May 8, 1997
The dismantling of the Boston Celtics continued yesterday with
franchise icon Red Auerbach surrendering his title as president, more
dismissals in the basketball department, the reassignment of former hoop
honcho M.L. Carr, the likely departure of Larry Bird, and the impending
arrival of the man who made it all possible: Rick Pitino.
new head coach and president of the Celtics, whose reported $
68-million, 10-year deal is the most lucrative by far among NBA coaches,
will hold his first news conference this afternoon at the FleetCenter,
the only building in Boston big enough for the occasion. Even before he
announced he had accepted the job of rebuilding the team, however, Pitino had initiated his plan to reshape the front office, a plan still in progress.
results have been startling: The Celtics of 1997-98 will be a
completely different organization from last season, with every household
name of the 1970s and 1980s - and some who were known only to close
observers - either gone or demoted. Auerbach will remain on the
masthead, the sole survivor, but it was clear that even he will no
longer retain whatever clout he may have had. This is Pitino's show.
"You don't pay any attention to what happened yesterday," Pitino
said yesterday before leaving Lexington, Ky., where his announcement
Tuesday ended his eight-year run as University of Kentucky coach,
highlighted by a national championship in 1996 and a trip to the
national final in 1997. "You wipe the slate clean."
has done that. Yesterday the purge on Merrimac Street continued. Head
scout Rick Weitzman, who has been evaluating prospective professionals
for the Celtics since 1988, was terminated in the morning. Jon Jennings,
a former assistant coach and scout and most recently director of
basketball development, also was let go. Both were informed of their
dismissals by Richard Pond, the Celtics' chief financial officer.
Jennings and Weitzman were the primary college scouts for the Celtics.
was prepared for it," said Weitzman. "Hopefully, I'll be able to find
something in the league. But I've also worked outside the league, too."
and Jennings were the last two basketball-related employees to be
ousted. Overall, 10 people who were involved in the Celtics' basketball
operation have been dismissed from their previous jobs, including the
entire coaching staff, the travel coordinator, and longtime general
manager Jan Volk. Of the 10, Carr is the only one who has remained with
The Globe reported April 21 that
Carr would surrender both of his basketball jobs (coach and vice
president of operations) while still keeping a role in the organization,
possibly in ownership. Late yesterday, the Celtics announced that Carr
would have a new title: executive vice president for corporate
development. He will have no dealings with the basketball operation.
very proud of M.L. and how he has handled himself the past few years in
some very difficult situations," chairman of the board Paul Gaston
Auerbach, who Monday night was
adamant that he would retain his title as president of the Celtics, will
instead be given a new title. In reality, the shift is more symbolic
and ceremonial; Auerbach was a president in title only for the last
several years and was not, as most NBA presidents are, involved in the
day-to-day operations of the team. Pitino
will be given that title, in addition to that of coach, thus making him
the Boston equivalent of Pat Riley, who holds the same titles in Miami.
Under terms of the deal, Pitino will coach for the first six years and remain as president for the final four.
Auerbach, who will be in Boston for today's press conference, said he isn't overly concerned about titles.
don't know, Paul and I are going to decide that" today, Auerbach said
when reached at his home in Washington last night. "It's all according
to what happens. Maybe I'll get a promotion. I might be like a vice
chairman of the board or something like that. Who knows? We'll talk
The 79-year-old Celtic legend applauded the appointment of Pitino.
"You couldn't ask for anything better," said Auerbach. "In Pitino, you got a young guy who's a great motivator, knows the game, a workaholic, and he's a winner. What more can you ask?"
Bird situation, meanwhile, was still technically in limbo, although
sources have told the Globe that he has accepted the offer to coach the
Indiana Pacers and is simply waiting for the Celtics to have their show
today. Yesterday Indiana president Donnie Walsh denied that any
agreement was in place, saying, "Everything is still on hold." However,
sources have said Bird - the Celtics' legendary ex-player who, as
special assistant, initiated the team's contact with Pitino
- has given his word to Walsh that he will come. The offer is to coach
the team at a salary of about $ 4.5 million, part ownership, and a front
office job down the road.
talked to Larry in about a week and don't know what the hell he's going
to do," said Auerbach. "I can't understand why he wants to coach. These
guys take coaching like it's nothing. Well, it's a 15-hour day and
travel and responsibility and aggravation and emotional ups and downs.
Holy God almighty, what would he want that for?"
Bird could not be reached for comment last night.
said yesterday he intends to hire a general manager and publicly, at
least, is still making a pitch for Bird. But with Bird's decision
apparently already made, it appears that this is simply a case of mutual
stroking. Gaston said Bird could work "under Pitino" if he so chose.
new man in charge, meanwhile, will discuss these and other basketball
issues this afternoon. Yesterday, while still in Kentucky, Pitino
mentioned that he's already hired Boston amateur basketball guru Leo
Papile to scout the Continental Basketball Association and Europe.
already knows his new team well enough to recognize its most dramatic
need: a big man. He likes Tim Duncan. He loves Raef Lafrentz, who has
said he is staying at Kansas. He also said he needed a point guard,
which could mean a change of address for David Wesley.
the meantime, the franchise name hasn't changed. That's about the only
constant in the last 72 hours. The Boston Celtics have undergone a
dramatic and swift transformation. They will be much different on and
off the court next year and, possibly, for years to come.