Jan Volk is Out

May 7, 1997

Many of those who drove, walked, or took the T to 151 Merrimac Street yesterday didn't want to be there. Many of them entered the building, boarded an elevator, and eventually stepped onto green carpet. They didn't want to do that, either.

It wasn't the first time employees expressed ambivalence about a trip to the office. But this was an unusual day for Celtic workers. Those who arrived at 8:30 a.m. found satellite trucks parked near the front door. They knew the people controlling that equipment would wait and wait until they had heard from Jan Volk and/or M.L. Carr.

That was certainly an inconvenience for Celtics employees, but not as much as this: Several wondered whether they would still be Celtics employees by sundown.

On his way into the building yesterday, Volk, executive vice president and 13-year general manager, said he still had his job. When he left in the evening, zipping away in a Corvette, a statement had been released by the team concerning its 26-year employee:

He resigned to make room for new coach Rick Pitino, who will have control of basketball operations.

"With a new basketball operations staff about to take the helm of the Celtics, I've concluded that it's time that I step down and clear the way for them to function freely," Volk said in the statement. "I will remain available to help in the transition process, wherever I may be needed."

Before that, various rumors had raged. A television station reported that longtime trainer Ed Lacerte had been fired. Not true. Lacerte was given word by chairman of the board Paul Gaston yesterday that his job was intact. There was a rumor that Volk's executive assistant had lost her job; it was true. And, fittingly, there was confusion among the assistant coaches. One announced that the group had all been fired; two said they had not been told of that decision.

"The assistants are out," K.C. Jones said as he put a box of belongings in his car. His lips quivered as he spoke. Before driving away, he said, "It ain't easy being green."

Dennis Johnson and John Kuester, the other assistants, watched Pitino's afternoon press conference away from Merrimac Street. As far as they know, they are still employed by the Celtics.

"No one has contacted me," Johnson said.

The Golden State Warriors are interested in speaking with Johnson for their head coaching vacancy. Another team is known to be interested in him, too. But the Celtics haven't made his dismissal official.

Kuester, who worked with Pitino at Boston University, said he had not been contacted, either.

The man who coached the Celtics last season, Carr, didn't say much all day. As the cameras and microphones made their way to the fourth floor for the Pitino conference, a team spokesman was asked if Carr would speak. The answer was no. Instead, a two-paragraph statement was released, headlined "Celtics welcome Coach Pitino."

Carr did not return phone calls. He walked out the front door, moved past the cameras, and left the Building of No Good News. He will not continue to be director of basketball operations, but his role is unclear.

"I've been calling there all day," a former employee said, "and I can't get a straight answer from anybody."

It is true that Pitino is officially the 13th coach of the Celtics, and will be presented to Boston tomorrow. But the powerful Pitino was a North End reality as early as Monday. That was the day Dave Zuccaro, a public relations employee, walked out a front door and whispered, "I've just been fired." It was the day Volk, still with both his jobs, proceeded slowly to his car, knowing he would soon separate from the organization he helped guide to three NBA titles in the 1980s. It was the day Wayne Lebeaux, director of team travel and services, and two marketing employees were fired, too.

Indications are that the sweep of these offices is not complete. The scouting department will continue to be tense until after draft day, when it is expected to be revamped. Every department will be analyzed.

This is the Rick Pitino Era. The coach has already been assured that he will have a new suburban practice facility (the team had used Brandeis University). He will analyze his team as thoroughly as he has analyzed these offices. More jobs will be lost. The building at 151 Merrimac will not be the same.

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