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The one and only Siggy

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  October 16, 2010 03:29 PM

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Larry Siegfried, who passed away this week at age 71, was not a star. But he was something better.

He was a Celtic.

Old Celtic devotees have always had a very soft spot in their hearts for Siggy, who played on five championship teams during his seven-year Celtics' career, and whose value seemed to grow with each passing season. That's probably because Siggy posed two qualities that can never be taught. He was smart, and he was tough.

For those not in the know, Larry Siegfried was a 6-3 guard. A guard, notice? I didn't say point guard" or "off-guard." He was a guard-guard, an old-fashioned basketball player who was well-schooled by Fred Taylor at Ohio State and, I'm sure, by his high school coach in Shelby, Ohio. He was co-captain of the 1960 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. And the longer he played with the Bill Russell Celtics, he became a surrogate assistant coach. Larry Siegfried knew the game.

You've probably seen the basic biographical stuff in the obits, how he went directly to the old ABL Cleveland Pipers (who won the title in that league) after graduating from Ohio State and then landed with the Celtics when the league folded, thanks to the recommendation of his old Buckeye teammate, John Havlicek.

From the start, Siggy could defend. How well I remember sitting in those BC dorms listening to Johhny Most informing his listeners on WHDH, radio 850-AM, that "Siggy is in his shirt!" Siggy was dogged; that's all.

Offensively, he was a real asset since he could both shoot and pass and thus be paired with anyone either Red Auerbach or Russell desired. His counsel was often sought during the Russell coaching era, and it is part of Celtics' folklore that it was Siggy who suggested and diagrammed the "Ohio" play on which Sam Jones hit the famous roll-around-the-rim game-winner in Game 4 of the 1969 Finals against the Lakers. Russell was far from a dictatorial player-coach. He welcomed input from all responsible parties, and it was always contended that Siggy was Russ' de facto offensive coordinator.

I covered him for one year, and found him to be hyperactive and very chatty, usually ending lengthy discourses on this 'n that by saying, "You follow me?" It wasn't a particularly happy year for him. He was not completely on Tom Heinsohn's wave-length as he had been on Red and Russ'. It's possible Heinsohn saw more possibilities in Siggy than Siggy saw in himself. I have a lasting memory of composing my game story in the old press box one night, with Heinsohn calling up to us, "Siggy did it." I believe Siggy had 31 that night.

Expansion came to the NBA in 1970, and Siggy was a casualty. He was taken by Portland and then traded to the San Diego Rockets. He stayed there for a year and then went to Houston. But Siggy's career ended quickly. He could not function outside of Boston.

He was a Celtic.

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About bob ryan's blog Opinions, observations and anecdotes from Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan.
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