Tom Heinsohn is a nice man, well liked by co-workers. He was a good basketball player, a good coach, and he obviously knows a lot about the game. He is a big name. Some would say a legend.
But he is not a network-quality commentator.
Forget about the rap that he is biased toward the Boston Celtics, his former team. There are other, bigger, problems.
One is his gravelly voice. Another is what he says in that gravelly voice.
When the Celtics' stumbling, bumbling Fred Roberts, who looks like a reject from a pickup game at the local YMCA, came into Game 1 of the NBA championship series Tuesday night, Heinsohn said: "Roberts has the speed and size to stay with James Worthy."
Roberts had as much chance of staying with the Lakers' Worthy as a plow horse would have staying with Alysheba.
A few moments later, after Worthy blew by Roberts for an easy two, play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton noted: "Roberts had no chance."
So Heinsohn said: "And the priest can bring the rosary beads, too."
You just never know what Heinsohn will come up with next. Last weekend, he said that the Celtics' Sam Vincent is a duplicate of Detroit's Isiah Thomas.
Each wears No. 11, but the similarity ends there.
Thursday night, Heinsohn was still trying to make a case for Roberts, saying that with his running and leaping ability he would fit in better with the Lakers. Roberts probably couldn't even make the Laker club.
It was reported earlier this week that CBS may be toying with the idea of replacing Stockton with NBC's Marv Albert next season.
What CBS should be thinking about is replacing Heinsohn with Hubie Brown.
Billy Cunningham has probably taken himself out of the CBS picture because of his status as a part-owner of the new Miami franchise. You can't use an owner, even a part-owner, as an announcer. It's an obvious conflict of interest.
But Brown, who was fired as coach of the Knicks this past season, is available. What's more important, he's a notch above Cunningham as a commentator anyway.
Brown is the probably the best pro basketball commentator CBS has ever had. Rick Barry is the only one, besides Cunningham, who comes close.
Barry, now with WTBS, was tremendous in the mid-1970s, but he couldn't get along with anybody. "It was either get rid of Barry or lose everyone else," CBS Sports President Neal Pilson once said.
Brown says things viewers want to know, doesn't use cliches, avoids obvious statements and cornball lines, doesn't intrude on the game with irrelevant comments and speaks well.
Add Brown: He said that two NBA teams have talked to him about doing television commentary, and he is considering those offers.
He earlier rejected an offer to coach the Clippers. "The Clippers were very nice, and very generous," Brown said. "But the problem was, I had vowed not to take a job with a Western Conference team."
Brown lives in Livingston, N.J., and he wants his only son--he has three older daughters--to finish high school there. If Brown works elsewhere, his son, who will be a senior next year, will remain with his mother at the family home in Livingston.
"If I was coaching a Western Conference team, I'd be coming into the New York area only twice during the season and couldn't spend much time with my son," he said. "That's why I turned down the Clippers."
From Stockton's agent, Ed Hookstratten, about the report that his client might be replaced by Albert:
"That story was an embarrassment to Dick Stockton. And it's not true. CBS is very high on Dick. We have a firm five-year offer from CBS, a very good offer."
Ted Shaker, executive producer of CBS Sports, also says that Stockton will be back. He says Heinsohn will be, too.
Shaker, however, admits that Heinsohn may not be popular.
"I don't know if popularity is really all that important," Shaker said. "Tom Heinsohn is very knowledgeable, and he has a very recognizable name and a very recognizable voice. There's no mistaking his voice."
Unfortunately, that's true.
It's passe to say that Heinsohn roots for the Celtics, the team he both played for and coached, and the team he currently announces for on cable television in New England.
If anything, he goes out of his way to criticize the Celtics and praise the Lakers, which in this series is easy to do.
But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, as it did last Saturday in Game 7 of the Boston-Detroit series, Heinsohn sees the game through the eyes of a Celtic broadcaster.
During the last few minutes of last Saturday's game, he extensively reviewed the Celtics' situation and said little about the Pistons.
Overall, CBS has been doing a lot of good things during the playoffs. Pat O'Brien has been outstanding, Brent Musburger's interview with Isiah Thomas Thursday night was well done, and the camera work has been solid. The floor-level camera shots that plagued the NBA telecasts a few years ago are gone.