May 22, 1997
Despite the word that drifted heavily out of Kentucky, Antoine Walker is happy to have Rick Pitino as his coach again. What Walker wants those on the outside to understand is that there is a family thing going on here.
families aren't afraid to be emotional. After displaying some dunks
yesterday on the new court and hoops put up by the Sprite NBA Backboard
Program outside the Boys and Girls Club in Roxbury, Walker wanted to
explain what others may have misconstrued.
"We both love to win. We're both competitors," said Walker, who went from being Pitino's best Wildcat two years ago to his best Celtic now.
"That other stuff is just people giving their opinions. But they don't know.
"Me and coach Pitino
had a good relationship. At school, he was a father figure to me. He
brought a lot of discipline to me. He made me aware of a lot of things
on and off the court.
"The way I just put
it is that he was my college coach and now I'm playing for a different
coach, so you have to adjust to that."
The setting is different, but this is still basketball. And in that regard, Walker knows where his bread is buttered.
is coming off a strong rookie season and showed the type of skills
that, if developed further, could make him an NBA All-Star game
And for much of this, he credits his new-old coach.
"I really enjoyed playing for coach Pitino,"
Walker said as he signed autographs for the event's participants. "He
got my game to where it is now. I have to admit that. I never would deny
"I think they made an excellent
choice for coach. He's got experience on all the levels and he had
success with the Knicks. I think guys will be able to see right away
that he knows what he's doing and he can make us better.
"He basically gets to take over from scratch and bring in the players he wants."
meanwhile, would seem to have a leg up on what will be happening with
the Celts come training camp. He is still playing some ball, but he said
yesterday he hasn't yet turned up the heat on his offseason program.
After playing the longest season of his life, he's letting his body
recover a bit. Soon he will start to beat on himself again.
"I know what to expect from coach Pitino,
but I don't think I'm in that much better a position than other
people," Walker said. "I still have to work hard and prove to him what I
can do at this level. I do feel like I understand him a little bit. I
know what he wants and what he expects.
excited. It's a good situation for myself and for the whole team. Coach
P is going to bring a new style to the team - lots of running and
pressing. That's something the Celtics are not used to, but it's going
to be good for everybody."
that the Celtics of previous eras were well versed in the running game.
He also knows it would have been easier for the club to reinstitute the
style if they were awarded the first draft pick (i.e., Tim Duncan) in
last Sunday's lottery.
"I was on my way up
here on the plane when the lottery was on, but I heard about it as soon
as I got off the plane," he said. "It's definitely a disappointment
because everyone was expecting to have the No. 1 pick. But now we've
just got to re-evaluate and look even harder at our strengths and
weaknesses and do what we have to do."
Walker knows as well as anyone that the Celts have already gotten major help on the bench with Pitino.