Don't Like Pitino's Arrival and Bird's Departure? Blame Dave Gavitt.

May 10, 1997

Has Dave Gavitt done it again?

Let's examine the evidence now that Rick Pitino and Larry Bird are in place in Boston and Indiana.

More than a month ago, Globe alum Jackie MacMullan, now at Sports Illustrated, outlined a possible scenario that would have Pitino leaving Kentucky and landing in Boston, and Bird leaving Boston to become Pacers coach. She detected the deft hand of Gavitt behind all this.

Dave Gavitt, lest you forget, has one of the most creative minds in all of sports. It was Dave Gavitt who created the Big East Conference, becoming its first commissioner. It was Dave Gavitt who became USA Basketball, which in turn brought the concept of the Dream Team to fruition in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, one of the greatest marketing concepts in sports history.

When Dave was with the Celtics as CEO, he developed a very close relationship with a fading superstar, Larry Bird. He orchestrated Larry's retirement and the wonderful farewell party that raised more than $ 1 million for charity. And along the way, he became Bird's mentor. Gavitt left the Celtics, but he never left Bird.

They kept in touch on a regular basis, even though both, in a sense, fell out of touch with the Celtics.

After four years of turning himself into an excellent golfer, Bird decided he wanted to get back into the action. But how? Gavitt came to the rescue, in my opinion, and figured out how to get it done.

The first requirement was an exit strategy for Bird. He wanted back in, but not on the Boston bench. He did not want to risk tarnishing his playing accomplishments on the famed parquet if he showed any coaching shortcomings.

How, then, could Bird go gracefully back home to Indiana? Answer: by helping the Celtics get the best coach possible - Rick Pitino. Bird didn't know Pitino from a worn-out basketball. But he got permission from Celtics owner Paul Gaston to recruit Kentucky's most valuable asset.

Pitino didn't really know Bird but had great admiration for him. In the end, however, as Pitino would say at his press conference, it was not Bird who sold him on Gaston and the Celtics. It was none other than Dave Gavitt, a Pitino friend from their days in the college ranks.

Talk about Larry being a possible front office stalwart in Boston was a ruse. Larry Bird likes money. You don't make big money in the front office in Boston. You have to put bodies in seats to get big money. Rick Pitino will put bodies in seats (more on that later). Bird, however, can put bodies in seats in Indiana, where there may be only one man bigger - Bobby Knight.

Bird therefore had been ticketed for Indiana for more than a month. The Pacers are going into a new building and need someone to sell those seats. Bird is the man, and he will get paid serious money, which he could not get in Boston. There is no way to unload the vault for both Pitino and Bird in the same town.

Yes, Dave Gavitt has done it one more time, and everyone seems happy.
Gaston deserves tremendous credit on two fronts. First, as John Havlicek said, he got the best possible coach for the Celtics. Second, he stood up and took all the bullets himself for firing several veteran employees who had been loyal to the team but who had to go if the Celtics were to start the Rick Pitino era. Gaston put his money, and his chin, on the line, and didn't flinch.
In a conversation early yesterday morning, Jack Parker was still in a quandary: "I woke up this morning thinking I'm the Bruins' coach. Two hours later, I'm still the coach of Boston University."

Parker stayed at BU because, as Harry Sinden pointed out, he was more comfortable in that environment. The only thing that made it a gut-wrenching decision was the Bruins' offer - twice what he will be paid at BU. And Sinden and Mike O'Connell guaranteed him a job in the organization after he finished coaching.

Parker was the first to say that the Bruins could not have done more. The only reason he did not take the job is that he was not sure about himself. Not sure he could take the travel, or the losing, that would almost be guaranteed for the first two years with a young team in transition.

Parker has agreed to a 10-year deal with BU that will take him to retirement.
Red Auerbach to Gaston when the Pitino coronation was completed: "The first year I came here, I got paid $ 10,000. I had to pay all my living expenses. My family was in Washington. When I went home at the end of the year, after paying taxes and expenses, I made a couple of thousand dollars. I had a one-year contract. One year I had to take $ 9,000 out of my own pocket because the guys who owned the team at the time were thieves and we couldn't pay our bills. I had to guarantee the money myself for our next road trip. The hotels didn't think our owners were good for the money."
Marcus Camby, who, in a sense, made John Calipari, has also come back to haunt him. Calipari might have been the man in waiting at Kentucky if Camby's association with an agent while he was still at the University of Massachusetts hadn't resurfaced with the news this week that UMass would have to forfeit its Final Four finish of 1996 and return some $ 151,000 in NCAA tournament funds for the All-America center's transgressions. In Camby's defense, let's say this. He says he is willing to pay back the money he cost UMass. The same cannot be said of Shawn Walsh, the hockey coach at Maine. Walsh's violations put Maine on probation. The legal bill is more than $ 600,000. Maybe the best way to end the saga in Maine is to have Walsh pay off what his actions cost the university.
Immediate Pitino impact:

"I had a meeting scheduled with our entire staff on how to deal with the falloff we expected for next season," said FleetCenter president Richard Krezwick. "We anticipated about a 25 percent drop in revenue for the Celtics. With the reaction to Pitino, we have called off the meeting. The response has been immediate. We are already getting calls about next year, where before we were getting none."

"Many of our advertisers were gone," said Stu Tauber of Channel 38, which televises Celtics road games. "Now they are coming back. The Celtics' deal is still a bad one for us financially, but Pitino is going to be a definite plus for us. We feel that from the renewed interest."


FLCeltsFan said...

Wow. I finally get back to where I can read my favorite blog again and what do I find? Articles from the most depressing period of Celtics' history. I know that there are parallels between Stevens hiring and Pitino, but I'd rather forget Pitino. Those were some dark days.

I guess the old saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it so seeing all the WRONG things Pitino did will serve as a warning to not repeat them.

Lex said...

How are you doing FCF? Where are you at in the recovery?

FLCeltsFan said...

Doing better. Finally getting some more energy and able to do a bit more each day. Still limited though. At least good enough to finally catch up on my favorite blog :)

Lex said...

are you expected to keep improving?

FLCeltsFan said...

I'm hoping so. From all I've read the meds I am taking help to strengthen the heart but since I started with just 10% function it will take time. I'm sticking to a strict low sodium diet and hopefully that will help as well.

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