It may surprise you to know that Tommy Heinsohn took up painting the way that most kids do — to keep from getting beat up. The only man to be involved in all 17 Boston Celtics championships (as a player, coach and broadcaster) grew up as the only German in an Italian-Irish neighborhood. During World War II.
So he spent a lot of time indoors, as one might imagine. That’s where he taught himself how to draw and to paint.
I’m usually unimpressed with stories like these — as if the writer is stunned to discover that an athlete actually has other talents. Most people aren’t one-dimensional — it’s just that no one’s doing a story on the plumbing contractor who is also very excellent on the violin. Heinsohn’s story, though, is interesting because his playing and broadcasting personalities are in such stark contrast with his artistic side.
As a player Heinsohn would rather go through than around you, and as a broadcaster he’s one of the biggest homers around; not that that’s a bad thing. He’s loud and brash, talking in vivid colors, most often bright green. But to look at the painting below — a portrait of his wife, Helen, painted in 1975.
I may not know art, but I know what I like. Wait, I do know art* — and that’s pretty good. Helen Heinsohn passed away last year after a battle with cancer.
A portrait of her hangs on a wall near the front door. Dating from 1977, it was Heinsohn’s first acrylic painting.
Another work, an oil-and-acrylic painting called “Rochester Clothes,” depicts the back wall of a big man’s clothing store in San Francisco where Heinsohn took his players to buy clothes. The work with its elaborate brick detail took five years to finish. Hanging in his den, the painting has received numerous purchase requests, but it’s not for sale.
* = May not know art