October 4, 1997
It is already obvious that Rick Pitino takes certain phrases literally.
Example 1: training camp. In today's NBA, training camp has become a basketball/male bonding hybrid. Often the idea of the week-long camp is more intimidating than the camp itself.
Not with the new Celtics coach and president. Yesterday was the team's Media Day, signaling the beginning of a new season. Pitino spoke for an hour, but that's all it took for everyone to see how seriously he takes training. It's not as if the man dropped subtle hints about his intentions. He had the chance to take his team to Cape Cod for camp. He decided that a military facility with ties to World War II would be better. So the soon-to-be running Celtics are in Newport, R.I., this morning at the Naval Education and Training Center.
"What better place to hold a training camp?" head scout Leo Papile said yesterday.
If any player believes Papile is exaggerating, he should talk with Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker. Both played for Pitino at the University of Kentucky. They know that invariably, he will ask for more than a player thinks he can give.
"You'll be tired, feeling like you can't keep going," Walker said, "and he'll ask you to give him even more."
Pitino will do that all season. In fact, it's obvious that he's been doing that all summer. The coach wanted his players in shape, so he asked strength and conditioning coach Shaun Brown to design personal plans for everyone. Now Greg Minor looks as if he dieted on free weights for three months. Dee Brown lost 25 pounds. Walker and Barros look stronger, too.
All the players look well. All are approachable and cordial. All are, according to Pitino, "high-class people who are willing to pay the price" of what it takes to be great players. Question is: Can they play together? Even Pitino says he doesn't know that. His short-term goal is to get a 15-win team to the playoffs.
"I think that has to be our dream right now," he said. Many of his players said the same thing yesterday, although many of them have never played together. Pitino said he was not worried about expectations being too high because that's much better than "setting the bar too low."
Pitino was asked if he will make Brown a captain again. Former coach M.L. Carr took the title from him at the beginning of last season. "I don't know," Pitino said, "because I haven't seen anyone play in terms of full-court situational leadership capabilities. I think there are very few players who are old enough to be captain. I don't even know if half of them drive." No Celtic is over 30. Six are under 25 . . . Stuart Layne promises that the Celtics are not trying to become the Orlando Magic in terms of public address announcing. The Magic have the loudest and most annoying PA man in the league. When the Celtics decided not to begin another year with longtime announcer Andy Jick, one of the reasons Layne gave was that the team wanted to "move in a different direction" with its game presentation. Layne, the team's director of marketing and sales, didn't get into specifics, but he insists that new announcer Greg Dickerson's voice will not grate or overstate. Dickerson is a graduate of Emerson College. He worked with WWTM (1440), an all-sports radio station in Worcester . . . Minor was wearing glasses yesterday. He will wear contacts during games, but his optometrist advised him to wear his small-frame spectacles off the court . . . Lorenzo Coleman, a 7-foot-1-inch center from Tennessee Tech, will be the 14th player in camp. The 300-pounder was with the Celtics during rookie camp in Marietta, Ga. He will try to make a team that has 13 players under contract. Two of those players (Travis Knight and Andrew DeClercq) have the same position as he . . . Walker put on 13 pounds simply by working out. But, he said, "that'll be gone in a couple days from all the running we're going to do." . . . SportsChannel named Paul Lucey as its producer for Celtics games. Lucey was a producer with Channel 5. He replaces Jim Daddona, who had the job for 2 1/2 years Also, the station will have Leah Secondo as its pregame and postgame host. She replaces Kim Walden.