Gaston says that he called all the shots

May 8, 1997

Paul Gaston says everything happening regarding the Celtics is his call. With a little help from some friends.

The hiring of Rick Pitino as coach and basketball boss, the dismissal of several veteran employees, today's announcement that Red Auerbach no longer will be club president, and yesterday's announcement that former coach M.L. Carr has stepped down as director of basketball operations to become executive vice president of corporate development - all of it is Gaston's doing.

"It was my responsibility to get some things done that I felt had to be done, and in doing them, I had to make a lot of tough decisions," said the team owner, speaking of the moves for the first time. "I talked to some friends and sought their counsel, but in the end, I had to make the decisions.

"I always wanted Rick Pitino for the Celtics for the obvious reasons. Everything about him seems a perfect fit. Then I had to let a lot of people go who have done a lot of wonderful things for this franchise. That hurt, but I felt the moves that were made had to be made if we were going to get through the difficult times we have gone through the last few years here and turn this thing around."

Gaston was reluctant to reveal all the plans for the Celtics' future.

"I don't want to make any statements right now that would take away from what Rick plans to talk about" today at his press conference. "His title will be announced at that time. Red has a new title. He will be with the team. I consider him a friend, and I'm sure he will be happy about what has happened here and what his role will be in the future. Rick very much wants to work with Red."

"M.L. Carr is staying with us and will move to the corporate end of the business. I'm very proud of M.L. and how he has handled himself the past few years in some very difficult situations" as coach and director of basketball operations. "We are talking about a new contract that will keep him with us in the future."

Gaston said the reported details and duration of Pitino's financial package have been inaccurate but would not give specifics.

"Rick has a long-term contract to both coach and be general manager, and for a lot of money," said Gaston with a laugh. "But I don't want to get into that. Let Rick, if he prefers to do so. That will be his call. The details will be in our SEC filing" - the team is publicly held, and Pitino's salary will be revealed in the annual report.

Gaston said he does not know for sure what Larry Bird will do, but "if he wanted to work in the organization under Rick in some capacity, that would be fine with me. I consider Larry a friend. Despite what has been said and written, we have talked on a regular basis. Whatever Larry decides to do, I wish him the best.

"He made the initial contact with Rick, and that was very helpful. But I had advice from others about what we might do here to come up with a new situation. That might not be the right way to say it, but I feel this is a new Celtics and we are going in the right direction.

"We still have a tough job ahead. We have to make the right decisions on acquiring new players. We have to deal with a difficult salary cap situation. It's going to take time."

In the end, Gaston said, all the decisions leading to today's introduction of Pitino were his, and he is ready to accept the consequences.

"The decisions were tough," he said. "We have tried to make them while at the same time doing everything we could to treat people fairly. All of them are my responsibility."

One last question. Is the team for sale?

"Absolutely not."

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