May 22, 1997
Like dried champagne, the Celtics' championship banners were still
hanging at just over eye level on the floor of the FleetCenter
yesterday, a reminder of that now two-week-old inspirational speech
delivered to the masses by Rick Pitino.
the Bruins should have done the same thing with the unveiling of their
new coach, Pat Burns. They could have lowered their 843 Adams Division
banners behind Officer Burns, and, in the role of Red Auerbach, longtime
Bruins exec Tom Johnson could have lit up a stogie and blasted smoke
into the faces of the new coach's family, just as Red did to Mrs. Pitino.
Instead, the Bruins introduced Burns in a room called "Legends."
And rather than deliver a carefully planned, highly charged address, as Pitino
did, Burns simply said hello and asked if there were any questions. It
was hard to get too worked up by all this, mainly because Burns was
seated between Harry Sinden and Mike O'Connell, the 1-2 front office
punch that, whether you like them or not, has been at the controls while
the Bruins have become the worst organ-eye-zation in the NHL.
looked like a man about to be read his rights, while Harry, though
sufficiently glib, was still his old, serious-looking self.
And that, more than anything else, is why the swearing-in of Officer Burns lacked the oomph of the Pitino
press conference. Is Burns a good coach? Of course he is. He has a
name, a resume and a presence, and, what the heck, the
Irish-cop-from-Montreal stories will warm the soul on those nights when
the Broons are getting walloped by the Ottawa Senators.
But what Pitino brings to the Celtics is missing on the Bruins. The arrival of Pitino means a New Deal, a new approach, new people. Before Pitino even showed up, a good chunk of the Celtics' front office was bulldozed.
Sinden was asked if there would be any changes in the Bruins' front
office - specifically, a player personnel expert - Harry said that,
while some changes were discussed, "Mike and I decided to pretty much
leave it where it is."
Even with the news
that the Celtics missed out on Tim Duncan, many New England hoop fans
remain optimistic. The Bruins are assured of landing the thunderously
hyped Joe Thornton in the NHL draft, yet their fans remain skeptical.
says it's the media hordes who are whining, not the fans, and he points
to the fact the Bruins had a sellout in their last regular-season game
as evidence that the customers are still behind the team.
is nonsense, and Harry knows it. We won't go overboard and claim the
media have given Sinden a free ride over the years, but he's absolutely
had a reduced fare. If Harry really wants to know what it's like to be a
much-hounded team executive, he should have lunch with Lou Gorman.
Still, Harry remains proud, and in full command of his dignity, and that should count for something.
standing off to the side while Officer Burns did the one-on-ones with
the TV folk, Sinden, when asked if the criticism hurts, said, "Certainly
it does. What do you think I am, a cold fish? But I don't like stories
that are puffy, either, because then I have to live up to it."
understood that the Bruins needed a coach who could raise the hopes of
the fans. Jack Parker would have been a good choice because, as a local
guy, few fans would have groused. And Burns is a good choice because he
has had success in Montreal and Toronto.
is a hockey town," said Sinden, "and as long as we win there will
always be people who want to watch hockey. But we have to win. I know
that. People are going to get fed up watching us lose every night."
Sinden also understands that no coach - be he Jack Parker, Pat Burns,
Toe Blake or Punch Imlach - will keep the customers happy if the Bruins
don't win. And if the Bruins don't win, it won't be Burns whose head the