“Henry Finkel is not the reason we’re losing.”
That has to be among my all-time favorite sports quotes.
It was spoken during the 1969-70 NBA season by then first-year Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn.
Henry Finkel — often referred to as Hank Finkel — had replaced Bill Russell as Boston’s center. Hank Finkel was not as good as Bill Russell. Not even close. Nor was he as good as Dave Cowens, the man who would become the next Celtics’ center.
So Boston fans blamed Hank Finkel for the Celtics’ rapid fall from grace.
As Tom Heinsohn said, it was not Henry Finkel’s fault.
Hank Finkel was a big star at Dayton, which is why I am writing this blog. Dayton — THE University of Dayton, as the headline writers back there put it — beat THE Ohio State University on its way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
I know a guy who graduated from Dayton — a retired copy editor named Hoppy.
Hoppy is about the same age as Hank Finkel so I called him for this blog. I figured maybe he might have a Hank Finkel story or anecdote to share because Finkel stood 7-feet tall, and there probably weren’t a lot of 7-footers strolling around the Dayton campus in the early 1960s.
Hoppy said he graduated from Dayton in 1962; Finkel’s first season as a Flyer was 1963-64. Hoppy said Dayton won the NIT in 1962. Finkel led the Flyers to the Sweet 16 in 1965 and ‘66.
In true Hank Finkel style — at least if you ask Celtic fans — the year after he graduated, Dayton made the Final Four.
The reason I remember Hank Finkel is because of his name — Hank Finkel sounds like a guy you would go bowling with, or the guy who does your taxes — and because I had his basketball card. It was one of those tall boy NBA cards, and Hank was wearing his jersey backward for some reason, probably because the Topps company didn’t have the rights to show “BOSTON” on the front.
Big Hank Finkel was wearing jersey No. 26 on my basketball card, though I mostly remember him wearing No. 29. Which, like his name, is unsual for an NBA player. According to answers.com, only 24 NBA players have worn No. 29. These include Kleggie Hermsen and Lou Tsioropoulos.
Another guy from Dayton I remember is Don May, who once was benched for putting greasy kid stuff in his hair in a Vitalis commercial when he played for the Knicks.
I remember this about Don May, and I remember Hank Finkel’s jersey number, and that they both played for Dayton.
But sometimes I forget my PIN number at the bank.