Can Don Gaston Be Trusted?

May 5, 1997

We have all had a gas with the Paul Gaston jokes. We have hammered him with unflattering nicknames. We have poked fun at his boyish, Richie Cunningham looks. We have parodied his threat to sue The Wall Street Journal for . . . pause for drum roll, please . . . a $ 100 million.

But you know what? I trust Paul Gaston. I believe in Paul Gaston. And I am counting on Paul Gaston, now that he has a couple of years experience of running an NBA experience, to be the man who makes the right decisions, decisions that return the Celtics to prominence.

True, the man has made mistakes. He has been a veritable Roger Clemens of foot-in-mouth quotage. And face it, there are a lot of people who hate Gaston for no other reason than because he is a rich kid whose dad handed him the keys to an NBA franchise for a birthday present.

But look at it this way: Paul Gaston is the one man who absolutely, positively has the best interests of the Celtics at heart. It's simple - the Gastons have a controlling interest in the ownership of the Celtics. You think Paul Gaston is trying to hold onto his job? You think he's secretly sending out feelers about being a coach or general manager for another NBA franchise?

And while we're on the subject, what's the big deal with papa giving him the club? Isn't that how America works? Half the people in many a neighborhood inherited their home from their parents or grandparents, but I haven't felt an urge to call the guy across the street "Thanksdad."

What was Don Gaston supposed to do? Give the Celtics to some deserving nobody and tell young Paul to go fend for himself?

Like him or hate him, Paul Gaston runs the Celtics. And, like him or hate him, he's the one guy in this drama who isn't going anywhere unless the team is sold. Can the same be said about Larry Bird? M.L. Carr? Jan Volk?

Do me this favor: Put aside all your hero worship and adulation and goosebumps-on-the-skin nostalgia and ask yourself if you truly believe Bird has the best interests of the Celtics at heart these days. Bird's been jumping all around the basketball map as a representative of the Celtics, and his assignment is to find the man who will replace laugh riot M.L. Carr as head coach. Yet at the same time he sits down with the owner of the Indiana Pacers to discuss a plan by which he, Larry Bird, would become head coach of the Pacers.

Huh? Bird's been doing some dazzling, no-look, behind-the-back dime-dropping this week, and a lot of old-timers on press row are only too happy to help out. Bird, highly intelligent, has played this thing like the 1986 Finals. The Celtics may or may not wind up with the coaching arrangement they want, but you can be assured that Bird will get what Bird wants. Listening, Pacers fans?

If Larry Bird winds up back home in Indiana, it won't be because the Celtics failed to deliver what Larry wanted. It will because the ever-competitive Bird worked out a better deal with the Pacers. And if Larry Brown winds up in Philly, Rick Pitino stays in Kentucky and the Celtics wind up with (gasp) Dennis Johnson as coach, do you think Bird will lose any sleep?

Life was so much easier when Red Auerbach ran the Celtics. Red regularly played other NBA general managers for chumps, and he decided everything: draft picks, trades, schedule, hotels.

These days, the Celtics are a collection of factions, which, with the NBA draft approaching, is a little scary. It must be tough to cover the draft when you're busy covering your butt.

Surely Paul Gaston is responsible for this mess because, after all, it's his name at the top of the masthead. But while he may have broke it, he's the only guy in a position to fix it.

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