May 6, 1997
is on his way. Soon, possibly even today, he will be officially
anointed the new basketball authority in Boston, courtesy of a 10-year, $
70 million contract as coach and director of operations for the
And while he may not be the new boss yet, his arrival already is being felt in the organization.
Celtics president Red Auerbach confirmed that Pitino was coming aboard last night. At first it was thought that Pitino's title would be president and head coach, the same titles given to Miami's Pat Riley. But when asked if Pitino
was going to take his title, Auerbach said, "That's not true. He is not
going to be the president of the Celtics. I am the president of the
Celtics and, to my knowledge, I am not going anywhere. He is going to be
coach and something else."
comments were one of many signs that a volcanic change was under way in
the organization. M.L. Carr, soon to be removed from the basketball
picture, yesterday started the process of notifying his assistant
coaches that they should be prepared to look elsewhere. In addition, it
was learned that general manager Jan Volk, a fixture in the organization
for more than 25 years, is likely to be a casualty. Reached last night,
Volk did not want to comment other than to say, "I expect to be there"
at the office today.
If Volk is gone, he
has company. Yesterday around 5 p.m., Celtics' chief financial officer
Richard Pond fired longtime public relations employee Dave Zuccaro as
well as Wayne Lebeaux, the director of travel and team services.
told me a new regime was coming in and that they were going to clean
house," said Lebeaux, who had been with the Celtics since 1979, starting
as a ballboy.
Zuccaro, who has been with
the Celtics for 13 years and was responsible for publications, added,
"They told me that the decision was made by upper management. I'm not
going to be bitter about this. You won't find a person who loves the
Boston Celtics more than me."
individuals in the marketing department also were terminated. One Celtic
employee said he thought yesterday's dismissals "are only the tip of
the iceberg," and changes are expected not only in the front office.
Some players from the 1996-97 Celtics are bound not to be retained, as a
new coach will want to rebuild with players of his own choice.
There will be a new coaching staff. Pitino
is expected to bring along longtime assistant coach Jim O'Brien,
possibly making him one of the highest-paid, if not the highest-paid,
assistant coach in the league.
leaves Larry Bird is still unclear. Yesterday, he was still in Florida
mulling an offer from the Indiana Pacers to be their head coach,
part-owner, and eventual director of basketball operations. Bird and
Indiana president Donnie Walsh spoke yesterday and one Indiana source
indicated an announcement could come as soon as tomorrow. Another source
familiar with the negotiations said there was nothing he saw to unravel
the Indiana deal, but the Pacers are still somewhat concerned that Bird
may leave them at the altar.
During his book tour last month, Pitino
said he wanted Bird to be a part of anything he did in Boston, but the
economics simply may not make sense. Bird is being offered $ 4.5 million
to coach in addition to his ownership share in the Pacers.
for Carr, his future outside the basketball domain is uncertain. One
source has indicated Carr may have a contractual right to buy into the
team, and he has spoken constantly about his close relationship with
chairman of the board Paul Gaston. When told two weeks ago that the
Globe was going to write that he would surrender both his basketball
positions and possibly move into ownership, Carr smiled and said,
While the initial phase of bloodletting was going on in Boston, Pitino
was in Atlanta, signing copies of his new book, "Success is a Choice."
He said during an impromptu news conference that he still hadn't made up
his mind and that he will tell Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton
of his decision today.
"If I don't take this opportunity now, I've decided to be a college coach forever," Pitino said. "If I go to Boston, it'll be the greatest opportunity afforded to a coach."
However, Pitino said part-ownership in the team, widely thought to be one of the lures, is not something he wants.
offer is no ownership at all," he said. "The Celtics are a public
company and you don't want part-ownership in a public company. I just
want to be a coach, not an owner. Ownership opens up the possibility of
taxes and lawsuits and I already pay enough taxes."
leaves Kentucky, expect Nets coach John Calipari to make sure his name
is in the mix for the Wildcats. He may even want the job. However, a
source in New Jersey said last night he felt Calipari would not take the
job because the money wasn't as good and that it would be difficult to
accomplishments with the returning cast of players. Georgia coach Tubby
Smith and Portland's P.J. Carlesimo are also considered candidates.
said he planned to return to Kentucky for today's meeting with Newton,
at which time he also will notify his players of his decision. He also
said he was returning home because his daughter was going to have her
He said he would not try
to leverage Kentucky into giving him more money, although he has said he
would seek an extension if he decided to stay. Newton concurred,
adding, "He has never done that and he won't do that. Rick has never
tried to take advantage of his situation at the expense of Kentucky."