No Ohio State basketball player was tougher or a more fierce competitor than Larry Siegfried who died Thursday in Cleveland Clinic after several heart surgeries.
Doug McDonald, an Ohio State teammate in the 1960-61 season, said Siegfried was one of the toughest basketball players he has ever been around.
"It was never fun to have to go against him in practice," said McDonald, a Fostoria native.
The two have met several times over the years.
"That toughness has never changed," McDonald said of one of the Buckeyes' all-time greats.
Siegfried carried that toughness and intense competitiveness into the pros.
Siegfried's defense and free throw shooting were key in Boston Celtics NBA titles in 1968 and 1969. He was an important player in five NBA titles during his seven-year Celtics' career during the Bill Russell era.
Siegfried was most noted as a Celtic for his tenacious defense.
Johnny Most, famed gravel-voiced Celtics' radio announcer, often described Siegfried's defensive performance on many nights with "Ziggy's in his shirt tonight."
Siegfried averaged 13 to 15 points in five of his years with the Celtics. He had a career free throw percentage of 85 percent and twice led the NBA in that category.
The Cincinnati Royals drafted him with their first pick in the 1961 draft to pair him with the great Oscar Robertson but Siegfried, it has been written, didn't want to play in Cincinnati because of the UC Bearcats' upset of the Buckeyes in the 1961 NCAA title game.
Siegfried played two years with the George Steinbrenner-owned Cleveland Pipers of the ABL but then the ABL folded. Siegfried became a high school coach and teacher but Buckeye teammate and Celtics superstar John Havlicek urged legendary coach Red Auerbach to give Siegfried a tryout. Siegfried eventually became a starter next to Sam Jones or Havlicek in the backcourt.
Siegfried's leadership abilities were exemplified by him being selected Buckeye captain for his junior and senior years, and his junior year, 1959-1960, produced OSU's last NCAA basketball title.
Joining Siegfried in the 1960 team's starting lineup were other all-time Buckeye greats Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, and Mel Nowell plus Joe Roberts. A guy named Robert Montgomery Knight was a reserve.
Coached by Zanesville native Fred Taylor, Ohio State upset defending champ California 75-55 in the title game and stunned a mostly Golden Bear-cheered crowd in San Francisco's Cow Palace. The Buckeyes shot a blistering 67 percent, all five starters scoring in double figures, led by Lucas' 16. Siegfried scored 13 points, hitting five of six shots from the field.
After his basketball career ended, Siegfried spoke many times to high school and college student-athletes, emphasizing teamwork and individual responsbilities
"I've seen teams with good records who aren't good teams," Siegfried once said. "There's hatred, jealousies, and fighting among the players. Are these good teams? No. They had nothing, absolutely, totally nothing.
"Players should concentrate on their responsibilities," he said. "You don't have to be the big dog."
When Siegfried went to Ohio Sate, he had been the "big dog" at Shelby High, winning All-Ohio and All-American honors, twice scoring 58 points in a game. He said he was undisciplined but coach Taylor taught the players how to be responsible and they were disciplined.
"We were beating other clubs that were undisciplined," he said.
Bill Robinson is a former Marietta Times sports editor.