Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
There’s a story Mike Gorman likes to tell. It goes back to his wedding day.
Gorman and his wife, Teri, were married in a small inn in Little Compton, R.I. Eight months after the ceremony, Teri started sifting though things from the wedding.
She told Mike, “I’ve sent out all the thank-you notes, I think I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. We just never got anything from Tommy.”
This was, of course, Tommy Heinsohn she as talking about. He was Gorman's broadcast partner, but at the same time he was still a legend in Gorman's mind. Gorman told her, “No big deal, he probably forgot about it.”
Two or three more weeks passed when they get an invitation from Heinsohn’s wife, Helen, for one of Tommy’s art shows.
“You have to be at this art show,” she said.
“Helen was very special,” Gorman said. “She was very much a part of Tommy’s basketball life, so she was a part of my life, too.”
So, they go to the gallery and Tommy’s artwork is hanging along the walls. In the middle of the gallery, one particular painting -- a large oil painting still sitting on an easel -- was surrounded by velvet rope.
Mike and Teri walked around to see the painting, and at the bottom, the title read “Wedding Day.”
It was a painting of the inn where they were married.
“It was his,” Heinsohn said. “I painted it as a wedding gift.”
Some 80 nights a year, fans have seen their 30 years of work. Last night, the Celtics honored all those years with "Mike and Tommy Night" at the Garden. But for the two of them, it's more like 30 years worth of memories.
“He’s a good friend,” Heinsohn said. “And that’s the ultimate compliment that you could give anybody.”
Heinsohn and Gorman have a working relationship that has outlasted some marriages. Granted, they have the benefit of being able to take time apart from each other during the summer. But they can count the number of disagreements they’ve had on one hand, which makes their on-air chemistry incomparable.
“There have never been two that fit together better than Tommy and Mike,” said WEEI’s Sean Grande.
They can set watches to each other’s habits. At home, Gorman’s going to get to the Garden 10 to 15 minutes before Heinsohn and grab a seat in the Will McDonough press room. On the road, Heinsohn’s going to be on the first bus, and he’ll be there 15 minutes before Gorman. They eat breakfast together every day on the road.
“We keep track of each other,” Gorman said. “That’s a safe way to put it. “
One of their keys is knowing not to take themselves or their jobs too seriously. It still strikes Gorman that for most Celtics fans, he’s been the only voice they’ve known, because to him that voice is Johnny Most.
But he and Heinson developed a chemistry from Day 1, when, as Gorman tells it, Gorman came with a library’s worth of notes and Heinsohn told him he wouldn’t be needing them.
Gorman had worked on a network level with two-hour production meetings, laundry lists of anecdotes and tidbits.
Planning, planning, planning.
“So often you’ll see, especially on a big network game,” Gorman said. “It’ll take them half the game to catch up with what’s really happening because they have these preloaded lists.”
That’s how Gorman learned it covering Big East basketball.
“He’s so smooth,” Heinsohn said. “And he’s GQ.”
Describing Heinsohn’s approach, he flips the night’s game notes across the table, “Tommy is like, Just sit down and go wherever the game takes you.”
“It really became our style.”
They riff, and it works.
“He tries to slip one in on me every once in a while,” Heinsohn said. “Like he mentioned, ‘Did I play with Benjamin Franklin’ the other day.
“I said, ‘Ben really liked the ladies, Mike.’”
They’re both still enthusiastic about the job. They could see themselves prolonging their run at least another half dozen years. But it’s hard to imagine one without the other.
“That’s pretty much the bottom line,” Gorman said. “We like each other. We’re friends.”