Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with Boston Celtics play by play man Mike Gorman. Mike is one half of the longest running announcing duo in televised sports with Celtics Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn. In fact, the pair are being honored before tonight's home game against the Pacers with a ceremony commemorating their 30 years together in the booth on "Mike & Tommy Night" at the Garden. Mike is one of the best play by play men in the NBA and in all of pro sports and has covered many events in his career including Celtics basketball, the NCAA Tournament, and the Olympics. In this interview, Mike talks with Awful Announcing about his longstanding partnership with Tommy Heinsohn, how he broke into broadcasting, being the voice of the Celtics for 30 years, and just how much longer he and Tommy plan on staying behind the mics.
Q: Why were you interested in being a sportscaster and how did you get your break with the Celtics?
A: I wasn't sure what I was going to do when I got out of college. I was in the Navy for 5 years and when I got out of the Navy, I still wasn't sure what to do. I always flirted with the idea of being a sports announcer. I ended up getting a job in New Bedford changing tapes and eventually worked my way onto the AM side and started with high school sports. I went out and started doing high school baseball, basketball, golf, you name it we did it.
Somebody heard me in Providence and called me up one morning and asked if I wanted to be a stringer on their morning news. I started doing some sportscasting because they didn't have a sportscaster and eventually moved over to WPRO radio and said to the general manager, "we should do sports." He said, "if you can sell them, we'll do them." We went out and we started doing URI basketball and that was my first chance to do a Division I college basketball team on the radio... then the television station in Providence had a weekend anchor job open and I got it, and they had a contract to do 5 Providence College games a year on TV.
I was there about 2 months and ended up getting the Monday-Friday job and with that got the play by play of Providence College basketball on television, and that's where Tommy Heinsohn and I first worked together... Prism was one of the first regional pay telecast groups and they opened up a Prism New England and got the rights to the Celtics home games. They hired Tommy to be the color guy and asked him who do you think should be the play by play guy and he's like, "I got this guy down in Providence I think you'd like." I got the job.
Q: What does it mean to you and Tommy to be the voices of the Celtics for the last 30 years and have such a special relationship with Celtics fans?
A: It's very flattering more than anything else. That's a long time for people to accept you. The first 15 years that I did the job I only did the home games... how could you not like me and Tommy? The Celts won every single time we were on the air! Their home record in the 80's was unbelievable. I learned early on in my career, if you broadcast a really good team, you have to work to screw it up. I was very fortunate - Larry Bird and I started the same year. How's that for good luck on my part?
Q: How would you describe the style of broadcast that you and Tommy put together?
A: (Laughs)... here's the thing, this is a true story. The very first Celtic game I did with Tommy, I reach into this briefcasey thing I'm carrying with me and I pull out this sheet where I've got the rosters of both sides. I've got names, I've got numbers, scoring averages, little one and two word clues, anecdotal stories to tell about all these guys, history, where they went to college, how many people they got in their family - you name it, I got it written on that little sheet.
Tommy looks at that and says to me, "what's that?" And I said, "that's the stuff I'm going to use during the game." And he reaches over, he turns the thing upside down and says, "we're not going to need that." And we haven't for 30 years...
(On his broadcast partner Tommy Heinsohn)
You talk about unique, 8 championships as a player, 2 as a coach, another 30 years as a broadcaster all with the same franchise. It's a remarkable career. Tommy's life has been basketball... he was an outstanding coach, and should be in the Hall of Fame as a coach actually as well as a player. Tommy wanted to just do the game as it took place in front of him - to sit down, let the game happen, and react to what you see. And that really has been how we've done it for 30 years and fortunately for us, it's worked.