Celtics

Walter McCarty described his special bond with Tommy Heinsohn

"I love you T."

(Left to right) Tommy Heinsohn, Walter McCarty, and Mike Gorman in 2012. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

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Celtics fans of a certain age will immediately recognize the catchphrase “I love Waltah” as Tommy Heinsohn’s, and just as quickly identify the recipient of the longtime Celtics broadcaster’s devotion as Walter McCarty.

Heinsohn, who died Monday at the age of 86, was known to pepper his broadcasts with affection for anyone associated with the Celtics. But mentioning McCarty, a sometimes exciting, mostly middling player who averaged 5.2 points per game during his NBA career, alongside the longtime Celtics color commentator elicits a certain kind of nostalgia.

McCarty was often on the receiving end of Heinsohn’s praise during his time with the Celtics from 1997 to 2004, seasons in which the Celtics mostly were not very good. That Heinsohn showed such enthusiasm for that player and those teams was representative of his approach to calling games as a whole, and his connection to the fans who watched them.

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The two formed a bond after McCarty’s playing days were done, a bond which McCarty, who has since gone into coaching, elaborated on Tuesday following Heinsohn’s death.

View this post on Instagram

Definitely at a loss for words today. I’m saddened by the passing of my good buddy and friend Tommy, I can’t explain the relationship you and I have had over years but I’m so grateful. You were dear to my heart. Though we played in different eras, our love and respect for one another did not. My favorite Celtic memories include dinners at your house with guys like Cous, Hondo, and Satch. There, I truly learned what being a Celtic was all about. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t hear the phrase you coined, “I Love Waltah” from people of all ages that I’ve never met. That wouldn’t be possible without you my friend. You meant and touched so many lives on and off the court, I’m just happy to be on one of those pages. I will miss you my friend. I will miss giving you hugs and seeing that great big smile. I will cherish the special bond that you and I had. May you rest in heaven big guy. Give Helen a Waltah hug for me. I love you T. Waltah #celtics #legend #15 #hof #boston

A post shared by Walter McCarty (@waltermccarty) on

“There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t hear the phrase you coined,’I Love Waltah’ from people of all ages that I’ve never met,” McCarty wrote, in part, on Instagram. “That wouldn’t be possible without you my friend. You meant and touched so many lives on and off the court, I’m just happy to be on one of those pages.

“I will miss you my friend. I will miss giving you hugs and seeing that great big smile. I will cherish the special bond that you and I had. May you rest in heaven big guy. Give Helen a Waltah hug for me. I love you T.”

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