the Celtics, and Coach Auerbach bringing me in and saying that I had a green light to shoot the basketball.  I’d heard about the green light to shoot, and it was only granted if Auerbach had the trust in a player’s scoring ability.  You could shoot it anytime you wanted to.  I said, ‘Coach, what did you say?’  He said, ‘You’ve got the green light, and that gives you a lot of responsibility.’  So I felt kind of  special then [laughs].

 

CELTIC-NATION
In those days, the Celtics made frequent preseason barnstorming tours throughout New England.  What memories stand out from those tours, and did you ever experience Red’s driving firsthand?
 
SAM JONES
Don’t even talk about that – I rode with him once and I got straight out of the car [laughs].  No, no, no, no [laughs].  You know how the rookies were supposed to ride with certain people – well, I wanted to ride with Bill Russell.  He was safe.  You know Red – there was no telling where Red was going, or if he was going to make it there in one piece [laughs].  From then on I never volunteered to ride with Red.  Besides, when I joined the team Russell was the only black player on the roster.  The joke during my rookie season was that I made the team because Russell needed somebody to talk to [laughs].  I didn’t room with Russell that much, I roomed with Frank Ramsey and sometimes with Tommy Heinsohn.  Those barnstorming tours were something else – you’d play the same team every night, maybe the Minneapolis Lakers, and by the end of the thing you were ready to kill each other [laughs].

CELTIC-NATION
The bank shot was your calling card, as deadly a weapon as Kareem’s sky hook, but you don’t see players shooting it as much today?  What has happened to the bank shot?

SAM JONES
It hasn’t really gone anywhere, I just don’t think that it’s being taught like it used to be taught.  I think the three-point shot has something to do with that, because it really has hurt the intermediate jumper.  Coaches today are stressing the three pointer, kids see it on television, and as a result the midrange jumper has been lost.  I think that’s a mistake.

One of the greatest teachers of the bank shot was John Wooden at UCLA.  Most of his kids had that shot.  Tim Duncan is still shooting the bank shot, and he’s going to go down as one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA.  He shoots it with pretty good accuracy, and I think he prefers that midrange bank shot over a flashy slam dunk.  In that respect he’s a throwback of sorts.  Scottie Pippen used that shot quite a bit as well.  But those guys are the exceptions to the rule.  I just think the bank shot is one of the most effective shots you could use on the court, within a certain range.

 

CELTIC-NATION
In tight game situations you were known to stay away from the huddles during timeouts, and yet you retired as one of the greatest clutch shooters in NBA history.  Did you demand the basketball in those situations, as so many players seem to do today, or did the impetus to take the big shot come from your teammates?

SAM JONES
No, I didn’t demand the basketball.  The impetus came from Red Auerbach.  He took all the pressure off of the players – in those tight games where you needed that one shot, he would call timeout, pull us all together and call the play for me.  As we’re coming off the court he’d say, ‘We’re running the two play for Sam Jones’, or ‘We’re going to run the four play for Sam Jones.’  I had quite a few plays designed for me to get a shot off.  I knew when we ran those plays that we were going to have an open shot.  It wasn’t’ that I’d stay away from the huddle, but the play had already been called.  I was just waiting for the gong to be sounded so that we could go back out on the court [laughs].

 

CELTIC-NATION
Let’s talk about the “Bill Russell & His Legendary Friends Adult Basketball Camp”.  How did this idea get started, and what part of the camp are you most looking forward to?

SAM JONES
Question mark?  No, you’d better make that an exclamation point [laughs]!  Let’s put it that way [laughs].  It got started because of Bill Russell.  He’s the main guy.  I receive this call from Bill and he’s going to have Magic Johnson, John Havlicek, Jerry West, Charles Barkley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, maybe Elgin Baylor…and I’m looking at all of these names , and I’m saying to myself, ‘My gosh; he’s going to invite me to this event with all of these guys?’  I’m coming as a friend, he invited me as a friend, and I know that people who go to fantasy camps will never get a collection of players together like this in one place again.  Clyde Drexler.  Everyone that I’ve named is in the Hall of Fame.  There also among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players.  Ann Myers, one of the greatest basketball players of all-time – men or women – is going to be there.  And I’m just saying to myself, ‘My gosh – I’m just glad to be a part of this.’  So what I did is unbelievable – I went directly to the gym [laughs].  I have been training for the last two months.  My legs are in better shape.  I have been riding a bike for ten miles a day, five days a week.  I started working out with my arms.  I feel really good – it’s given me an excuse to get back into shape, and I feel better than I have in years.  But don’t misunderstand; I’m coming to teach at this camp – there won’t be any dunking [laughs].

 

CELTIC-NATION
I don’t think you’ll want Danny Ainge finding out about your new workout regimen – he recently tried to lure Reggie Miller out of retirement.

SAM JONES
Yes, but Reggie is at least forty – and I’m close to double that.  I’m seventy-four!  I think Danny Ainge is smarter than that [laughs].  But seriously, I feel great and I’m looking forward to working with everyone at this camp.

CELTIC-NATION
Please tell me about two of your fellow campers – Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

SAM JONES
Oh, Jerry West is something special.  Just a tremendous basketball player.  All of these people who talk guards, they don’t know about Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.  They were probably the two greatest guards to ever play the game, at least until guys like Magic, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant came along.  Jerry and Oscar, because of their athleticism and knowledge, could still play the game at an All-Star level today.  They could play with anybody.  Jerry West just came out wanting to win.  He had that attitude, the one that screams ‘I want to win.’  If it wasn’t’ for the Boston Celtics he would have probably ended up winning six or seven rings.  We went up against the Lakers year-after-year-after-year and it was not easy beating us.  It didn’t happen very often, I’ll put it that way.

One more story about Jerry West – we were in the playoffs and preparing to play the Lakers for the championship.  Jerry and the Lakers had the best team ever; really, they were just winning like mad and killing their opponents.  That’s how much talent they had.  Before we go out to L.A. I learn that I’ve got to guard Jerry West.  So in practice I’m guarding John Havlicek, and I knew that Jerry couldn’t run like John.  I say this because I knew I was going to need all of the preparation in the world to keep up with Jerry.  He was that tremendous.  Well, we get out to L.A., and we’ve a really good guy on our roster – and guy by the name of Emmette Bryant.  He looks at Russell and says, ‘Russell, I’ve got Jerry West tonight.’  And I said, ‘Good – and thank God.  You can have him.’  Russell put me on him anyway [laughs].

 

 

CELTIC-NATION
Red Auerbach retired following an eighth consecutive NBA Championship in 1966, and Bill Russell was Red’s choice to take over as player / coach.  Please tell me about this period in Celtics history.

SAM JONES
I had the pleasure of playing with Bill Russell for twelve years, and when I first joined the Celtics I lived with Russell and his family – I stayed with him until I made the team and knew that I could afford a place of my own.  We became great friends, but honestly, it was more like family.  It was a great chemistry that carried over onto the court.  And then years later, after I had moved out he had went on to become the head coach, I learned that half of the time I could do nothing right.  That’s what becoming a head coach can do to a friendship [laughs].  Seriously though, Bill Russell was the only man who could possibly follow Red Auerbach as head coach of the Boston Celtics.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Bill Russell’s accomplishments are legendary.  Everyone knows about his epic battles with Wilt Chamberlain.  Take me behind the curtain – what were the practices like?

SAM JONES
Bill Russell was not a practice player.  He never wanted to practice.  So what he would do – he would always come to practice, but he would block every shot he could contest.  And I mean every shot.  A layup, a fifteen foot jumper, it didn’t matter.  He wouldn’t let anything go into the basket.  Red did not like that, and the players did not like that, so we’d put him off and let him sit down while the rest of us went on to have a good practice [laughs].

 

CELTIC-NATION
What was it like playing for Red Auerbach?

SAM JONES
Red had a simple system that you had to adapt to. When you play under a coach that doesn't make things hard, it truly makes things much easier.  The one thing that I liked about playing under Red was that he felt that you shouldn't come to camp to get into shape.  He felt you should stay in shape all year so that the day training camp opens, you were ready to play the first game.  His training camps were much more demanding than playing the actual games themselves.

 

CELTIC-NATION
As you’ve said, Bill Russell won 11 NBA Championships in thirteen seasons.  You won ten titles in twelve years.  Many of those championships were won in the tightest of games, and with the pressure dialed way up.  How were the Celtics able to thrive under such intense championship pressure?

SAM JONES
I’ll answer that with a story.  We were in Game 7 of an NBA Finals, and Bill Russell was the coach.  The game was tight late in the game, and Russell called timeout.  We all gather together on the sideline, and Russell says, ‘Okay guys, we’re going to run a six.’  Now, the six play is for Bill Russell – the worst shooter on our team [laughs].  So he calls the six play and of course it doesn’t work, but we get the rebound and call timeout.  Now we’ve got about thirteen seconds left in the game.  Russell says, ‘Okay guys, we’re going to run the seven play.’  So we run the seven play that that doesn’t work, either.  We get another rebound and call our last timeout.  We get together in the huddle, and all of us realize that there is a lot of pressure – we didn’t leave school early like kids do today.  We graduated [smiles].  To a man we knew that there was less than ten seconds left and that we needed to score if we were going to walk off the court as champions.  Russell gathers us together and says, ‘Okay guys, we ran the six play and that didn’t work.  We ran the seven play and that didn’t work.  Six and seven equals fourteen.  Let’s run the fourteen play.’  We run the fourteen play and sure enough it works – we win the championship.  We get back to the locker room and all the media is swarming around.  Someone asks, ‘Russell, what play did you run?’  He says, ‘Oh God, we ran the seven play and it didn’t work, we ran the six play and it didn’t work – seven and six equals fourteen, so we ran that play and we won the game.’  So the news writers were scratching their heads – and one of them good-naturedly asks, ‘Russell, where did you graduate from?’  Russell hadn’t caught on.  He says, ‘Oh, USF – the University of San Francisco.’ The writer smiles and says, ‘Well, where we come from seven and six equals thirteen.’  Well, let me tell you something – Havlicek didn’t know it, I didn’t know it…nobody standing in the huddle at that point in time, when that play was called, knew that seven and six equaled fourteen.  That’s what pressure is all about.  We were so focused on the play that was called, and on executing that play to win a championship, that we weren’t aware of Russell’s little adding problem [laughs].

 

CELTIC-NATION
The Celtics played the Lakers for the 1969 NBA Championship.  What memories stand out after all these years?

SAM JONES
Probably the fourth game of the series – there were seven seconds to go in the game, and we were losing by a point.  If we lost this game, we'd go to Los Angeles down 3 games to 1.  We called a timeout, and Russell called a play for me.  Later, he told me he almost didn't call it because it was my last season and he said that people always remember the one you missed.  'But I made it, and I knew it was good from the time it left my hand.  It rolled right over the cylinder.  We won the game and went on to win the championship.

 

CELTIC-NATION
Final Question:  You’ve achieved great success in your life.  You are universally respected and admired by many people, both inside and outside of the NBA.  If you could offer one piece of advice on life to others, what would that be?

SAM JONES
God gives everyone in this life a gift.  Find out what it is, and use it well.

 

Posted by CelticsPride at 痞客邦 PIXNET 留言(0) 引用(1) 人氣()


open trackbacks list Trackbacks (1)

  • my website

    Mr. Clutch - Sam Jones @ Celtic Pride :: 痞客邦 PIXNET ::

留言列表 (0)

Post Comment

You haven’t logged in yet, please use guest status to leave message. You can also log in with above service account and leave message

other options