May 29, 1997
Paul Gaston was smarter than he thinks to give Rick Pitino $ 7 million a year to coach the next six seasons. While the Celtics owner was simply doing what it took to get his man, what Pitino got out of it was more than just financial security for the next three lifetimes.
contract gives him a hammer. And in these days of escalating player
salaries and diminishing player motivation, clout has taken on even
would arrive with a certain measure of power from his record alone. And
the fact he knows what he is doing on the bench would only add to the
respect he would receive from the players. But with a contract of such
size and length, the players realize as well that going to private war
with the coach is pointless. And even removing that issue from the
employee's subconscious puts a club ahead.
dictator can dictate only when his subjects believe there is no
recourse. It can work in sport when the coach - the person doing the
yelling - is the power on and behind the throne.
Riley, for example, is a good coach with great clout. (What Richie
Adubato and the weakened Magic did to stretch the Heat to the end should
dent the Riley myth a tad.) The Miami players do not bitch publicly
about the way Riley drives them for the fabulous reason that there's no
one to whom they can tell their story. When Riles was just the guy the
general manager of the Lakers hired to coach, he was essentially shown
the door because the players grumbled about one-hour day-of-game
walkthroughs turning into two-hour closed practices. Now there is a
badge of honor to surviving his rigors.
another example, stay in Florida and consider what happened to Brian
Hill in Orlando. Do you honestly believe the Magic players would have
plotted his overthrow if he was the man in charge? There would have been
no John Gabriel to go to in the Orlando front office.
clout means he can bury a guy who glares at the coaching staff when he
is taken out of a game or flips his wristband in that direction (then
again, Todd Day won't be back anyway). And this is no small point. The
fact is that most problems will be headed off at the pass.
players will hear their coach's wrath this season, and they will not
turn a deaf ear. Absolute power motivates absolutely.
Just check out the fact Pitino
has players on summer workout programs who aren't even assured of being
Celtics next season. Free agent Rick Fox wants to stay with the club,
but he could be elsewhere. Still, after meeting with Pitino, he is under the Boston eye.
made a legitimate point," Fox said. "He said that whether I'm going to
be here or not, it still makes sense to keep in a program and keep in
contact with the Celtic people. This team has needed that kind of
communication with the players during the summer. Rick's going to be a
hands-on coach. He's going to spend time with players and that's going
to make a big difference in the long run. I just know no one's going to
want to come to his training camp out of shape."
If they do, Pitino's hammer will catch them between the eyes.