In a game thiswinter in which the league-leading Philadelphia Warriors defeated the BostonCeltics 109-108, Bob Cousy of the Celtics enjoyed what was, even by thestandards an expectant public imposes on the finest all-round player inbasketball today and perhaps the finest ever, a very good night. During his 40minutes on the court Cousy scored 29 points on nine field goals and 11 foulshots. Not that this was all he did by a long shot—as usual he built the playsthat set up 80% of his team's baskets, pulled off such exclusive Cousyisms ashis twice-around-the-back pass, and his unquenchable will to win fired theCeltics to a furious last-quarter rally that all but overcame the Warriors'12-point lead. But a brief recapitulation of the various ways Bob scored fromthe floor that evening affords as handy an avenue as any to appreciating whyCousy is held to be, in knowledgeable quarters, the essence of imaginative,exciting basketball.
Cousy scoredfirst on a right-hand hook shot after a combination play with Bill Sharman andEd Macauley. He scored next on a running layup with his left hand, slipping infrom the left and collecting a perfect pass from Macauley, who had faked a jumpshot from 10 feet in front of the basket. His third score was on a longleft-hand hook (off the backboard) from the left corner after dribbling to thecenter of the court from the left side, finding no one to pass to and no placeto go, then reversing his course and firing as he spun around. Next came on asoft one-hand push shot from just beyond the foul line. Next, a full-tilt layupafter he had broken up a Warrior play at midcourt and stolen the ball. Next—areal beauty—a semiunderhand shot with his right hand which he somehow shoveledunder the arm of one of two men who apparently had him completely tied up withhis back to the basket to the right of the foul line. He followed this with acomparatively unpretty basket, a little two-handed jump shot from about 10 feetout after a set play from out of bounds had gone sour and the rebound from ahurried shot had been kicked around. Finally, as he directed Boston'slast-ditch rally, Cousy scored twice more from the floor in addition to fivetimes from the foul line. The first was an orthodox straight-on layup, after hehad dribbled the length of the court and effected his opening through thedefense by faking his patented behind-the-back pass as he hit the foul line,stuttering that split second and then driving in hard. His last one came afterhe had caught one of those desperation "forward passes" and, with onlyone defensive man to beat, feigned a drive to the left and simply dribbledaround the man in a quick semicircle to the right.
Heavier scorersyou will see, but a virtuosity comparable to Cousy's, no. It is all the moreremarkable when you consider that at 6'1½ he is one of the smallest men in theNational Basketball Association and at 27, a veteran of six gruelingprofessional seasons who by all natural laws should be gracefully enteringathletic middle age.
Whenever a sportsfan watches an ultra-athlete like Robert Joseph Cousy, that old speculationalways crosses his mind: how much derives from sheer natural ability, how muchfrom plain hard work? The answer in Cousy's case is 50-50. Nature endowed himwith about the full complement of physical assets for basketball: peripheralvision, huge hands and long fingers, a reach two inches longer than the averageman his height, sufficient height, very sturdy legs and, as one Madison Avenuetype has couched it, "the equilibrium of an antelope, on the rocks, ofcourse." On the other hand, few athletes have surrendered the hours andattention to their sport that Cousy has. At 14 he gave up baseball, since, ashe now explains, "I realized that if I played two sports, I wouldn't beable to give basketball the time it needed." In St. Albans, L.I., a town onthe eastern rim of the borough of Queens where he grew up, Bob practiced andplayed basketball straight through the four seasons and practically everymoonlit night, a diurnal inhabitant of either the O'Connell playground or theschoolyard of P.S. 36. He has always been and continues to be that rarity insports, the tireless but intelligent practicer. Three winters ago, forinstance, Ed Scannell, the sports editor of the Worcester Gazette—Cousy hasmade his home in Worcester since graduating from Holy Cross in 1950—happened todrop into a local high school gym on one of Cousy's days off between Celticgames. There was Cousy, alone in the gym, ripping up and down the court,leaping each time he hit the foul line and tossing up a one-hander. The teamsin the NBA, he explained to Scannell afterward, were playing him to pass whenhe reached the foul line and he was working on his jump shot, the better tokeep them guessing.
January 16, 1956
This winter themaestro has been practicing a two-hand set, a shot he hasn't used since hissophomore year in college. "You can get the one-hander off quicker," hewas recently explaining to a high school inquisitor, "but you can't counton being too accurate with it from more than 22 or 23 feet out. Now that theteams are using the 'sagging defense,' I think a player will need to have ashot in his repertoire that he can rely on from 30 feet out. That means the oldtwo-handed set."
A SHORT CAREER INMOTOR RACING
St. Albans, whereBob Cousy first caught the basketball bug, was a hard place to escape it. Thelocal high school, Andrew Jackson, had built up a reputation for winning teams,and it became the ambition of every boy in the district to make the team.Basketball was the game in St. Albans, no question about it. Bob's parents,Joseph and Juliette Cousy, had moved to that community from Manhattan whentheir son, their only child, was about 11 years old. They are extremelyinteresting and appealing people, the Cousys. Joseph Cousy—a short man of about5 feet 6 inches, by the way—was born in Belfort near the eastern border ofFrance, the son of a farmer who raised cherries, apples, pigs and some cattle.None of the earlier Cousys had possessed any extraordinary gifts, athletic orotherwise, aside from the family's traditional ability for running one of themost prosperous farms in Alsace-Lorraine. Joseph Cousy's only fling atathletics, if it can be called that, was a short career in automobile racingbefore World War I, when he competed in a local event, Le Ballon d'Alsace, aroad race to the top of one of the highest peaks (3,000 feet) in Les Vosges. Hefought in the war, was captured and returned after the armistice to see how theold Cousy farm had fared. Like all border property, it had been trampled intonothing. He looked at it, and the feeling went through him that no effortscould ever restore it and he turned away from it forever. He went into the autorepair business, and when he had saved up enough to buy an auto, he rented hiscar and his services out to rich families who wanted to tour Europe that way.In 1927 he married Juliette Corlet, the daughter of a maitre d'hotel, who hadbeen born in the United States while M. Corlet was with the Touraine Hotel inBoston. When she was 5, she had gone back with her father to his hometownDijon, and had in time become a teacher of languages, tutoring the children ofwell-to-do families. A very French woman, animated, intense and excitable, Mrs.Cousy, a fairly tall woman, was, as she recalls with pleasure when questionedby people seeking clues to her son's exceptional coordination, not a bad tennisplayer.
The Cousysemigrated to New York, and their son Robert Joseph was born about a month aftertheir arrival. The best job Mr. Cousy could find in the city was driving ataxi. The best home he could afford was a couple of rooms on 83rd street inManhattan's roughneck Yorkville section ("The games there were stickballand breaking windows," Bob recalls). Mr. Cousy stood it until he couldstand no longer to see his son growing up on the streets. Then, mortgaginghimself up to his ears, he bought himself a small house in St. Albans, aneighborhood in those days of trees, spaces, some air and some quiet. Mr. andMrs. Cousy—he presently works at Idlewild Airport as an administrator in PanAmerican's maintenance department—still live in that same house in St. Albans,along with a small aviary of 25 canaries and parakeets which Mrs. Cousy keeps.They are basketball fans, and you can see them at most games when the Celticscome to New York to play the Knickerbockers: a small, neat, bespectacled,self-contained gentleman and a tallish, slim, quite handsome and emotionallady, both of them still a little dazed that their son now derives an income ofwell over $30,000 a year through his proficiency at a game which they longviewed with alarm as a passion that might prejudice his chances for learning aprofession or a trade and finding a secure living.
MOTHER'S SPIRIT,FATHER'S CONTROL
The idealtemperament for a competitive athlete to have inherited from such a set ofparents would have been a fusion of his mother's exuberant spirit and hisfather's rational self-control. Cousy did. During a game he gets so overcome byhis desire to win that, beneath his sheath of coolness, he is almost asGallicly aboil as that other great athlete of French descent, Rocket Richard.The moment a game is over, however, that solid base of placid practicality,present all the time if not conspicuous, takes over in force. It stills hisemotion instantly, almost with a thud, and he begins to speak with hiscustomary slowness which is almost a drawl. These days Cousy rarely speaksFrench, except when he is visiting his parents, but his bilinguality has onoccasion proved an oddly serviceable asset. This last summer, for illustration,Cousy and Coaches Red Auerbach and Adolph Rupp of Kentucky were invited byGeneral Garland of SHAPE to conduct a basketball clinic in Landsberg, Germanywhich was attended by representatives from American military units stationed inEurope and also by delegates from seven basketball-playing European countries.Cousy found that things worked out best for this complex audience when heconducted the lecture portion of his classes in English and thequestion-and-answer part in both English and French.
It may come as asource of encouragement to aspiring young athletes to learn that Cousy, BeauBasketball himself, did not make his high school squad during his freshman andsophomore years. Lack of height had nothing to do with it; he stood 5 feet 10inches as a sophomore, tall enough. It was simply that Lew Grummond, the coachof Andrew Jackson High, had such a wealth of material that many fine prospectslike Cousy could hardly expect to win a suit unless they happened to have theexact qualifications Grummond was looking for. After he was cut his sophomoreyear, Cousy went back to playing for a team in the local CYO league sponsoredby the Long Island Press. It was at one of these league games which Grummondattended that Bob first caught the coach's eye. "I didn't know it at thetime," Bob was relating not long ago, "but Grummond had a spot open onthe team for a left-hander. I'm a natural righty, but almost as soon as Istarted playing basketball, when I was 12, I started practicing with my lefthand too. Anyhow, Grummond thought I was a left-hander when he saw me play. Hetalked to me after the game and told me he wanted me on the squad, whether Iwas a natural lefty or not."
Bob played aseason of jayvee ball for Andrew Jackson, the last half of his sophomore andthe first half of his junior years. He was then promoted to the varsity andcame on fast enough to be named in his senior year to the All-New York Citypublic high school team. A number of New York colleges were interested in hisfuture plans, but Bob, his mind set on going to a school outside of the citywhere there was some vestige of college life, turned them all down and decidedon Holy Cross, after also mulling over Dartmouth and Boston College. He spentthe summer between high school and college working at Tamarack Lodge in theBorsch Belt, waiting on tables and playing for his alpine alma mater in theirclassic clashes with their ivied rival, the Nevele Country Club. During hisvacations from Holy Cross the next three summers, Cousy returned to TamarackLodge. "The mountains were crowded with first-class players," he says,"and the competition was a wonderful thing for all of us. That is how Ihave always learned—observing some player who could do things I couldn't andseeing if I could get up to his level." Cousy's first-and enduring idol, bythe way, was Dick McGuire, the superb playmaker of the New York Knickerbockers."Dick's a couple of years older than I am," Cousy said recently,"so I never got to play against him when we were kids although we grew uppretty close to each other. I always admired the way he did things, and I stilldo. One of the events I look forward to each year now is making the All-Eastteam, particularly because of the chance it gives me to team up with Dickagainst the West in the All-Star game. Working with Dick you can experimentwith moves you wouldn't dare to try during a regular league game. You're soloose they usually work. For me, the finest pleasure in basketball has alwayscome from making some unorthodox pass that results in a basket."
At Holy Cross, Cousy had his first opportunity to improvise freely. The coachwas Doggie Julian, who had been hired to handle football and had been handedbasketball as an offseason assignment. Doggie had no set ideas on how he wantedhis team to play and, in a way, it was fortunate that he didn't. Holy Cross wasloaded with talent, perhaps the most competent squad ever assembled at anycollege in New England—men like Joe Mullaney, Bob Curran, George Kaftan, DermieO'Connell and Ken Haggerty. There were, in fact, 10 men who could play firstteam. Doggie faced up to his embarrassment of riches by two-platooning hissquad and, after that, letting them alone. One five would play the first 10minutes; the second five (including Cousy, who under the postwar rules waseligible to play for the varsity as a freshman) would come in for the secondquarter. The first five would return for the third quarter and then the secondfive would finish up the game. Occasionally, but not often, Julian broke up hisalignment, but there was little provocation for big measures since the team wasfar and away the class in its section. As such, it received an invitation tothe NCAA tourney, and won it by defeating Navy, CCNY and Oklahoma. The nextseason, 1947-48, the team won 26 and lost 4, was again invited to the NCAA, butthis time, after beating Michigan, lost to that celebrated Kentucky outfit byeight points.
During Cousy'slast two seasons at the Cross, topnotch players like Bob McMullan, FrankOftring and Andy Laska came along to replace the stars who had graduated.Buster Sheary, who had succeeded Julian as coach—Doggie had gone into the proranks to coach the Celtics—dispensed with the two-platoon business, but for themost part went happily along with the fluid style of offense, featuring theswift and tricky ball handling for which the Holy Cross teams had become known.Sheary's first club failed to make the NCAA when they were beaten by Yale (ledby Tony Lavelli, probably the most graceful of all the hook-shot artists andprobably also the least skillful basketball player in all other departments ofall the scoring specialists who caught the public's fancy). In Cousy's senioryear, Holy Cross ripped off 26 straight victories before falling into anunaccountable tailspin and dropping four of its last five, including its twogames in the NCAA. Cousy was a unanimous All-America choice that year."Those things are all a matter of publicity," he once remarked in thehardheaded way he reacts to all hoopla. "Winning those 26 straight put thespotlight on our team, and I benefited from that. I think I may have actuallyplayed a shade better my junior year."
During his fourcollegiate seasons, Cousy compiled a new record point total for a Holy Crossplayer, 1,775 points in 117 games for an average of 15.1 points a game. He wona lot of games with 11th-hour heroics—for example, he sent one game againstBowling Green (which Holy Cross eventually won) into overtime with a Merriwellheave from 50 feet out which actually entered the basket after the final gunbut counted nonetheless since it was in the air when the gun went off. Whatmade him a backyard name throughout New England, though, was his finesse as afloorman. "We never had the big man, so we developed a 101 variations onthe give-and-go," Cousy says of the Holy Cross teams he played on."They claim we sold basketball to New England, but we may have alsoretarded it. We possibly oriented the people in the wrong direction byemphasizing the spectacular. Nowadays if a Worcester crowd sees a legitimateoffense based on a tall man in the pivot, they think it's dull stuff, kidstuff. They want that old behind-the-back passing, that old openbucket."
College was allCousy hoped it would be, and then some. He made close friends and they, as muchas his aversion to the impersonality of a big city like New York, wereresponsible for his later decision to make his home in Worcester. He got overthe shyness he had in meeting people and became much more at home when calledon for a few words at banquets. (He has a slight speech defect that turns hisr's into l's.) A conscientious student, he was regularly on the dean's list,majoring in business administration but taking more and more courses insociology. He wrote his senior thesis on "The Persecution of MinorityGroups."
At the time ofhis graduation from college, Cousy had devised just about all of the ballhandling abracadabra that is now synonomous with "The Cooz," though, tobe sure, he has refined and polished his moves as a pro, trebled his variationson them, and learned how to integrate them far better into his own play and theplay of his teammates. As he looks back today, Cousy has some very lucid ideason what he happened to do right at an early age in hitting on a fundamentalconcept of basketball that enabled him to develop a greater diversity ofmaneuver than any player before him. Briefly, these are his thoughts on theessentials of good basketball:
The primary skilla young player must try to acquire is to master his weak hand, his left hand ifhe is a righty. Learning to shoot with it amounts to only a small advance. Tobe a true threat, a man must be able to move equally well both to his left andright, and this includes being able to dribble, pass and shoot while going inboth directions. The whole art of dribbling, for instance, depends on keepingyour body between the ball and the man guarding you. Against a capableopponent, you cannot drive forward from right to left, say, unless you candribble with your left hand. Otherwise the ball is unprotected.
Unless he alsopossesses an accurate shot, an agile dribbler can operate only at 50% of hiseffectiveness. If he is no threat shooting from the outside, his man can affordto give him room and let him shoot, gambling that he will make a poorpercentage of his shots. By giving him this room, the defensive man acquires amargin for error which allows him to stay between his man and the basket evenif he has been slightly faked or anticipated a move incorrectly.
The key tooffensive play for a maturing player is enlarging his number of moves, hisvariety of shots. Just as a good pitcher in baseball throws every pitch withthe same motion, a good basketball player begins all of his moves from the sameposition, the better to confuse the defense.
While there arecertainly situations in which personal virtuosity gets him some place, in thefinal analysis a player is about as good as his teammates. If your passesincrease their effectiveness, that effectiveness in return increases yours.(Cousy works especially well with Bill Sharman, a solid all-round player and asfine a shot as there is in the league, and with that other member of theCeltics' perennial Big Three, Easy Ed Macauley who, as Cousy sees it, has thegreatest variety of moves of any big man.)
These are theclassic fundamentals, practiced intuitively by the topnotch players since thegame, along with just about every other American sport, entered its"modern" phase as part of the great coming of age of athletics in thiscountry at the close of World War I. The team that made Americabasketball-conscious was the New York Celtics. In the early and middle '20s theoriginal Celtics and the later editions—featuring stars like Johnny Beck-man,Nat Holman, Pete Barry, Davey Banks, Dutch Dehnert, Chris Leonard, HorseHaggerty and Joe Lapchick—ranged up and down the eastern half of the countryplaying one-night stands against the best local opposition in gyms, dancehalls, or any enclosure available large enough to accommodate a court and somespectators.
The Celtics didnot run up overwhelming scores—40 points was a staggering total in thosedays—but what made them worth driving miles to see was the fashion in which theentire team handled the ball, whistling it around with a speed, a crispness anda command of pattern that no other team could come close to. The ball moved sofast sometimes that opposing teams lost sight of it, literally. The Celticssold basketball wherever they went and to their considerable satisfaction, forthey approached their arduous touring with the passion of missionaries. It wasthis dedication to presenting the game on the highest possible level that, oneevening in 1926 in Chattanooga, accidentally resulted in the invention of thepivot play, from that night on a standard pattern of offense. During the firstquarter that night the Celtics had been unable to work the ball around withtheir characteristic precision. "One big fellow had planted himself at thefoul line, and he was making it rough for us," Joe Lapchick, at 6 foot 5inches by far the tallest man on the Celtics, was remembering this winter."To block that man out so that we could get our passing game started again,Dutch Dehnert got the idea of taking up a position right in front of that guywith his back turned to the basket. We started feeding the ball into Dutch, andhe whipped it back as fast as it went in. This must have looked awfully good,for the fans started screaming with delight. A little later on in the game oneof our players shot the ball into Dutch from the right, and another player cutby from the left. As he did so, Dutch fed the ball to him, and there he wasright in for a perfect layup. At another time the man playing Dutch tried tointercept a pass before it reached the pivot. Dutch got the ball and thensimply pivoted around and faced the basket. He had an easy unguarded layup.Then we began to get excited. It had become clear to us that we had hit on abrilliant new style of attack that was not only good to look at but a veryfunctional style that released a tremendous variety of optional plays."
"BREAK UP THECELTICS"
In addition totheir barnstorming, the Celtics also played 44 games a year in the old AmericanLeague. They were the perennial champions, and in time, with the fans turningout only to watch the Celtics, the league was not prospering as it hoped to.The cry went up, "break up the Celtics." In the late '20s they did.
Soon after thepartition of the Celtics, pro basketball, with an assist from hard times,dwindled into a shadow of its former self. It took the next tremendous upsurgeof sports in general following World War II to bring about a renaissance of thepro game. During the 25-year interval basketball went through a transformationthat might be compared to the usual result produced when a naturally pretty ifsomewhat unfinished country girl is taken in hand by a Hollywood studio: manyof the changes wrought are indeed for the better and make her more attractive,and everything would be fine except that at least an equal number of the otherchanges invariably rob her of her natural charm and make her almostunrecognizable. Anyhow, basketball changed. The center jump went out, whichspeeded up the game and produced higher and higher scores which people claimedthat "people" liked. The 10-second backcourt rule came in, anundeniable boon. From out of the West in the middle-late '30s came a realLochinvar, Hank Luisetti of Stanford, a breath-taking player years ahead of histime who could do everything (including dribble behind his back) and who was,among his other accomplishments, the man who popularized the one-hand pushshot. As developed by Luisetti, the one-hand push was thrown much softer andwith much less spin than the customary two-handed set. As a result, if the shotwas slightly off the mark, the ball had a much greater chance of bouncing offthe rim and in. At least as important was the fact that a player could shoot aone-hander much more quickly than it took him to get set for a two-hander.Consequently, the one-hander became much more than a vogue; it became astandard. The advent of the one-hand set, incidentally, was not hampered by thegradual decrease in the size of the basketball. A decade earlier it wasprobably an inch and a half larger in diameter, and it took a Horse Haggerty topalm one upside down.
From out of theWest also came the fast break. There were many fans who didn't think this stylewas real basketball, but they were forced to admit that it was an effectivemeans of scoring when a team had an agile big man breaking up the court andother agile big men to pick the rebound off if the lead man missed his shot.With this one fast movement, a team had arrived at the same position where itwould have taken many moves in orthodox "possession" basketball. As aresult, coaches everywhere tried to corral as many big men as they could find,and the era of the ungainly big man began. The next natural step was thedevelopment by these tall players of unstoppable shots which they could get offeven if they were closely guarded and completely out of position to shoot. Asthe offensive specialist—meaning a player who had no idea of how to playdefense—became the order of the day, the skillful floorman became scarcer andscarcer, and a superb all-round player like Bob Davies of Seton Hall was avalid rarity.
This then was theshape basketball was in, a hodgepodge of advanced skills and rank defacements,when two new pro leagues (later merged into the NBA) hopefully begandistributing franchises in 1946. A fan naturally expects the pro version of asport to be markedly superior in technique to the collegiate version, and sincepro basketball wasn't, it got off to a rather shaky start. It began to catch onwhen Joe Fulks began to score. A strong, heavily muscled man who stood 6 feet 5inches and who could get way off the floor and stay there for hours, Fulks wasthe master of the two-hand jump shot. He could start his jump with his back tothe basket and wheel around in the air, and he could throw this shot from allangles. Fulks's high scoring brought out the crowds who had read in the papersabout his scoring 30 points here and 40 points there and who wanted to see inperson how any one man could ring up that phenomenal total. Jumping Joe reachedhis peak one day in 1949 when he threw in 27 field goals and 9 foul shots andamassed 63 points all by himself—a total that would have exceeded the two-gametotals of a good team in the '20s and early '30s. (Paul Arizin's latermodification of Fulks's specialty into a one-hand jump has been the last bigstep in shooting techniques.) When Joe began to fade, George Mikan, 6 feet 10inches tall but a bona fide athlete, stepped in and carried the load for theleague. And then along came Cousy.
It took Cousyabout a season and a half to find himself in pro ball. In his first year withthe Celtics, 1950-51, he finished ninth in the league in scoring and was chosenrookie of the year, but, in truth, his overall play was not really impressive.Too often when he tried his fancy stuff, he fooled his teammates as badly asthe rival team. When an unexpected pass from Cousy ripped by a teammatecompletely unprepared to receive it, it would have been inaccurate to haveattributed the mixup to the fact that Cousy was just too fast for hiscolleagues. Like many freshmen in the pro ranks, he was prone to force openingswhere none existed, and his defensive play was shown to be extremely spotty.Midway through his sophomore year, he suddenly blossomed into a differentballplayer, a commanding figure in every game he played. The major credit forthis quick maturity belongs, to be sure, to Cousy himself, but a sizable shareshould go to Arnold (Red) Auerbach, the brown-haired coach of the Celtics.Though he has often succeeded in disguising his ability as a coach by carryingon as if the atrical referee baiting was his first love, Auerbach knows thegame. His big move in helping Cousy to release his bottled-up potential was todevelop an offense based on the fast break, with Cousy as lead man. Auerbachalso diagnosed that a key reason why Cousy had been getting himself tied up bythe defense had been his predilection for trying to work the ball in too closeto the basket. The foul line, he pointed out acutely, was the point where, inthe large majority of situations, Cousy should make his decisions.
Then it all beganto come. Familiarization with the styles of his teammates did the rest."Bob is a wonderful team man, let me make that as clear as a crystal incase you might have picked up some erroneous ideas to the contrary,"Auerbach said this winter. "The only kick I have with Cousy is that hemakes practice sessions hard on a coach. All the other players just want tostand still and watch him."
In spite of whatCousy has done for basketball by his personal magnificence and his influence onother players, the game, as both its harshest critics and staunchest supportersagree, has quite a distance to go, in certain areas which even a Cousy cannotaffect, if it hopes to develop into a better and not a worse game.
The difficultieswhich beset basketball as it tries to deal with its now chronic problem—how tokeep from becoming a game dominated by taller and taller men with room only foroccasional superlative "small men"—is epitomized by the changingattitudes of Forrest (Phog) Allen, the very vocal coach of Kansas. For yearsPhog was the loudest exponent of controlling the tall man's advantages byraising the basket higher off the ground. Now that Kansas has acquired Wilt theStilt Chamberlain and his 7 feet 2 inches of ability, Phog sees no reason inthe world for raising the baskets. Ten feet is perfect for Chamberlain and forAllen. In the opinion of not a few veteran observers, one possible solution ofthe tall-man peril would be to enlarge the court both in width and in length.Their feeling is that this larger court, by placing a greater premium on speed,quickness, maneuverability, stamina and basic basketball sense, might restorethe stature of athletes of average height, and make it essential for the giantsto be truly first-rate athletes like Mel Hutchins and Maurice Stokes. It mightalso serve to bring back that almost lost art: skillful defensive play. In thisconnection the other principal area in which many of the outstanding coachesand players think that basketball has gone astray from its best expression hasbeen the evolution of a type of game in which the action is stopped far toofrequently by the calling of fouls. It would appear that piecemeal revisionshave no effect in the long run and that a whole new study of what ispermissible body contact and what is a foul is needed. Too many referees todayseem to forget that a man effecting a clean block of a layup, to cite oneexample, will necessarily establish some body contact with the shooter; whilethis body contact really hasn't interfered with the shooter's chances ofscoring, today the calling of a foul approaches the automatic. One thing iscertain: when you have seen a game in which more foul shots are made than fieldgoals—frequently the case these days—you have not seen enjoyable or genuinebasketball.
The hardest partof the life of a pro athlete is learning how to adjust to the fact that he willnever quite adjust to the plexus of eternal travel and topsyturvy hours. Cousyis luckier than most of his brethren inasmuch as he can fall asleep in 10minutes on any reasonably soft horizontal surface. Furthermore, as everyoutstanding athlete must, he has acquired the hardy mental stamina that enableshim to play his usual game after snagging only a couple of hours sleep or whenhe is burdened by physical miseries that would render the average person horsde combat for pinochle. On the other hand, some aspects of the nomadic life areharder on Cousy than on some others. As anyone would be who was brought up onpot-au-feu, he has discriminating taste buds, and this makes things a littletough on him when a game finishes at 11 and the only eating places still openspecialize in fishburgers and papaya juice. Moreover, his active mind requiressomething more stimulating than that favorite time-killing pastime of travelingathletes: sitting in a hotel lobby hours on end, watching everything andnothing. If it happens that he has caught up on his sleep and extra hours arestill hanging awkwardly around, Bob usually takes in a movie with his roommateSharman and some of the other players. "I've seen as many as four in oneday," he remarked ruefully this winter. "I probably see more movies ina year than Louella Parsons." For all these reasons—plus the pleasure hetakes in his home, his wife Missie and their children, Marie Colette, 4, andMary Pat, 3—Cousy's spirits always rise when a road trip is ending.
The pro season isa long enervating grind. Practice starts around the first of October and theplay offs linger on into April some years. During the off-season Cousy is ableto lead a relatively normal life, but the only period in which he is able toget away from basketball completely is the two months between the end of aseason and mid-June. Then he goes up to New Hampshire to ready Camp Graylag, ofwhich he is one of the three co-owners, for the influx of the campers. Graylagoffers a wide range of activities but, as you might expect, its heart is alarge central area paved with concrete, lined for two basketball courts,encircled with other baskets set at heights suitable for younger players, andequipped with floodlighting. The ball is bouncing practically all of the time.After the camp season comes the clinic season and sometimes, if there is room,a little missionary work. (Cousy has a standing offer to visit Finland, acountry in which basketball is now giving middle-distance running a run for itsmoney.) "I suppose it's a good thing I love my work," he said theafternoon before a game this winter when he was lolling about his living roomwith some friends, listening to some Nat Cole records and watching his verycute daughters turning handsprings over the furniture and unconsciouslyexhibiting a coordination and balance that would bring a gleam to the eye of ascout for a high-wire aerial act. "Maybe we'll let them play tennis,"Cousy said with a wink as he looked away from his daughters. "Thankgoodness they look like their mother. The poor kids, they've got my feet and myhands."
THAT OLD BACK MAGIC
Some of Cousy's offensive variations
Backhand pass is one maneuver Cousy may employ when,leading a 3-on-2 attack, he reaches the foul-line area and finds his route tothe basket blocked by a defensive player. As this sequence shows (from right toleft), he flips the ball in mid-dribble to a trailing teammate cutting behindhim, then either cuts for a return pass or simply stops dead to set up a screenfor a teammate.
Behind-the-back transfer is a Cousy exclusive. When hewhips the ball behind his back with his right hand, on some occasions thedefensive man, anticipating that Cousy will get off a pass, shifts to cover thewhole play. Cousy, as in this sequence, then may complete the behind-the-backtransfer from his right hand to his left, and, with the way open, lay up theshot himself.
Double transfer is employed if the defensive manbetween Cousy and the basket elects to stay with Cousy and so leaves one of theother Celtics unguarded. On completing his first around-the-back transfer,Cousy brings the ball around a second time with his left hand and passes to thefree man. Such moves require discretion; he cannot overdo them or the defensewould be prepared.
Flanked by baskets, James Naismith (above, in street clothes), who invented basketball at Springfield College in 1891, sits with one of the college's pioneer teams. Assembled below are six of the outstanding players of the modern era who have advanced Dr. Naismith's game with their imaginative styles: George Mikan, the premier pivot man; Hank Luisetti, who stood 6 foot 3 and could do everything; and four great "small men."