May 27, 1997
The Celtics' message should be hurtling about New England this morning.
Perhaps the rest of the NBA has received it by now, too. In the last
three weeks, the team has made it clear: Don't expect it to do what the
That was obvious yesterday
when Boston named Chris Wallace the third general manager in team
history. Soon after agreeing to his three-year contract, Wallace and his
new boss, Rick Pitino, repeated that the No. 2 man is not the typical GM.
could start with Wallace's age. He's 38. That makes the former Miami
Heat player personnel director one of the youngest GMs in the league.
you could talk about The Wallace Look. Yesterday he was wearing a suit
and tie. That won't necessarily be his daily garb. Especially since he
prefers running around North America and Europe, seeing players face to
face and "kicking their tires" rather than sitting at a desk and poring
"He's the kind of guy who always finds a game to go to," Pitino said. "If there were a game at the Y tonight, he'd be there."
exactly what the president and coach of the Celtics had in mind. That's
why he was willing to give up the Celtics' second-round draft pick
(30th overall) as compensation to the Heat. In turn, the Celtics
received the 55th overall pick. Pitino said that didn't bother him and that Wallace "was worth two first-round picks."
wanted someone who could work the phones, call agents, and evaluate
talent from the high school level to the pros. Wallace has experience in
all categories. He also can tell you all you need to know about former
president Harry Truman ("He's my favorite historical figure"), give you
his opinions about the West Virginia Mountaineers football team, and
talk to you about the giants of pro football. Yesterday he referred to Pitino as the "Jimmy Johnson of pro basketball."
conceded that he never has negotiated a $ 20 million contract, but that
isn't paramount in the Celtics' approach to general managing. Clearly,
the resurrection of the team will be a group effort. Pitino
said yesterday that Rick Ayvar will be the team's consultant and
"capologist." That was a reference to the league's salary cap, which may
be complicated but is not, Wallace said, "supply-side economics."
could also talk about one of Wallace's first career dreams. Twenty
years ago, as a student at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire, he
did not have visions of sitting in a swivel chair, calling other GMs,
and hammering out a player contract. Instead, he wanted to have a seat
on press row, interviewing players and coaches, writing about the
basketball games they loved.
"But as I
began to read some of the best writers," he said, "I made an evaluation
of myself: I couldn't write well enough to be in their category."
was good enough, though, to begin a publication that would eventually
land him in the NBA. He is the founder of the Blue Ribbon Yearbook, a
16-year-old talent evaluation magazine that many in the league refer to
as "the bible." He's still a minority owner of the publication.
that means," cracked the Buckhannon, W.Va., native, "is that I can tell
them what to do and they don't have to listen to me."
1986, the Portland Trail Blazers were the first team to discover that
listening to Wallace was a good idea. The team hired him then. Seven
years later, he was in Miami, developing a reputation as one of the
keenest evaluators in the league.
"I think he's the best in the business," Pitino said.
the Heat, Wallace was responsible for college and international
scouting, as well as NBA and CBA evaluation. He was a reason the Heat
signed Voshon Lenard in 1995 and Isaac Austin in '96. Lenard is now the
team's starting point guard; Austin won the league's Most Improved
Miami won 61 games and is in
the Eastern Conference finals. Now Wallace has the challenge of taking
over a 15-win team that was 28 games worse than the No. 8 playoff seed
in the East. What's his plan?
"Get some stars," he said. "I think we have one on the doorstep in Antoine Walker. We have to get a few more."
and Wallace are confident that they can win and get stars soon. Based
on what they have said, that process will involve some traditional
routes. And some unusual ones.