The Celtics know one thing: They'll never play for anyone quite like K.C. Jones.
"He's a different type of coach than I've ever had," said Larry Bird of Jones, who announced he is retiring after five years as head coach, effective at the conclusion of the 1988 playoffs. "He doesn't do a lot of screaming and yelling, but he knows what he wants to accomplish. I hope the players know how good we've had it."
Bird confirmed that playing for K.C. meant players had a lot of responsibility.
"The thing I'll remember most is how he treated us like men," Bird said. "He's one of the nicest people I've ever met. He treated us all the same. He never lets his ego get in the way of players doing their jobs. He lets everybody play the style of ball they want, and players always have a lot of input."
But Jones' presence was always felt, however low-key, and the emphasis was always put in the right place.
"We're probably the best team in the league at half-court basketball, but we're probably not the best at X's and O's," said Bird. "A lot of guys are heavy on the X's and O's and they do a lot of hollering and screaming. With K.C., we do what we have to do -- win games and win championships."
In Bird's opinion, Jones is nothing if not a winner.
"Maybe the one thing we're missing," said Bird, "is development of the young players. The idea seems to be that they watch and learn from the veterans. They haven't gotten a lot of teaching. Maybe that will change. But you can tell K.C. is a winner. He takes no chances in games. He'll put us back in if the lead gets down to 12 in the last two minutes. He just loved to win, and you can't knock what he's accomplished."
The decision came as a real surprise to Danny Ainge.
"It's no question it was a shocker," Ainge said. "But K.C. has had so much success, taking us to the Finals for four, hopefully five straight years. I didn't anticipate his leaving. No one did. It's just something he feels strongly about."
Ainge was quick to point out that the announcement wasn't a ploy to get the Celtics to play harder in the playoffs.
"I think everybody has so much respect for K.C.," said Ainge. "We all care about K.C. I know he didn't do it to motivate us. I'm sure he didn't want the story to break. But I'm sure he isn't doing it for motivation."
Ainge said he thinks Jimmy Rodgers will pick up where Jones left off.
"I think Jimmy Rodgers will definitely make a good coach," said Ainge. "He, like all of us, learned a lot under K.C. Although K.C. won't be here anymore, his influence will be around for a long time."
Red Auerbach said Rodgers has earned the position.
"He's the heir apparent," Auerbach was quoted as saying. "He's done a great job for the past seven or eight years, he's earned the job and we're glad to have him."
Auerbach was quoted as saying Jones' decision is the result of several weeks of discussions.
"I understand the toll it takes in coaching. Hell, I retired when I was 48. He's got a young family and he wants to take some time with them."
Kevin McHale said he admired Jones' decision.
"I think he did the thing that was right for him," said McHale. "He's had a lot of success as a player and as a coach, and there was no pressure for him to step down or anything like that. I've always admired people who can do what's right for them. He stepped down when he was ready, not when someone else was ready."
But McHale said he, too, was surprised by the decision.
"There was no indication he was going to step down," McHale said.
As for the Celtics' decision to install Rodgers as the replacement, McHale said that's just fine with him.
"He's a great communicator and a great person," said McHale. "I think he's learned a lot by being around K.C. He's helped us as an assistant coach and I'm sure he'll help us as a head coach."
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