It has become a matter of course for anyone in sports who has just
landed a huge contract to point out that it is "not about the money."
They will then tell you about how the job promises to be a great
challenge, an adventure, a crusade, a . . . well, you get the idea.
And so it is expected to be with Rick Pitino, who wants you to know that money alone isn't what is attracting him to Boston.
Well, if that's the way he wants it, fine. It is not about the money. Agreed.
understand that making millions coaching college basketball is not the
same as making millions coaching in the NBA. For one thing, the Celtics
can offer him 3 percent ownership in the team; can the University of
Kentucky do that? (OK, call UK a jock factory if you want, but even jock
factories don't have shareholders and stock options. Then again, given
the state of college sports these days, maybe they do.)
And then there is the staggering amount of money being talked about. Pitino's
contract with Kentucky, perks included, pays him close to $ 3 million a
year. A deal with the Celtics would pay him more than twice that - some
$ 70 million for the life of the contract. Thus, if you consider this
thing from start to finish, and the partial ownership, it's a lifetime
deal: Rick Pitino,
his children, their children, their children, and their children will
not long for anything. So it is about the money. OK? Are we clear on
that? The money is important. It would be a determining factor for Pitino.
But now that we have that out of the way, it's reasonable to believe that Pitino
does have a hankering to grapple with the challenge of rebuilding a
once-proud franchise that has become the NBA's laughingstock. Pitino
has made many carefully phrased comments about coaching the Celtics in
recent weeks, but the most telling one was delivered Saturday afternoon
at the Kentucky Derby: "There's more upside (coaching the Celtics) if
you're successful. For a person who would be looking for a challenge,
it's a great situation."
In other words, Rick Pitino
could be remembered as the man who returned the Celtics to what some
would consider their rightful place as the NBA's dominant franchise. If
he is successful, his name will be included among Red, Russell, Bird and
the Cooz. There will be a Rick Pitino
banner hanging from the rafters from the FleetCenter. Many years from
now, he could be Red to a new generation of Celtics fans. That's a
A lot of this has to do with power, and Pitino
would be given plenty of it. The Celtics in recent seasons have been an
organizational nightmare, and, as such, a number of factions have
surfaced. Since it doesn't appear that a Pitino-Bird
tandem is going to be in place, the possibility of a clash of egos is
minimal. It's almost certain that the supremely overmatched M.L. Carr
won't be used in much more than a community relations role, that all of
Carr's assistant coaches will be jettisoned, that the scouting staff
will be revamped, and that "general manager" Jan Volk's role will be
The question mark here is the
presence of the great Red Auerbach. He remains an icon in the sports
world, a sacred cow, and deservedly so. He is, face it, the greatest
builder of winning teams in the history of professional sports. But Red
is no longer wise to the ways of the NBA, and in future seasons he will
not be a factor in major decisions being made by the Celtics.
must be careful to avoid embarrassing Red, or doing anything that might
appear as a sign of disrespect. In the court of public opinion, Pitino could not win anything that is perceived as a clash with Red Auerbach.
If he comes here, Rick Pitino will make the Celtics news again. They may be two or three years from being competitive again, but with Rick Pitino at the controls, we are compelled to pay attention.