On this day in Boston Celtics history, Hall of Fame big man Dave Cowens took a leave of absence from the team after several days of trying to get permission from team owner Irv Levin and legendary Celtics general manager Red Auerbach.
Cowens never revealed what caused him to want the break — it came after a four-game losing streak in a season that saw friend Paul Silas traded away while Cowens was embroiled in a lawsuit, any of which or all could have been the culprit. “Dave came into my office today, and said he’s got a lot of personal problems and feels he can’t play,” said Auerbach via the AP’s Dave O’Hara.
“These things happen,” added Red. “He’s a fantastic human being and sincere. This is a shock to everyone, no one anticipated it. I ache.”
“What do you think of me quitting this game?” Cowens had recently reportedly asked a member of the Celtics organization who asked to remain anonymous. “I’ve lost my enthusiasm.”
To this day, only Cowens knows the reason for his leave of absence — he would return to the team in January of 1977.
On this day in 1984, former Boston Celtics champion center Kendrick Le’Dale Perkins was born in Nederland, Texas.
Perkins — or Perk, as he is often called — went directly from Clifton J. Ozen high school of Beaumont, Texas to the NBA after being taken 27th overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies.
He would never play for the Griz however, traded on draft night with Marcus Banks to Boston for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones, who were also drafted that night.
The Texan big man would go on to play eight seasons with Boston — winning a title with the team in 2008 — and would average 6.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and an assist per game as a Celtic.
It is also the birthday of former Boston big man Gene Conley, who came into this world in 1930 in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
A product of Washington State, Conley was selected in the 10th round of the 1952 NBA draft by the Celtics (there were many more rounds to the draft in that era).
He played four seasons for Boston, interrupted by five playing Major League Baseball for the Milwaukee Braves.
Conley put up an average of 5.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game with the Celtics over that stretch.
Finally, today is the date of former Celtic forward Kevin “Chuck” Connors’ passing.
Also a multi-sport athlete, he would attend Seton Hall on baseball and basketball scholarships but would leave to play professional baseball briefly before serving in the Second World War.
“The Rifleman”, Chuck Connors, was the first NBA player to break a backboard. It was a wooden one. He played for the Boston Celtics.
— Dr.Darrell Scott (@PastorDScott) February 17, 2020
Connors would join the NBA on his return to become one of just 13 players — including Conley and penultimate Celtics president Danny Ainge — to play basketball and baseball professionally in the MLB and NBA.
He signed with Boston in their inaugural season and played 53 games for the team over two seasons during its Basketball Association of America (BAA — a precursor league to the NBA) days.