Pitino and Bird have a Good Laugh

June 25, 1997

The NBA staged a videoconference yesterday aimed at informing the media on trends to expect in tonight's NBA draft. Instead, much of the one-hour session turned into an impromptu comedy routine with a heavy Celtics accent involving Rick Pitino, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.

"My job was finished in Boston," began Bird, who left his special assistant's position with the Celtics last month to become head coach of the Indiana Pacers. "If you noticed, I left Rick with a lot of great players there. It was time to move on."

Bird and his dry wit were only getting warmed up. Asked how he would negotiate potential deals with McHale, his ex-teammate who runs the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Pitino, the man he helped bring to Boston, Bird replied, "I don't trust either one of those guys."

Said Pitino, getting in on the fun: "For me it would be very easy dealing with Kevin McHale because of his serious nature. We all know how serious he took practices and things of that nature while he was here playing in Boston. As for Larry, he's wanted the (Celtics') third and sixth picks, and he was more than willing to give up the 11th and 12th men on his roster. He's been very benevolent so far."

McHale finally got in on the exchange. "Rick got more money in his contract than me and Larry combined, so we're going to screw him," McHale said. "When we deal with Boston, they'll have to put a towel over our numbers up there."

Later, Pitino, Bird, McHale and San Antonio coach and general manager Gregg Popovich were asked by NBA director of scouting Marty Blake to comment on Garth Joseph, a 7-foot-2, 320-pound project from the West Indies targeted for the NBA in the next few years.

"I figure Pitino is going to draft him as a bodyguard when he goes to the ATM machines," said McHale.

Not all of air time was devoted to good-natured ribbing. Bird, sounding like his old self, spoke of the diminishing art of fundamentals in basketball. Meanwhile McHale, whose team has the 20th pick, spoke with envy of the Celtics' dual draft position.

"I don't buy what a lot of people say about how this is a bad (draft) year," he said. "Two years ago, it was a four-person draft, we drafted fifth and took Kevin Garnett. I think we got the best player in the draft."

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