The book is called "The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End.''


 


It's written by Gary M. Pomerantz, and it's about the last pass Bob Cousy, the onetime wizard of the hardwood whose passing and ball-handling skills were way ahead of his time, wanted to make.


 


Cousy is 90 now and has come to realize what endures while so many other things become just dust in the wind, old black-and-white snippets on grainy film, [...]

The book is called "The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End.''

 

It's written by Gary M. Pomerantz, and it's about the last pass Bob Cousy, the onetime wizard of the hardwood whose passing and ball-handling skills were way ahead of his time, wanted to make.

 

Cousy is 90 now and has come to realize what endures while so many other things become just dust in the wind, old black-and-white snippets on grainy film, just memories and the echoes of yesterday's cheers.

 

I got to know him back when I was writing the book that would be called "Cousy: His Life, Career, and the Birth of Big-Time Basketball.'' Once a week I'd go to his home in Worcester, Massachusetts, and interview him. And home was the word. For Cousy may have grown up in Queens, and played all those years with the Celtics in Boston, but Worcester always was home, ever since going to Holy Cross in the late 1940s. No big surprise. It was where his friends were, the ones who in a sense always protected him, shielded him from his growing celebrity, something he certainly didn't want and never expected anyway. So Worcester always was the sanctuary. And the excuse.

 

"I would love to speak at your dinner, but I live in Worcester and I ... "

 

Fake left, go right.

 

He would sit in his chair in the study and look out on his quiet backyard, as if looking for something only he could see. And wasn't that always the great contradiction, the one thing that never seemed to make any sense? To the point that it showed another side of Bob Cousy, the quiet reserved one who liked to go to dinner at the Worcester Country Club because everyone knew him there and there were no expectations. As if he had learned long ago that there always were expectations, and there always was a price tag.

 

And the biggest thing I learned all those mornings sitting in his study?

 

What a big heart he has, and how committed to social justice he is.

 

Which brings us back to "The Last Pass."

 

For this is Cousy's public apology to Bill Russell, after all these years. This is Cousy saying I was the captain, and you were the rookie, and I should have done more to help you.

 

And more important?

 

This is Cousy, in the fourth quarter of his amazing life, publicly stating that he didn't do enough to help Russell, and that it has bothered him all these years. Think about that for a second. For it's been roughly 60 years now, over half a century, and so much has changed. Basketball. Race relations. The country. Everything.

 

Cousy always has been haunted by this. The sense that he should have been more aware of the situation, should have been more sensitive to what this young black man from the other side of the country might be going through. Didn't that come with being a team leader?

 

These were some of the things he thought about back then, but they were complicated times, not just in the NBA, but in the country, too. So he just sort of went along for the ride, guilt one of his traveling companions. Years later he still wishes he had done more. To the point that while doing an interview on camera for "The Last Pass,'' he broke down after saying, "I should have been much more sensitive to Russell's anguish in those days.''

 

Russell later said it wouldn't have mattered, throwing an assist back to Cousy.

 

But it mattered to Cousy, and as the years went by, it seemed to matter more and more, something he felt more and more guilty about. So he wrote Russell a letter, a page and a half long, laying it all out there. His last pass to Bill Russell.

 

Then he waited.

 

Six months went by.

 

A year.

 

Two years.

 

Another six months.

 

Then one day the phone rang at Cousy's home in Worcester.

 

"It's Bill Russell,'' the voice said on the phone.

 

Russell had caught the last pass.