Havlicek lived his life the right way

BRIDGEPORT — The basketball success of John Havlicek has been well documented.

One of the NBA’s Greatest 50, the Boston Celtics all-time leading scorer, owner of six NBA Championship rings, a national champion at Ohio State University and a member of basically every hall of fame imaginable.

But, there’s more to the Havlicek story than just hoops.

And according to multiple speakers during Friday’s memorial service inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium at Bridgeport High School tell it, it all started with the type of person Havlicek was.

“John was a great kid and nice young man all the time,” Jerry Mountain, a former Bulldogs’ teammate of Havlicek said. “He was a yes, sir; no, sir kind of guy all the time. He never used foul language and was well-liked by his fellow students, teachers, administration and coaches.”

Havlicek, who died in April at the age of 78, never changed either. Even the late, great Red Auerbach, who coached the Celtics during Havlicek’s career, was quoted, “if I ever had a son, I would want him to be like John Havlicek.”

And Auerbach didn’t mean that in terms of his basketball abilities.

“I knew John for more than 70 years and never heard one bad thing about him,” former teammate Butch Thomas euologized. “That wasn’t by chance, but instead it was by choice. He worked continually on his reputation and if he was your friend … he was your friend for life.”

Daniel Barritt — a retired minister who performed the ceremony — pointed out that “none” in attendance “would ever be on the Ohio State basketball team and win an NCAA championship or win an NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics.”

However, Barritt pointed out that if “everyone” follows the same path that Havlicek followed in his lifestyle, choices and proclaiming his faith in God.

“John had an amazing story,” Barritt said. “Our story and John’s story can intersect if we follow that path.”

Like everyone, Havlicek made mistakes. But, for the most part, he lived a cleansed lifestyle.

“John was one of the good guys. He always tried to avoid trouble,” Thomas said. “He would cross the street if he had to to avoid trouble.”

He stayed to himself, didn’t seek limelight or glory and continually worked to hone his craft.

“You never saw John without this orange growth under his arm,” Mountain joked of the basketball Havlicek was continually toting. “He worked hard at everything he did. There was never any nonsense. He practiced as hard as he played in the game.”

Those are attributes you find in successful people — regardless of the career path. Havlicek figured this out at an early age and according to long-time friend, Gordie Longshaw, he never stopped practicing those qualities.

“I liked John because he was personable and how he handled himself,” Longshaw said. “He was a good businessman. He did well, too. He was very intelligent on and off the field or court.”

While many things about the Bridgeport School District and entire Ohio Valley have obviously changed, Butch Thomas, who was two years behind Havlicek in school, said Havlicek’s legacy will never fade, regardless of the other changes.

“They tore down Lansing School, (old) Bridgeport High School and the football bleachers (at Perkins Field), but they can’t tear down the memories all of us have of John,” Thomas said.

SERVICE NOTES

∫ THERE WERE some basketball stories shared. Mountain said Havlicek took “his first steps to the pro basketball hall of fame” during a game at Cadiz in 1956 when he outscored the Cardinals himself, 56-52.

∫ BRIDGEPORT’S varsity boys basketball team unveiled its new home uniform for the upcoming season, which has “Hondo” prominently displayed on above left breast.

∫ BRIDGEPORT Board of Education member and long-time Havlicek friend Don Cash formally announced the creation of the John Havlicek Memorial Scholarship, which will be presented in the spring of 2020.

∫ The service, which was organized by Longshaw, Stephanie Mendelson, Cash and Wilson Funeral Home, attracted upwards of 150 people, ranging in age from older than Havlicek to current student-athletes at Bridgeport High School.

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

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