Memo to Gastclown: Make Bird Director of Basketball Operations

May 5, 1997

Memo to Paul "Thanksdad" Gaston:

It's time. You have a chance to make the Celtics a premier team once again. Here's the plan. The first thing you must do is find a new job for M.L. Carr. Then you hire Rick Pitino as head coach, hire Larry Bird as director of basketball operations, and send Red Auerbach to the draft lottery and make sure he comes away with the No. 1 pick.

Carr vacated the head coaching position yesterday, which is the first step in the reconstruction of the once-proud Celtics. But it's only one step. Carr is still director of basketball operations. Sadly, this means M.L. still stands in the way of what the Celtics need.

Trust me on this one, Thanksdad. Get M.L. out of the way and hire Larry to do Carr's job. Get Pitino. Send Red to Jersey for the lottery. It will work. Your team will be on its way back to the top, and you'll call me someday and whisper, "This is Thanksdad saying Thanksdan."

It hurts to talk about M.L. this way. He's always been quick with the joke or to light up your smoke. He clearly charmed you out of your good sense when you let him coach the Celtics and run the basketball operation. He can be an asset to any organization. But at this hour, he is hurting your chances of landing the Big Kahunas.

Let's face it, no self-respecting coach (a "career coach," as M.L. called it yesterday) will come here and take orders from Carr. This is why M.L. is a roadblock on the path of progress. Pitino won't come here if Carr remains director of basketball operations. Same goes for Larry Brown. They want the power, or at least they'd want to work with someone they revere - like Bird.

These are precious days, and by leaving M.L. in command, you risk losing Bird, Pitino, and Brown. It's quite simple, Mr. Gaston (OK if I call you Mr. Gaston?). Inform all interested parties that M.L. has been stripped of his powers and reassigned to community relations, or marketing, or public relations.

You can't afford to keep M.L. in power at the expense of losing Bird and a premier head coach.

Granted, it's a little unfair to pull the rug from under M.L., but this is no time for sentiment. We all love the guy. He did a great job with the Montross trade, and bringing the '97 Celtics home with 15 wins was a coaching tour de force for which we can all be thankful. But he's not serving any purpose anymore. His continued presence as director of basketball operations can only impede the future success of the Celtics.

Pitino should be your first choice as coach. And if he takes the job, we promise not to resurrect this quote he gave to the Globe's Nick Cafardo April 8: "I can honestly say I will be back at Kentucky. I have already told that to some of my recruits. I mean that. That's an honest answer. I have videos of Lou Holtz saying he will never leave Notre Dame, and then the next thing you know, he's announcing he's stepping down. I have a video of John Calipari saying he doesn't have one ounce of interest in pro basketball, and the next thing, he's in New Jersey saying this is what he always wanted to do. It makes them both look like pathological liars."

At that moment, Pitino appeared out of the running. But now he's listening to the Celtics, Sixers, and Warriors. This places us in the unusual position of hoping that Pitino emerges as a self-admitted pathological liar. But it won't happen if M.L. is still calling the shots.

One more thing about Pitino, Paul (OK if I call you Paul?). Don't let money get in the way. Give him a piece of the team if you must. Or promise him one of those $ 15 million Christmas bonuses you give yourself every year.

Brown would be the next choice if Pitino can't be coaxed, but you know he also won't come here to take orders from M.L. Brown is already on record as saying he wants considerable personnel powers if he takes another NBA head coaching job.

Pitino and Brown would be wise to wait until May 18 to see if the Celtics get the No. 1 pick in the draft. Any prospective coach would agree that the Celtics are a lot more attractive with Tim Duncan standing in the on-deck circle.

Finally, there's the rapidly deteriorating Bird situation. It looks like you don't have a lot of time on this one. The Pacer coaching job is vacant and Larry's putting pressure on the Celtics to make up their minds about his future in Boston.

Act now, Thanksdad. Do not lose Larry Bird to another organization because you are loyal to M.L. Carr. You don't want to be remembered as The Man Who Ran Larry Bird Out Of Town. Ask Harry Sinden about Bobby Orr. Ask John Harrington about Carlton Fisk.

There is every hope that the delicate Carr dilemma has already been addressed internally. When M.L. yesterday was asked if he will retain his personnel powers, he hedged. It sounds like perhaps you've already told Carr he'll have to step aside if you can get Pitino, Brown, or Bird. That would be good.

It's time to move. Take M.L.'s name off the door. Call Pitino. Call Bird. Act now.

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