Chris Wallace is a Basketball Benny

May 27, 1997

During 16 years at the college and professional levels, Chris Wallace has built a reputation as an astute evaluator of basketball talent. Wallace, officially introduced as the Celtics' general manager yesterday at a press conference, will put his reputation on the line almost immediately in his new job.

"We have some time left to prepare for the draft but obviously we will be moving quickly in the next few weeks," said Wallace, 38, the Miami Heat's director of college and international scouting the past two years. "It's no secret Tim Duncan was the guy to get in the draft, but there are other players out there who can help."

Pinpointing the players for the Celtics' two lottery slots in the June 25 draft - Nos.3 and 6 overall - is Wallace's first order of business. Wallace, who replaces longtime general manager Jan Volk, will work alongside Rick Pitino to give the team a bird's-eye view of incoming talent in preparation for one of the most significant drafts in franchise history.

"When I first came aboard I wanted a general manager who could wear a number of different hats," said Pitino, named Celtics' coach and president on May 6. "Sort of a combination of general manager-player personnel director and someone who has a vast array of talents in the evaluating area.

"By that I mean someone who feels very comfortable going over to Europe and dealing with European agents, in dealing in the CBA - someone who has great knowledge of the current players in the NBA, who has vast knowledge of high school basketball players.

"This is someone who, when you mention all of those areas, would have to be unique. Right away I thought of only one person who could fit this bill and that was Chris Wallace. The problem was getting Chris Wallace away from the Miami Heat, where he was thought of very highly."

The solution was a deal. Pitino swapped second-round draft positions with Miami, exchanging the 30th overall pick for the 55th.

"I think he's worth a couple of first-round picks because he's the best I've seen in a long time," said Pitino, who has known Wallace since the coach's days at Boston University. "Chris is not afraid of getting in at 5 in the morning, of getting no sleep and of doing anything humanly possible to take on a team that has won 15 games and put together an organization that can be competitive at a rapid pace."

Wallace tackled a similar scenario for Pat Riley in Miami, and the results were positive. The Heat, who have struggled for much of their NBA existence, won a franchise-record 61 games this season and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

"I've gotten great experience the last two years working on Pat Riley's team," said Wallace, who previously had scouted for Portland, Denver, New York and the Clippers. "Pat has set the standard on how this coaching-president's role should be fulfilled.

"Today a coach can be president and he can still coach, but he needs people out there bringing him back well-informed and researched scenarios and laying the menu in front of him. The coach needs a management team out there so he can free his mind of those type of responsibilities."

The delegation system worked well in Miami, where Wallace brought in borderline pros (Voshon Lenard, Isaac Austin) who have since become key members of Riley's rotation. If Wallace believes there's a player or trade available to help the cause, his track record suggests he will explore all avenues.

"We're going to look under every stone worldwide to come up with players who can win for Rick," said Wallace, who first made a name for himself in talent evaluation as founder of the popular Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. "We're going to be very aggressive in all aspects of the business."

Said Pitino: "Chris Wallace is the ultimate Basketball Benny. Name a player in Siberia, he'll have a line on him. You won't stump him on a player. He knows every player, he knows the agents very well and everybody likes him as a person. I think this is the perfect hire."

The perfect hire knows he will have his hands full the next few weeks helping Pitino formulate a game plan for the draft and beyond. Wallace expects to be so busy, in fact, he has postponed plans to find a home in the area.

"We'll find an apartment nearby and live there for the time being," said Wallace, whose wife Debby gave birth to the couple's first child, Truman, on May 17. "Right now the most important thing is to get started here because there's so much to do.

"It's going to be a great challenge, but for me the opportunity to work with Rick Pitino on the most storied franchise in basketball is the culmination of a lifelong dream."


FLCeltsFan said...

That's not the name I'd pick for him :)

Lex said...

Me either

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