Born: August 8, 1932
Town: Union City
Togo Anthony Palazzi was born August 8, 1932 in Union City. His unusual name had a particularly unusual origin. His father had served in the personal guard of King Victor Emmanuel III and during that time had interacted with a Japanese general named Togo, whom he greatly admired. This was the same general who became the symbol of Japanese aggression during World War II.
Tall, strong and extremely coordinated, Togo could make baskets from any angle at any distance—and was not shy about shooting. Playing forward for coach George Faltings at Union Hill High School, he simply could not be guarded one-on-one—he could nail jumpshots on the run and also sink two-handed set shots from 20 feet and out when left alone at the perimeter. In a North-South prep all-star contest in 1950, he racked up 14 points in the final six minutes to lead his squad to victory.
Togo earned the attention of several national programs, but was determined to go to a Catholic college. He accepted a scholarship from coach Buster Sheary at Holy Cross.
In 1951–52, his first varsity season, Togo became a crowd favorite. Crusaders fans chanted Let’s Go Togo! During games. Holy Cross earned an NIT bid in 1952 and an NCAA Tournament bid in 1953. In his three varisty seasons, Togo would average over 20 points a game and graduated with the school rebounding record. He also broke all of Bob Cousy’s scoring records.
As a senior in 1953–54, Togo was named captain of the Crusaders and along with Ron Perry and sophomore Tommy Heinsohn led the team to a 26–2 record. The 92.9% winning percentage was the highest in school history. One of the losses was a one-point decision to UConn, which snapped the team’s 43-game home court winning streak. Togo was a third-team All-American for the second year in a row, averaging nearly 25 points a game.
The Crusaders earned a berth in the 1954 National Invitation Tournament and won their first two games—against St. Francis and Western Kentucky—to reach the finals against heavily favored Duquesne. Togo scored 25 and 32 points in the two games, and added 20 against the Dukes in a 71–62 upset. The Crusaders were the first New England team to win the NIT and finished the year ranked #3 in the nation by AP. Togo was named NIT MVP and was carried off the court on the shoulders of his teammates.
Togo was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 5th pick in the 1954 NBA Draft. Coach Red Auerbach had already tried to get him once, when he was an assistant at Duke University. Togo played beside Cousy in the Boston backcourt as a rookie, before being shifted to forward by Auerbach in 1955. During the 1956–57 season, the Celtics sold Togo to the Syracuse Nationals to create a roster spot for Bill Russell.
Although never a starter, Togo played six seasons in the NBA, supplying ball-handling, scoring, and rebounding depending on what his club needed as an early Sixth Man. In his first year with the Nats he averaged 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds despite playing less than 20 minutes a game.
After leaving the NBA, Togo continued to stay involved in basketball. During the 1970s and 1980s, he served as an assistant coach at Holy Cross under George Blaney and also coached the Crusaders’ women’s team for several seasons in the 1980s. During the 1990s, Togo was head coach at Framingham State. Five of his six kids played college basketball, including Mary Ann, who was on his team at Framingham State. In his 70s he continued to run a basketball camp in Massachusetts.
Decades after his playing days, legend had it that Togo had never lost a game of one-on-one.