Pitino Hires Chris Wallace

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 majority does.

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.

They're correct.

You 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.

Or 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 over statistics.

"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."

That's 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."

Pitino 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."

Wallace 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."

You 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."

He 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.

"What 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."

In 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.

With 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 Player Award.

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."

Pitino 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.


FLCeltsFan said...

UGH! One of the more unpleasant eras of Celtics history. I try to forget his tenure.

Lex said...

Yup. Didn't care for Wallace either. He brought in Vin Baker, right?

FLCeltsFan said...

Yep, he was responsible for bringing in Baker. And he was responsible for giving Pau Gasol to the Lakers for pretty much nothing too.

Lex said...

What an era

FLCeltsFan said...

Maybe it should be What an "error" instead of "era."

Lex said...

: )

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