Before there was Jeremy Lin, there was Jim Loscutoff. Before there was "Linsanity", there was "Jungle Jim."
Loscutoff, who became Palo Alto High's first NBA player in 1955 -- decades before Lin became famous in the league -- passed away Tuesday in Massachusetts at age 85 from complications of pneumonia and Parkinson's disease.
Loscutoff was seven-time NBA champion who played his entire nine-year career with the Boston Celtics. He is the only Celtics player to have his name, and not uniform number, retired "for his leadership and all-around excellent play."
Affectionately nicknamed "Loscy" or "Jungle Jim" (for his aggressive style of play), Loscutoff was the team's first-round draft pick -- No. 3 overall -- out of Oregon in 1955. The 6-foot-5 forward averaged 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in his career.
He played under legendary coach Red Auerbach, and alongside Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell, helping Boston win the first of its 17 NBA titles in 1957. The Celtics retired "Loscy," his nickname, which hangs in the rafters because he asked his No. 18 not be retired. The team later retired it for Dave Cowens.
Loscutoff averaged 19 points and 17 rebounds for the University of Oregon after spending three years in the service. He was born in San Francisco, but graduated from Palo Alto High in 1948 after playing for Hod Ray and George Hurley.
Former Palo Alto coach Clem Wiser received an e-mail from one of his friends, Dan Johnson, who visited Loscutof in June of this year. Johnson was an all-league basketball player at Paly in 1963 and met Luscutoff while playing in adult league basketball (at Paly). Several years ago, Johnson moved back East, contacted Luscutoff at his summer camp and renewed the friendship. Here's what Johnson had to say about their reunion:
"I took a wrong turn after golf in North Reading, Mass., and came to the proverbial fork in the road and took it. I followed a sign to
Camp Evergreen for some distant recollection as if my Audi Q5 was on automatic pilot. I pulled into the Camp, got out, and walked 50 feet to an older man sitting in a chair. I introduced myself as Dan Johnson from Palo Alto, then said, 'You must be Mr. Jim Loscutoff.'
"Jim and I spent the next hour and a half talking about Paly, Oregon, and the Celtics. I was well prepped after years of hearing stories about Moose from my brother Miles' friends. We talked about the Heinecke Shell softball team he pitched for in the mid-50s, for which I was the bat boy at 11. We talked about his old friends including Sequoia's "Big Pete" Peterson and "Little Pete" Pedersen and his son (Paly grad Joc) with the Dodgers. We talked about Clem Wiser. I called Frank Mills and Fritz Heinecke, both Paly grads, from the 50s who knew Moose. Frank's family owns Mill's Florists and Fritz is the son of Walt Heinecke, an All- American tackle at Stanford in 1929. Although I don't smoke, Jim offered me a cigar and I gladly accepted having it lit with the blow torch.
"I've been walking on six inches of air for two days. Thank you for letting me share this with you. Jim's got a touch of Parkinson's disease and doesn't walk much. He's still got that quick sense of humor and fun. His wife of 64 years, Lynn Leon Loscutoff, recently wrote a book entitled, 'Loscy & Me'."