20 Years Ago Championship Banner #15 Was Claimed

A Look Back On The Year 1983-84

By Jeff Twiss

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Before one can fondly recall the championship season of 1983-84, the way the 1983 season ended had tremendous impact on the preceding campaign. The Milwaukee Bucks, led by a fiery young mentor (who proudly wore his famous fish ties) and former Boston Celtics star Don Nelson, had polished off the Green and White in four straight games in the 1983 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals.

This sweep marked just the second time in Celtics history that the Green and White had been eliminated without capturing a single victory, the other a two-game shutout came at the hands of the New York Knickerbockers in March 1951. Changes to the team swirled in the air and it started at the top.

On May 24th, owner Harry T. Mangurian, Jr. stunned Celtics fans when he announced that the team was up for sale. Three days later and almost four years after the day he was hired (May 27, 1979), the man who guided the 1980-81 Celtics to world championship title #14, Head Coach Bill Fitch, stunned everyone with his resignation. It was a major 1-2 punch blow.

What Celtics President Red Auerbach and General Manager Jan Volk did was analyze the talent, the strengths and weaknesses and the chemistry of the team. Superstar players just starting to reach their prime and a solid cast of role players were already intact, the task for management was to get the right man to guide and work with the team.

The solution? On June 7th, former Celtics great K.C. Jones got the call and was named head coach.

The naming of Jones really came as no surprise and with no grandiose introductions. The former University of San Francisco
Larry Bird Larry Bird led the 83-84 Celtics scoring 24.2 points per game.
Photo: Jerry Wachter/NBAE/Getty Images
All-American and two-time NCAA national champion, USA Olympic Gold Medal winner and ten-time NBA world championship winner, had been an assistant coach with the Celtics for the past five seasons and he had been a tough and defensive-minded player under Auerbach in the 1960's. He knew the system and what was needed.

New ownership followed on August 9th, when Don F. Gaston, Alan N. Cohen and Paul R. Dupee, Jr. signed an agreement to purchase the team. But one other very significant event happened before the new owners were even in charge.

On June 27th, with another one of Red's shrewd moves (along with Volk's insight and Jones' affiliation for a solid defensive player), the Celtics traded Rick Robey to the Phoenix Suns for guard Dennis Johnson (and a swap of draft choices). Robey would play just a few more years in the league while "DJ" would conclude his NBA career seven years later earning either First or Second-Team NBA All-Defensive Team honors nine straight years over his 14-year NBA career.

With a coach, ownership and a point guard in place, the Celtics wisely took care of two veteran matters before the season got rolling. On September 28th, the team signed superstar forward Larry Bird to a multi-year contract and on October 13th agreed to an extension to durable center Robert Parish's contract.

Ironically, the '83-84 Celtics would lose their regular season opening game in Detroit on October 28, 127-121. The team then reeled-off nine straight victories and would lose only 19 more times over the next 72 games. Actually, Jones and his team would record two more nine-game winning streaks; three six-game win streaks and two four-game winning streaks en route to an NBA-best 62-20 (.756) record. The 60+-win season marked the 9th time in the history of the team that this accomplishment had been attained and for the fifth straight year the team had captured 30+ victories at home (33-8).

The Celtics gained the top spot in the Atlantic Division on December 30th after their 114-109 overtime victory in Dallas, and they never let it go. The team would continue their torrid pace into January, posting an impressive 11-1 slate (6-0 at home) and earning their head coach the honor of NBA Coach of the Month. It also came as no surprise that Jones, along with his assistants Jim Rodgers and Chris Ford, were named the East All-Star Game coaches and preceded to guide the East to a 154-145 victory (Bird, Parish and Kevin McHale also represented Boston on the team).

As the second half of the regular season unfolded, the Celtics continued to roll and post amazing accomplishments. In mid-February, Bird was named the NBA's Player of the Week (averaging 26.7 points, 13.3 assists and 13.0 rebounds). That same month, Parish surpassed the 10,000-point plateau in the first quarter at Phoenix. The month of March had Jones recording his 200th career victory and the team winning their 50th game (for the fifth consecutive year). On April 10th, win #60 came at Milwaukee, marking the fourth time in five years the Green and White won 60 or more games.

While Bird led the team in most statistical categories, McHale was the only player to appear in all 82 games (starting 10). The scoring was a balanced attack, led by Bird who averaged 24.2 points per game, and followed by Parish (19.0); McHale (18.4); Johnson (13.2); Cedric Maxwell (11.9) and Gerald Henderson (11.6). As a team, the 1983-84 Celtics posted an incredible 50.0% shooting from the floor and 79.2% from the free throw line, both second-best in the history of the franchise.

Boston would eliminate the Washington Bullets, 3 games to 1, on April 24th in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. The New York Knickerbockers turned to be a tougher foe in the next round, as Boston went the distance and finally passed by their Eastern Conference Semifinals opponent, 4 games to 3, behind Bird's playoff career-best 39 points on May 13th. The Eastern Conference Finals was a re-match from the previous year, but with a different ending this time around. The Celtics took care of the Milwaukee Bucks, 4 games to 1, as six Celtics scored in double figures on May 23rd. The faithful fans chant of, "Beat L.A., Beat L.A" became the theme for June.

Bird vs. Magic (a re-match of their epic collegiate battle of Indiana State and Michigan State in 1979); Kareem vs. The Chief; McHale vs. Worthy; East vs. West and Showtime vs. Beantown. Basketball fans would not be disappointed as the two heavyweights went the full 7-game distance, with the Celtics taking Game 7 on June 12th, 111-102 at the famed Boston Garden, and claim championship banner #15. Ironically, the last Game 7 at the Garden was on April 28, 1966, Red Auerbach's last game as coach, when the Celtics beat the same Los Angeles Lakers.
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