Coach Starts Reclamation Project

May 10, 1997

There was a continuous North End street party Thursday. Rick Pitino was in the neighborhood, and the nation's camera operators wanted to televise the Celtics' celebration of their new coach and president's arrival.

Everyone knew then that it would not be a week-long festival. Soon enough, the cameras would have to disappear and Pitino would have to start a job that does not qualify as good TV: piecing together a team out of the shrapnel left by the 15-67 Celtics.

At about 9 a.m., Pitino began that yesterday. He went to the office, where only one camera crew awaited. He toured the practice facility at Brandeis University ("It's not Orlando's Wellness Center or other, similar places, but it's the best we have right now"). He met team doctor Arnold Scheller. He held a staff meeting. He looked at the team's uniforms. He began planning summer league possibilities.

"I did about everything you can imagine," he said.

He has plenty to resolve before the June 25 draft and November opener. Among them:

- Finding a general manager/player personnel type.

University of Pittsburgh coach Ralph Willard was a possibility to fill the spot vacated when general manager Jan Volk resigned. But Willard released a statement yesterday saying that he was excited about Pitt's future and planned to be the university's coach "for some time."

Pitino did not say whom he will select as GM, but he outlined the job description. The person will have to be able to negotiate contracts, have a rapport with the league's other GMs, and have strong player personnel/evaluation skills.

- Preparing for the draft.

It was mentioned to Pitino that it must be difficult to prepare for a draft when your scouting staff is not in place. Head scout Rick Weitzman, director of basketball development Jon Jennings, and the staff that worked with them were fired Tuesday.

"Why is that difficult?" Pitino said. "I've watched about 40 films on Keith Van Horn and 20 on Tim Duncan. I had to watch them while at Kentucky to figure out defenses to stop them. We think we have a pretty good handle on that."

"We" are assistant coaches Jim O'Brien and Winston Bennett and advance scout Leo Papile. The Celtics will find out May 18 if they land the top selection in the draft lottery. They will know by tomorrow if they have to watch extra tape of Kansas forward Raef LaFrentz. Last month, the Jayhawks junior said he was returning to school. But his decision to declare or not becomes official tomorrow.

- Meeting the players.

Pitino has scheduled interviews with each Celtic in the next couple of weeks. This task shouldn't be taxing since Frank Brickowski and Alton Lister are expected to retire, while free agent Todd Day will probably be renounced. Pitino made it clear that there will be changes on the team, so it will be interesting to see how he handles these meetings. He also has to make a decision on free agents Rick Fox and David Wesley.

- Putting together a training/strength program for the players.

One glaring Celtic problem last season was injuries. All Celtics had a specific program to follow in the offseason, but all of them didn't follow it. The most prominent illustration of Too Much Kitchen Time was Eric Williams coming into training camp 37 pounds overweight.

"Heaven help us if that happens this season," Pitino said. "I would hate to be the player coming into camp with that much weight. We're going to be with them all summer, so if that happens, it would mean a player went on an eating binge behind our backs."

Pitino is asked if he ever saw a rotund Eddie Murphy in "The Nutty Professor."

"Yes, yes. It would have to be a situation like that for a player to come into camp in that kind of shape."

- Finding a new training camp location.

Last season the team trained in Greensboro, N.C.

"We will not be going back to Greensboro," Pitino said. "We have a number of possibilities."

Does that mean the team will train out of town?

"We could, but not necessarily," he said.

- Moving in and moving out.

The coach will be in Lexington, Ky., this weekend. His office has to be cleaned out by Monday (he will most likely be replaced by his former assistant coach, Tubby Smith). When he returns to Boston, he will continue to search for a place to live.


FLCeltsFan said...

Pitino's biggest problem was ego. That seems to be one thing that Stevens lacks. Pitino thought he was smarter and better than everyone and that he didn't need help. Stevens realizes that he needs help and seeks it out.

Lex said...

Yup. that was a problem for ricky pitts. he just had to win, and he had to win now. Must not have understood that superstars win in the NBA, and changing personnel to win 6 more games doesn't do much for the fan base

FLCeltsFan said...

It wasn't so much just having to win. Everything had to be his way and his idea. He couldn't bear to let Red have input because then he wouldn't get all the credit. His ego did him in.

FLCeltsFan said...

I can see Red saying he liked a player and Rick doing his best to get rid of that player so that he wouldn't have to hear Red say I told you so.

Lex said...


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