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Consummate Hit Man : Rambis and McHale Couldn’t Hold a Candle to Former Celtic Jim Loscutoff

Times Staff Writer

In his day, Jim Loscutoff was tougher than Kurt Rambis and Kevin McHale combined. Nobody messed around with Jungle Jim, as he was called, unless they were prepared to face the consequences.

Loscutoff, who played with the Boston Celtics from 1955-56 to 1963-64, was by far the most infamous of Red Auerbach’s hit men in the days when every National Basketball Assn. team had one. Whenever some other thug would get physical with Bob Cousy or Bill Sharman, there would be all 6 feet 5 inches, 230 pounds of Loscutoff to serve and protect.

Today, there aren’t any players like Loscutoff left in the NBA. Comparatively speaking, Rambis and McHale are finesse players. Quiche eaters. The type of clothes-line play that McHale made on Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 championship series was a fairly standard course of action for Loscutoff.

So, when cries of cheap shots and thuggery were shouted after Game 3 last Sunday, Loscutoff sat back at his home in North Andover, Mass., and chuckled.

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“Geez, it used to be a lot worse,” said Loscutoff, now 55 and up to 265 pounds, even though he’s a physical education instructor at the University of Massachusetts. “We used to have a lot of fights. Real fights. But no one ever made a big deal about it because it happened all the time.

“But I do think the game is more physical today because the athletes are better. When we played, we just banged it out underneath. Now, they can jump so well that they can bang each other around three feet off the ground.”

Although Loscutoff was the leading scorer for the University of Oregon in 1954-55, Auerbach drafted him primarily to carry on a tradition of enforcers exemplified by Bob Harris, 6-7 and 195 pounds, in 1950-51 and Bob Brannum, 6-5 and 235 pounds, in 1951-52.

But Loscutoff was a thug extraordinaire.

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“It’s unbelievable,” Loscutoff said, laughing at the memory of his glory days. “I’ve been out of the game 20 years, and people still call me up and ask me about how many people I hit.

“I’ll tell you what type of player I was. If somebody stood in my way, I’d knock them down. Even if they didn’t stand in my way, but if they were bothering another player, they’d have to deal with me. Red (Auerbach) didn’t tell me to play that way. I knew that was my role.”

Loscutoff wasn’t an enforcer in college, but when NBA scouts learned of his size and strength, they knew what type of future he’d have in the NBA.

“That’s not the way I played in college, but in the pros it was different,” Loscutoff said. “I quickly got the reputation as a guy not to mess with.”

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In nine years, Loscutoff averaged 58 games played and 219 fouls per season. In 1958-59, he totaled 285 fouls and fouled out of 15 of the 66 games in which he played. Only once in his NBA career did Loscutoff average in double figures, 10.6 points in 56-57.

Bob Ryan, a sportswriter for the Boston Globe, said Loscutoff was definitely tougher than any current player.

“You won’t see anyone as tough as Losky anymore,” Ryan said. “The game has changed too much.” Changed for the better, as far as Loscutoff is concerned.

“I like the game today,” Loscutoff said. “I’m watching this series on TV, and it’s great to see. But I can tell you right now, the Celtics are going to win it.”

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