Celtics Legends Define 'Celtic Pride'

BOSTON – There is a certain tradition associated with the Boston Celtics. Members of the organization and fans of the team aren’t allowed to be fair-weathered. They bleed green and stand on principles, forever and always.

That, in essence, is the definition of 'Celtic Pride.' The term has been around for decades and has been passed along to each of the franchise’s 67 teams, its 16 ownership groups and its nine team presidents.

Many of the key faces in that select group attended Tuesday night's “The Tradition” event at TD Garden. “The Tradition,” which benefits the Sports Museum, honors Boston sports legends each and every year for their contribution to the city and its sports.

This year’s event honored, among others, the Celtics’ Banner Seventeen ownership group. The Banner Seventeen group, led by Wyc Grousbeck and Stephen Pagliuca, purchased the team in 2002. Their decade-long ownership tenure has resulted in a prideful return to the top of the NBA.

Tuesday’s event was a celebration of that fact, which is why so many Celtics Legends were on hand. We were fortunate enough to catch up with many of those legends, and we asked them to give their definition of Celtic Pride. Listed below are the answers that we received.

Wyc Grousbeck
Celtics Managing Partner, Governor & Chief Executive Officer

“I can’t really put it into words. I’m wearing a ring, I see a banner, and I see our players out in the community with kids. And I see picture of Red Auerbach; I was just talking to John Havlicek. It’s all Celtic Pride. All of it.”

Tom “Satch” Sanders
Eight-time NBA Champion with Celtics

“Being the kind of bottom-line guy that I am, the Celtic Pride situation has really come into serious prominence when we’ve won. When Celtic Pride is, let’s call it, at its lowest, is when we’re not winning.

"So the key to bringing it back and keeping it alive and well is not only a great organization, and doing the right things that the Celtics have always represented here in Boston, but it’s also putting the kind of team out there that can really play.”

Dave Cowens
Two-time NBA Champion with Celtics and 1973 NBA MVP

“Celtics Pride really came from Walter Brown and Red Auerbach, in terms of how they cared about the people that worked for them and the team, and how they always helped players’ kids get jobs, or scholarships, or give them an extra year on the pay to keep them around to bring the young guys (along).

"That’s how it really begins – just that whole act of caring that engenders trust. People feel like they belong. They get involved mentally and emotionally. That’s what it’s all about.”

Tommy Heinsohn
Ten-time NBA Champion with Celtics

“To me, Celtic Pride is what Red Auerbach made us all feel; that we were responsible for the success of the team. Not him… we all had a say in what was going on. I always thought in terms of the Celtics being basketball’s Cosa Nostra, meaning Red made us feel that the Boston Celtics were our thing. And everybody contributed ideas from training camp right through the final game of the playoffs.

"So you had pride of authorship with the team, and everybody would stand up in front of their teammates and say, ‘I think I can make this work.’ And they damn well would make it work, because they would be embarrassed [in front of] their teammates if they didn’t make it work.”


These legends stuck around to watch Grousbeck, Stephen Pagliuca and Bob Epstein receive the Basketball Legacy Award later that night. As the group of owners and Heinsohn sat on stage, Celtic Pride could certainly be felt throughout the Garden. This group is proud of the fact that it restored the Celtics to greatness, and the franchise’s former players are thankful for the owners’ efforts.

Be sure to check back in to Celtics.com later this week to watch a video package from the event.