Two fun facts about Sam Jones: He was almost a Laker (he was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers, but completed his military service before entering the NBA); and he played on 10 championship Celtics teams. Yep. More than Larry Bird, John Havlicek, or any other Celtic, besides Bill Russell.
So why, then, is Jones never seen at a Celtics game these days? Why doesn’t the franchise embrace him like they do Bird, Russell, and the other greats? For his part, Jones seems a little miffed about it. And he said so to FANHOUSE in a recent interview.
Jones also revealed that he got out of coaching after only one year mainly due to racism; including the fact that the New Orleans Jazz wouldn’t draft a player he liked because the player was black and “was married to a white lady.”
FanHouse: You ever go to see the Celtics play?
Sam Jones: “No. It’s a new regime, new owners, new management. People ask me why I never go back. I tell them, `I don’t go places where I’m not invited to go.’ I won’t push myself on anyone. It doesn’t bother me at all. You work for someone, and when you’re finished, you’re finished.”
FanHouse: What about when they retired your jersey? You were there then, weren’t you?
Sam Jones: “That’s different. Red (Auerbach) was still involved. I came because Red asked me. Red could get anyone to come back.”
FanHouse: When I saw you last spring in Orlando, you came to watch the Celtics play the Magic. Why?
Sam Jones: “I live close by. That was first time I saw them play live since Robert Parish played for them. I had not met a single person on that team until the night of the playoff game, including (coach) Doc Rivers. That was when he invited me to play in his (charity) golf tournament.”
Jones also said that he made only $7,500 in his rookie season (1959-60), with a $1,500 bonus, and if the school district would have ponied up $500 more than they did, he would have went into teaching instead.
Jones was an assistant coach with the Jazz for the 1974-75 season (which was Pete Maravich’s first year with the team), but didn’t come back because he was fed up with the racist attitude of the management there.
“There were some things I didn’t like. It was a first-year expansion team. They had a chance to chose players from other teams. There was a black kid who we really liked, a good player, a top-15 rebounder, but ownership said we couldn’t take him because he was married to a white lady. I thought that was a travesty. It just wasn’t in my mode of thinking. We did take a guy from California, Stu Lantz, and he was married to a white girl, too, but the team didn’t realize it until it was too late.”
Jones finished his career with 15,411 points, and in 1996 was named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.