President Donald J. Trump recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the great basketball player Bob Cousy. The story of Cousy is more complicated.

Basketball legend Bob Cousy received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in an Oval Office ceremony on Thursday.

Cousy, 91, played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six NBA championships and was voted MVP of the league in 1957. The Bob Cousy Award, given to the country’s best point guard in men’s college basketball, is named after him.

But there was a time when Bob Cousy was the subject of investigation and suspicion because of the activities of the people he knew and socialized with. They were in the business of gambling on sports and Cooz was in the business of playing and coaching those very sports.

His gambling friends weren't nickel and dimers; they were made members of the Genovese crime family. They ran million-dollar criminal enterprises based on gambling and loansharking and the nasty business of collecting on those incurred debts.

Bob Cousy was never accused of doing anything wrong as a player or a coach. He was naive and loyal to old friends who were neither.

When confronted about his relationship with Genovese crime family caporegime Francesco "Skyball" Scibelli and bookmaker Andrew Pradella, Cousy admitted he knew both and he had discussed basketball teams and games with them extensively over the years. He admitted he had once been to a party "with the whole mob" there in Springfield. He even choked up and sobbed about socializing and playing golf for over a decade with his friend Pradella, the mafia bookmaker.

It is good to see the White House understands that a person's life isn't the sum total of their mistakes. The connection between Cousy and members of the Massachusetts arm of the Genovese Mafia family is an interesting history and it shouldn't be completely forgotten. People make mistakes and trust others too much on occasion. The Cousy story is a good reminder.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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