May 9, 1997
What, no music?
No London Symphony Orchestra recording of "Pomp and Circumstance"? No Dixieland band? No Allan Parsons Project?
was a stage. There was the grandiose backdrop of the retired numbers
and the championship banners. There were more minicams and tripods than
state senators under indictment. It was, everyone agreed, nothing less
than a coronation.
People from Lexington
(the other one). People from Louisville. People from New York. People
from Philadelphia. People from Washington. People from national
publications. People from everywhere. There was certainly a whole lot
more life on the floor of the FleetCenter than there was at a majority
of Celtic games last season. A little music would have been the sundae
For this was not just news; this
was good news, and not just for the Boston Celtics. This was good news
for the team, the stockholders, the fans, and, yes, the media, because
this is a story with both legs, as they say in Hollywood, and tentacles.
Larry Bird's involved. Red Auerbach's involved. Dino Radja's involved.
Tim Duncan may soon be involved (a Duncan representative was in house,
checking out the scene). This story is endless. I mean, wow, who needs
Michael Kennedy (hey, even there we have a BU connection)?
the street, there was a gigantic cake set out on a table in front of
The Fours, the obligatory pre- and postgame haunt on Canal Street. The
brainchild of George Regan's PR outfit, the cake was whipped up by
Montilio's Bakery in Quincy and delivered to Fours owner Peter Colton,
who put it out on the street for all to enjoy.
Written on the cake: "WELCOME TO BOSTON RICK PITINO."
to Boston, all right. The spinoff benefits already are kicking in. The
Celtics' publicly traded stock has risen dramatically of late. North
Station area establishments such as The Fours, whose October-to-March
business dropped off alarmingly last season, know already there will be
no repeat next year. After two years of utter irrelevancy, the Celtics
have dominated casual conversation this past week. Somebody had darn
well better welcome Rick Pitino. He's responsible for it all.
But there were likewise people responsible for Rick Pitino,
and one of them was present. Now we can assume that sooner or later,
somebody was going to recognize the inherent genius of this coaching
prodigy, but let the record show that the man who had the gumption to
turn his school's basketball team over to a 25-year-old kid back in 1978
was then Boston University athletic director John Simpson.
think I paid him $ 21,000, $ 22,000, something like that," Simpson
laughed. "Now what is he worth, $ 70 million? Wow. But I'm excited for
him and the city both."
It all seems so logical and obvious now, when we're all gifted with the wisdom of hindsight. Rick Pitino
has gone on to win more than 70 percent of his games, make four trips
to the Final Four, and win a national championship in the college phase
of his career, while winning one division championship in two years as a
head coach in the professional ranks. He is on everyone's short list of
greatest all-around coaches, period. But he had to start with his very
own program somewhere, and that place was Boston University.
needed a coach and I wanted a young, teaching coach specifically,"
Simpson recalled. "I called up then University of Massachusetts coach
Jack Leaman, who was an alumnus, for advice. He said there was a young
coach who had played for him who was now an assistant at Syracuse who
would be ideal. The young man's name was Rick Pitino.
talked with him, and in five minutes, I knew he was the one," continued
Simpson. "I hired him, and of course, everyone questioned it."
Why not? Rick Pitino was 25, and he looked 15.
was immediately nicknamed the 'Boy Coach,' " Simpson said. "But I was
absolutely sure I had done the right thing after watching his first
practice. I could see he was a teacher, and that's what we needed."
what the Celtics need, too, although that's not the only thing. There
are bad teams and there are baaaaad teams. There are teams in a little
down cycle and there are teams who have lost touch with their
constituency and who therefore need a Cosmopolitan-style makeover. Now
we are talking about the Celtics, and that is why, as their primary
public face, they need more than a man proficient in general X's and
O's. They need a larger-than-life personality.
And so . . . they have turned to Rick Pitino.
like hitting the lottery," beamed a tall man standing off to the side
of the assembled press corps. "If you had to pick one guy who, based on
where this team is and where it has to go, you would want to be in
charge at this point in time, it would be Rick Pitino."
So declared John Havlicek, anyway.
No. 17 was decked out in his double-breasted green blazer.
"I wanted to remind him that his new colors are green and white and not blue and white," Havlicek explained.
No one asked him to come. This was a gesture of Celtic loyalty.
just thought I wanted to be here because I'm excited about this,"
Havlicek said. "I love the way he thinks. He's a proponent of winning
with defense, but the difference with him is that he can teach it."
for a moment, a prime-of-life John Havlicek, the man who was never out
of shape, who loved to play defense, who loved to run, and who could
nail today's 3, playing for Rick Pitino. The little hairs on the back of my neck are standing at attention.)
M.L. Carr was anointed as coach two years ago, the press conference
took place in a smallish room at Brandeis. The main table had the usual
Celtic politburo look, with owners, general managers, Auerbachs, and
assorted poobahs. Yesterday there was a giant room and a small table was
set for two. There was an owner, and there was a Pitino.
And from now on, there will be one voice. The owner has done his duty. The Boston Celtics now belong to Rick Pitino.