Two NBA coaching jobs opened up yesterday, and Larry Bird could have a say in who fills both.
the wake of M.L. Carr's resignation in Boston and Larry Brown's in
Indiana, Celtics special assistant Bird has an offer from the Pacers he
may find impossible to reject: more than $ 4 million a year to be the
head coach, a piece of the team, and the promise to take over the
basketball operations job when president Donnie Walsh decides to step
Attempts to reach Bird yesterday
were unsuccessful. The Indiana job opened up with the resignation of
Brown, and Walsh said Bird is the only person he has talked to. Bird has
repeatedly stated he would like more of an active role in Boston, but
he has ruled out coaching the Celtics. He also offended many people in
the organization with his brutally candid assessment of the franchise in
Bird's Indiana salary would
make him the highest-paid coach in the NBA - until, that is, one of his
choices to succeed Carr signs on the dotted line. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, whom the Celtics are feverishly courting, will receive much more to take the NBA job he always said he wanted.
still technically the director of basketball operations, offered
nothing on the search for a new coach, saying only, "We have someone
we're leaning towards more than the others. We are working hard to get
the right person in place."
According to a source, the Celtics are contemplating offering Pitino a staggering $ 40 million-$ 45 million over five years, along with approximately 3 percent of the team. Pitino
already has turned down Golden State, which offered in the $ 8
million-a-year range. Orlando is in the same ballpark, but neither of
those franchises appeals to Pitino the way Boston does.
Carr's position as director of basketball operations is also on life support if Pitino
signs. The Globe has reported Carr will be financially taken care of by
the Celtics, possibly even given a small share of the team.
Asked to comment on the coaching situation, Antoine Walker, who played for Pitino
for two seasons at Kentucky, said, "My comment is no comment. Talk to
me when we get a coach." However, Walker has confided to friends that he
would seriously consider leaving Boston when his three-year contract
expires if Pitino is named coach. The two did not hit it off at Lexington: Pitino sometimes felt Walker didn't work hard enough; and Walker thought Pitino didn't get close enough to his players.
was another coach the Celtics considered, but he was in Philadelphia
last night talking to the 76ers. Brown and the Celtics were supposed to
meet earlier this week, but the meeting was postponed and has yet to be
rescheduled. It is believed that the Pitino
situation escalated to the point where Brown's availability became a
back-burner issue. In addition, Brown's meeting was postponed shortly
after the Celtics learned that Bird and Walsh were meeting in
Indianapolis last weekend.
It was Bird who
got the coaching ball rolling this season, contacting prospective
coaches at the request of chairman of the board Paul Gaston. Pitino
was on his short list, and the two chatted several times about the
situation in Boston. Until yesterday, however, the Celtics technically
still had a coach, even though the Globe reported 10 days ago that Carr
would not return.
After team president Red
Auerbach confirmed in yesterday's Globe that there would be a coaching
change, the team hastily held a conference call, with Carr making it
"It was never my idea to be a
career coach," he said. "It is time to bring in a career coach, someone
who can take this team to a new level. The parts are in place."
will be that someone unless he decides he simply has to stay at
Kentucky. He is intrigued by the prospect of resurrecting the Celtics,
who finished the season with a 15-67 record. And his small piece of the
franchise could be pegged at around $ 3.6 million, a figure that might
rise with the announcement of his arrival.
Attempts to reach Pitino yesterday were unsuccessful. A secretary at the Kentucky basketball office said Pitino was out of town on "personal business" and was not expected back until next week.
the first time, Carr mentioned four-year assistant Dennis Johnson as a
possible replacement, although that is not perceived to be a realistic
option. Johnson was not on Bird's list of coaches and feels he is
destined to be elsewhere next season. Johnson was unavailable for
In his farewell address
as coach, Carr insisted that everything had gone according to plan the
last two years, even though the "plan" at first did not include a 15-67
season. "I feel I've accomplished what I wanted to do," he said. "It is
time to hand it over to a career coach. That always has been the plan."
He said he did feel confident that the team was poised to make big
strides, given the talent it has, along with two lottery picks in the
upcoming NBA draft.
"We have a chance to take a quantum leap," he said. "Obviously, there is a lot to work with."
The work Carr did was appreciated by his employers and players.
want to thank M.L. for maintaining a positive, upbeat attitude
throughout a very tough year," said Gaston in a statement. "I look
forward to working with him in what promises to be an exciting new era."
was right in there with us," said Celtics captain Rick Fox. "He
wouldn't let anybody else share the criticism. He took it all and
deflected the heat from the players and the organization. He doesn't get
a gold star for that, but he's a good man for doing it."