Season Recaps - 1940s
1946: Birth Of The Celtics
The Celtics came into being on June 6, 1946. On that day 11 men (all of whom owned either professional hockey teams, large arenas in major cities, or both) met to discuss the formation of a new professional basketball league. They christened the new league the Basketball Association of America and modeled its season, which featured a 60-game schedule and a series of playoffs, after the that of the National Hockey League. The game itself was based on college basketball, but with the contests lengthened to 48 minutes rather than the 40 played in college.
A driving force behind the BAA was Celtics owner Walter Brown, who ran the Boston Garden and was part of the NHL's Boston Bruins organization. Brown hired John "Honey" Russell as his first coach, and the Celtics' maiden home game was played on November 5, 1946. The contest began an hour behind schedule because Boston's Chuck Connors (later the star of television's The Rifleman) splintered a wooden backboard with a practice dunk before the game. Boston lost to the Chicago Stags, 57-55, but the 4,329 fans in attendance not only got to see the Celtics' first-ever home game but also witnessed the first broken backboard in professional basketball history.
1946-50: A Four-Year Struggle
The franchise struggled for respectability during its first four years. The inaugural 1946-47 campaign yielded a 22-38 record and a last-place tie with the Toronto Huskies in the BAA's Eastern Division. Connie Simmons, a 6-8 center, led the Celtics in scoring with 10.3 points per game.
The team fared slightly better the following year, managing to make the playoffs with a 20-28 record. Appearing in their first postseason contest, the Celtics lost Game 1 to the Chicago Stags, but they came back to beat the Stags, 81-77, on March 31, 1948, to claim the franchise's first-ever playoff win. Their playoff hopes were short-lived, however, as the Stags eliminated the Celtics two nights later.
For the 1948-49 campaign Brown hired a new coach, Alvin "Doggie" Julian, who had guided Holy Cross to an NCAA Championship the year before. But the results were pretty much the same. Boston's roster was populated with little-remembered players such as Gene Stump, Dutch Garfinkel, and Hank Beenders, just 3 of the 18 cagers who wore Celtics Green that season. The club finished out of the playoffs with a 25-35 mark.
The BAA merged with the rival National Basketball League prior to the 1949-50 season. The new league, christened the National Basketball Association, fielded 17 teams. Julian was back at Boston's helm for a second year, and the Celtics once again finished out of the playoffs with a 22-46 record that earned them the last-place spot in the Eastern Division.