The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics and What Matters in the End

Date(s) - 08/06/2020
7:00 pm-8:00 pm


August 6, 7-8 p.m.



On Aug. 6 at 7 p.m., we will be featuring “The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics and What Matters in the End,” by best-selling author Gary Pomerantz. Over the course of 2 ½ years, Pomerantz conducted 53 interviews with basketball Hall of Famer Bob Cousy, who offered fresh insights into sports’ greatest dynasty, speaking with soul-searching candor and clarity about race, family and his regrets, in addition to the hardwood exploits of those unforgettable Celtics teams. A central theme is Cousy’s relationship with teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Bill Russell, and his reflections on why there was such distance between the two and whether he could have been more supportive during Russell’s encounters with racism.


The Great Fenway Park Writers Series would like to encourage you to make use of the great local bookstores in your community! For this event, we have partnered with Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury.


If you don’t live in Boston, you might consider looking for an independent bookstore closer to home.

*Donations to the Red Sox Foundation are Encouraged

Editorial Reviews

“Gary Pomerantz just wrote a book called The Last Pass . . . It’s about the legacy of being a great teammate . . . It’s a really deep dive into not only what matters most, but also the NBA as it has evolved and become more inclusive and more progressive . . . It’s an unbelievable read.”
– Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens

“The first Gary Pomerantz book I read was his biography of Wilt Chamberlain, which I thought was magnificent. Then I read Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, which I haven’t stopped thinking about. Now I’ve lost myself in The Last Pass. The danger with reading Gary Pomerantz is that you’ll become an addict.”
– Malcolm Gladwell

“The Last Pass” surely stands as one of the most intriguing sports books in recent memory, and maybe of all time.”
– The Christian Science Monitor.

“Gary M. Pomerantz has taken Cooz and Russell and the remarkable Celtics and fashioned them into a fast break of a book . . . [It is] an important statement about America’s social consciousness a half-century ago, and our own today. But it is also a dual biography of the two men who dominated Boston sports at a time when the Red Sox were pitiful, the Bruins even worse and the Patriots unworthy of discussion in polite company.”
– David M. Shribman, The Wall Street Journal

About the Author

GARY M. POMERANTZ is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist, and has served the past thirteen years as a lecturer in the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University. Throughout his career, Pomerantz has devoted his writing, and teaching, to American history, race relations, the media, and sports.

His sixth and latest nonfiction book, The Last Pass (Penguin Press) is a New York Times best-selling narrative about race, regret, and encroaching mortality as an old man comes to terms with his life. It is a poignant tale about Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, iconic Hall of Famers, the Ruth and Gehrig of the storied Boston Celtics dynasty that won an unprecedented 11 NBA championships in the 13 seasons between 1957-69. The story of that dynasty plays on, not on the parquet floor of Boston Garden, but in the conscience of Cousy, the team captain, now 90 years old. The Boston Globe placed The Last Pass among its Best Books of 2018, and The Dallas Morning News named it among the Top 50 Sports Books of All Time (No. 19).


By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate and New York Times Best Selling Author


He’s deep into the winter of his life now, just a few days from turning ninety-two years old. He uses a cane to get around and still lives in the big house on Salisbury Street in Worcester that he purchased for his then young family well over half a century ago.

He doesn’t get out and about much these days, not because he can’t, but because he can’t be bothered. After all, at his age, and with his history, he’s seen it all.

Fifty-seven years years have passed since he bade farewell as a player in a ceremony held before his team’s final game of the 1962-63 regular season. It should not have come as much of a surprise that the event would be so packed with emotion because that’s how he’d always played the game. Still, when his voice cracked during his farewell speech and he had to pause to gather himself, those in the throng of disciples who had filled the old Boston Garden to pay tribute fell silent, each with a lump in the throat. Then, from far up in the balcony of the cavernous old hall, came a leather-lunged call, cutting through the hushed silence and speaking for us all who were present that day.


So we did then, and so we do now.

Bob Cousy’s career as the captain, point guard, and emotional leader of the Boston Celtics in their dynastic years was admirable in every respect, as has been his life in the years since. It has been a life well-lived, yet he is not satisfied with it.

When Bill Russell joined the Celtics, he and Cousy became the perfect teammates, each man’s talents enhancing the other’s. Russell, with his uncanny shot blocking and rebounding ability, getting the ball into Cousy’s hands and letting him create his magic by distributing it to his teammates in any manner of creative and mind-boggling ways.

Anyone whoever saw them play has a clear memory of Russell, using his extraordinary timing, leaping, and wiry toughness to grab another rebound, then quickly whipping the ball to a predetermined spot on the floor, knowing that if Cousy said he’d be there, he would be there. Then the “Houdini of the Hardwood,” as the headline writers had dubbed him, leading a fast break to the top of the key with Tom Heinsohn and Satch Sanders alongside as his wingmen. He might appear to pass off to one of them, then suddenly throw a no-look pass to the other for a layup; or he could shovel a behind-the-back pass to fellow guard Bill Sharman, one of the league’s premier outside shooters; another option was to deftly dish the ball off to Russell, racing up the floor from beneath the opposite basket with the speed and grace of a cheetah, to finish the play with a dunk. A final option was to pull the ball back, execute a behind-the-back dribble, and slither through the defense on his own for an easy basket, but he got his greatest satisfaction from setting up a teammate.

He and Russell both had robust egos, a necessary component for superstardom in any competitive sport, but neither ever resented the other. Russell knew that he’d never be as beloved as Cousy, who, in turn, was not bothered by Russell’s growing reputation as an historic figure.

Yet the two, who were like brothers on the court, hardly had any relationship off it. One was a dutiful family man who saw it as his responsibility to be a spokesman for the league and for the game; the other was mercurial and edgy, answering to no one but himself. Cousy was open and accessible, signing every autograph request; while Russell signed none, no exceptions, not even for teammates. When the game was over, each man went his separate way

As Cousy saw it, it was not about race, and yet it was all about race. In his early years in the league his roommate had been Chuck Cooper, the first black player to have been drafted by an NBA team. The two had become inseparable, eating meals together, going to nightclubs on off-nights on the road, and sharing dinner with their wives while at home. He enjoyed warm relationships with the Jones boys, Sam and KC, and with Satch Sanders, that lasted long after their playing days.

But Cousy and Russell had become more and more remote from one another as the years went by, living on opposite sides of the continent, one in Worcester, the other outside of Seattle. They became little more than acquaintances as they occasionally crossed paths, sometimes going for years without seeing or speaking with one another.

But Bob Cousy was haunted by a recurring thought. Could he – should he – have done more to ease Bill Russell’s rocky road through his Boston years, when he’d been subjected to countless acts of racism – some slight and some outrageous? They were not perpetrated by everyone, of course, but by enough to have poisoned Russell’s mind against all of Boston.

In Cousy’s own mind he reached a verdict. He had come up short.

How could he bring closure to what he regarded as a blemish on his resume?

It’s a complicated story, but one told with remarkable grace and empathy by Gary Pomerantz in his book, The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End.

It is a sports book for the ages, one that ranks on a par with Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer and David Halberstam’s The Teammates. It is also a biography of a commendable man and great player, a history of sports’ greatest dynasty, and an examination of race relations during a difficult time.

On August 6th at 7 PM the Great Fenway Park Writers Series will host a free Zoom event featuring Pomerantz as he discusses this outstanding book and its meaning. To register and/or to purchase the book at a discount, go to

You won’t be sorry.