The 'Nique Signing was the Beginning of the End for Bird


Almost lost amid the Celtics ' disappointment at not landing the NBA's top draft choice yesterday was Larry Bird's criticism of the C's in an interview with NBC's Peter Vecsey.

Bird, now Indiana's coach, said too many were involved in the Celtics ' decision-making process. He said they never listened to him, then related how he learned they never would.

The occasion was the 1994 signing of Dominique Wilkins as a free agent. Bird said he learned of the move by reading a newspaper.

"I was shocked as anybody and I didn't know how to react to it," Bird declared, acknowledging it was a bad move. "I knew right then that they weren't going to listen to me anymore."

Bird agreed with Vecsey's assessment that this was the time "when your input had basically ceased."

Egged on by Vecsey, Bird at first hesitated when asked when the C's stopped listening to him. Then he said: "I don't think they ever really started. And I don't blame 'em. I wasn't a full-time employee. That's the one thing in Boston I always felt was a problem - too many people were talking."

Bird told how upset he was over the once-proud Celtics hitting "bottom."

"The Boston Celtics are not supposed to be on the bottom," he said. "They're supposed to be champions, compete, have players out there that die for the organization. It still hurts.

"It hurts leaving . . . because I got a lot of fans there and a lot of good people.

"But something changed when (they) went from the old Garden to the FleetCenter. Something changed and it's time for them to get back to where they belong."

Vecsey said he's convinced that if C's owner Paul Gaston had offered Bird the president's post, and then allowed him to pick his own coach, Bird would still have been part of the C's organization.

"I have a lot of respect for Red (Auerbach). But I didn't want to be there sitting behind Rick and the people he brought in. I wanted to be involved. I wanted to be out there being competitive. And Indiana the place I want to do it."

Will you miss Boston?

"I probably won't miss going into draft meetings and getting outvoted every time I go in there. "

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