‘Voice of Celtics,’ Dot native Mike Gorman, sees greatness in the Green

Mike Gorman still has a courtside seat at Celtics games.

Image courtesy NBCUniversal

Mike Gorman’s basketball journey began on the court at Dorchester’s  Toohig Park, where he’d practice his roundball skills most days after class at St. Brendan School. Like a lot of Dot kids who dreamed of a pro career, the scrappy neighborhood kid had a crisp jump shot and was a defensive pest.

But this kid from Crockett Ave. couldn’t “go left” on his drives to the basket. “That was the end of my career,” he jokes.

Instead, the Boston Latin School alum’s hoop dreams led him to a remarkable 43-year career as a broadcaster and as the “voice of the Boston Celtics.”

On May 1, the 76-year-old grandfather called it a career and was saluted with a raucous ovation by the TD Garden faithful. It was time to put the microphone down, but Gorman has kept his courtside seat warm as the C’s have stormed through the NBA Playoffs to earn their spot in the finals, which begin with Game One tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.

Like most close observers of the game, Gorman is bullish on Boston’s chances against Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. He expects it to be a close series— and he isn’t making a specific prediction on the duration. But, he says, this Celtics roster has the experience and talent to seize Banner 18.

“I think it’s going to be very much like the Indiana [Pacers] series,” said Gorman, referring to the Eastern Conference match-up that saw the Celtics prevail in a four-game sweep. “Boston can win close games. This bunch now knows how to win.” ( Editor’s note: At press time, the C’s were ahead in the finals, 1-0.)

Does Mike miss calling the games? Nope, not yet at least. “I don’t think I’m going to miss the games that much, because I’ll get to see any games I want. The Celtics always have a seat for me. I don’t miss all the prep work. It was beginning to get to be like Groundhog Day, the same thing over and over again.”

There’s also this: “I just felt it was time,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the guy that people said ‘get him out of here.’”

He’ll miss the people – his co-workers at NBC10 Boston, the Garden ushers, and staff like Jim at the security desk, and the Celtics owners who have treated him like family.

“The Celtics didn’t want me to leave. NBC Sports didn’t want me to leave,” Gorman says.

It was his call, he said, motivated by “selfish reasons.”

One stormy night last winter, Gorman says he stepped off a bumpy charter plane ride into Hanscom Air Force base. As he scraped ice off his car to drive himself home at 2:30 a.m. and then tried to follow a snowplow home on I-95, he did some math in his head. “I’m almost 77 years old. I’m literally twice as old as everyone on the crew. I said to myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’”

The other calculus involves his seven-year-old grandaughter, who Gorman and his wife “are head-over-heels in love with,” but who lives in Arizona.

“I want to be a part of her life,” he says.

Gorman also factored in the probability of this Celtics squad making a Finals run— and him riding out on a Duck Boat as part of his own swan song. He rode one with the 2008 Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen championship team, and he can see himself on board “Dot Dottie” in a few weeks, if all goes well.

How does this Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown-led crew measure up to the Celtics teams that Gorman and the late, great Tommy Heinson followed in earlier eras?

“They’re right there with the teams in the 1980s. If they close the deal, they’d be in the top three or four since I’ve been covering them,” he said.

Of course, there’s no question in Mike’s head that the current crop of Celtics have the potential to crack into the elite ranks of legendary players. Gorman’s top five all-time Celtics greats, by the way, are Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, and Paul Pierce.

Could Tatum or Brown eventually break through into that lofty starting five? Given his youth and range, Tatum has the best shot at it, says Gorman.

“Jason used to catch the ball and dribble it for eight seconds. Now he catches it and it’s gone. He’s learned that the ball will go back to him eventually. I think he has a chance to be remembered for a long time,” says Gorman.

But the strength of this Celtics line-up means that virtually anyone could end up snatching a Finals MVP trophy. Derek White and Jrue Holiday are in the mix, he says. But Gorman is keeping an eye trained on the 38-year-old veteran Al Horford, the Dominican-born power forward who can drill three-pointers, defend the paint, and snatch big rebounds.

“He has shown tremendous leadership this season and he’s just a remarkable player for his age. He has a real chance to be a factor and has a chance to emerge and hit that big shot,” says Gorman.

Of White and Holiday, he adds: “We might have the best defensive backcourt in the game, and that’s the matchup to watch.”