Catching up with Dave Cowens
By Tom Groeschen
They still present the "Dave Cowens Mr. Hustle Award" annually in Northern Kentucky high school basketball. Nearly three decades after his Hall of Fame playing career ended, Newport native Cowens maintains a brisk pace.
Cowens was known for his hustling, bruising style of play, and he helped lead the Boston Celtics to NBA titles in 1974 and '76. Cowens also enjoyed success as an NBA head coach, most notably with Charlotte from 1996-99.
Cowens, who turned 62 in October, now lives in Maine and does some corporate work for the Celtics. He also is starting to do some TV work for Comcast. Cowens also is involved with the Sports Museum of New England, the National Basketball Retired Players Association, and his Dave Cowens Basketball School in Norton, Mass.
Cowens was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991. Cowens was selected as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in 1996, when the league celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Cowens traces his work ethic to his days at St. Anthony elementary school in Bellevue, Ky., and then Newport Catholic High School (now Newport Central Catholic).
"It was just about having fun back then, being a kid and having a lot of energy," Cowens said in a recent telephone interview. "It was about playing on a team and trying to get better."
Left-hander Cowens was a raw talent in high school. He was not much of a scorer then, but was a tenacious rebounder.
Cowens blossomed further at Florida State University. Cowens was an undersized pivotman at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, but made up for it by blocking shots, diving for loose balls, leading fastbreaks and putting a body on bigger centers.
"He scared me the first time I saw him," Celtics president Red Auerbach later said. "He was so good that I kept hoping he'd make a mistake."
As the 1970 NBA draft approached, Auerbach prayed Cowens would last until Boston drafted at No. 4 overall. The Celtics did land Cowens.
Having developed a feathery touch on his jump shot, Cowens was lethal as both scorer and rebounder. He was NBA MVP in 1973, and finished his career with a 17.6 scoring average and 13.6 rebounding average.
Cowens played the bulk of his career with Boston, and finished with Milwaukee in 1983.
"I always wanted to go all-out all the time, on both ends of the floor," Cowens said.
Cowens has been married for 32 years and has two daughters. Cowens remains a favorite of autograph seekers when he attends Celtics games, where his retired No. 18 hangs in the rafters. Back home in Newport, Dave Cowens Drive spans the riverfront.
"I'm not really a celebrity any more," Cowens said. "If somebody still recognizes me, that's fine. These days, I just try to be as normal a person as I can."