What's the Big Deal, you ask? Why is every local sports fan excited about the prospect of Rick Pitino coming to coach the Celtics?
It's a big deal because Pitino is a dynamic, successful coach. He restores credibility to our most storied sports franchise.
is also uplifting because he's one of us. Bill Parcells was a great
coach, probably the best local sports leader since Red Auerbach. But the
Tuna never was a New England guy. Give Parcells a gas-guzzling car and a
doughnut shop and he's happy anywhere. New England? New Jersey? Same
Parcells hardly ever made it
into the Hub. He didn't know the Hancock Tower from the Citgo sign. He
thought the Swan Boats were yachts owned by a Cardinal defensive
is different. He went to college at the University of Massachusetts in
Amherst. He worked and lived in Boston and Providence. His son goes to
school in Milton. Rick Pitino
knows that the Globe is a broadsheet and the Herald a tabloid. He's a
card-carrying member of Ted Nation. Even while coaching at Kentucky, he
managed weekend getaways in Boston, trolling Newbury Street in search of
fine dining and expensive suits.
played for Jack Leaman at UMass. He played in the backcourt with Billy
Endicott and he knows that Endicott got beat up at the Boston Garden
after playing in the old Tech Tourney. He knows that former Oriole Cy
Young winner Mike Flanagan - another UMass contemporary - is from
He knows that students
used to line up outside Curry Hicks Cage to watch Dr. J. He knows that
John Quincy Adams is a high-rise in Southwest, and he knows that
Melville is a low-rise. He remembers when you could buy a pitcher of
beer at the Blue Wall.
He knows that Case
Gym is upstairs from Brown Arena at Boston University. He remembers
coaching players named Tom Channel, Steve Wright, Wally West, Glenn
Consor, Desmond Martin, Brett Brown, John Teague, Tony Simms, and Gary
Plummer when he went 91-51 in five seasons at BU.
knows that a piece of old Braves Field, where Babe Ruth finished his
career, still stands as part of Nickerson Field. He knows that Martin
Luther King, Howard Stern, and Faye Dunaway matriculated at Boston
went to work with Hubie Brown and the New York Knicks when he left BU.
He knows that one day before the Celtics met the Knicks and red-hot
Bernard King in the 1984 conference semifinals, Cedric Maxwell pointed
to King and said, "The bitch won't score 50 off me." He knows that
Bernard went for 50 in Game 3. Pitino was there when Larry Bird torched the Knicks in Game 7 at the Garden on a Sunday afternoon.
knows what the Celtics were like in those days. He saw first-hand what
the Celtics stood for. He saw Bird, Parish, and McHale at the top of
their games. He was with the Knicks when Auerbach counterpunched New
York's interest in McHale by signing three New York free agents in a
After his first NBA experience, Pitino
took over for Joe Mullaney at Providence, leading the Friars to the
Final Four in 1987. He knows that Dave Gavitt was a god in Providence.
He knows that Ernie DeGregorio is the all-time gym rat, and that Marvin
Barnes once went after teammate Larry Ketvirtis with a tire iron. He
knows that Billy Reynolds is the best scribe in Providence. He knows
that everybody goes to Murphy's Deli after Friar games.
been in Lexington, Ky., for eight years. His New England knowledge
served him there only when he came to Boston to recruit Wayne Turner at
Beaver Country Day (which Pitino
knows is always the first school to postpone when it snows) and Mike
Bradley at Worcester Burncoat - not far from Holy Cross, where Pitino played against Gene Doyle and coached against George Blaney.
At Kentucky, Pitino
rebuilt college basketball's signature school (the Boston Celtics of
the NCAA) and won a national championship. Along the way, he adjusted to
the food and the customs. He took a liking to bluegrass and
thoroughbred racing. And when he couldn't find any good Italian food, he
opened his own restaurant.
But now it's
time to come back to his basketball roots. It's time to return to the
land of Jack Leaman, Dr. J, Al Skinner, Dave Gavitt, Ronnie Perry, Joe
Mullaney. It's time to come home to the New Garden where Red and K.C.,
and the Cooz and Tommy Heinsohn still prowl. It's time to come back to
New England to rescue the once-proud Boston Celtics.