Pitino and the Bruins

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.

Maybe 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.

O'Connell 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.

When 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.

Sinden 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.

This 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.

Yesterday, 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."

Sinden 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.

"This 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."

But 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 fans want.


FLCeltsFan said...

It's still a hockey town, and a football town and a baseball town. I'm reminded of that every time I watch Comcast Sportsnet... 4/5 of the show is Pats, Sox and Bruins with some token Celtics thrown in during the season...

Lex said...

you'll see even less this year.

: (

FLCeltsFan said...

Yep... afraid so. Like I posted on CG today. I'm looking forward to watching this team. They are young and hungry and have a some intriguing vets as well. I think they will be fun to watch but they only have 6 national TV appearances while the Lakers, who have no rookies and are pretty much an old Kobe and Gasol and flotsam and jetsam to fill in around them and they have 29 national TV appearances.

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