On Sunday, Rick Pitino was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame. His induction had everything to do with his performance as a college coach, and absolutely nothing to do with his time with the Celtics.
But that didn't stop Pitino from talking about the Cs for over five minutes. Here are some of the highlights, courtesy Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.
Pitino devised a brilliant way to discuss that tenure. He said he was taking pictures at Symphony Hall before the ceremony when Larry Bird walked in, and Pitino couldn’t pass on the opportunity to acknowledge the coincidence.
“He finally walks through the door,” Pitino said, in reference to his infamous March 1, 2000, postgame speech after a loss to Toronto, when he chastised Celtics fans for glorifying the past. “And I said, ‘What took you so long to walk through that door?’ And he said to me, ‘You don’t want me now.’
“You may wonder what I learned about the Boston Celtics. I am really, really grateful to them. I learned more than I gave. I didn’t give too much except leaving Jim O’Brien to master the helm. But I learned patience, humility, and a lot of people think it’s because of losing that you learn humility and it’s a major factor. I gained the humility because I had the greatest treat for four years.”
“One night I called Red and said, ‘Red, it’s not going well. What advice do you have?’ ” Pitino said in his speech. Auerbach said he would ask his players, such as Russell, Heinsohn, and Cousy, what plays he should run.
Pitino said with a roster featuring players such as Travis Knight and Andrew DeClercq, that was nearly impossible. But he said he did ask Antoine Walker, Chauncey Billups, Ron Mercer, and Walter McCarty.
“ ‘How the hell would I know coach?’ ” Pitino said Walker told him. “ ‘You get paid to coach and we get paid to play.’ Verbatim.”
Pitino said he called Auerbach and he laughed hysterically at that story. Obviously times had changed. Players played. They weren’t students of the game. The strategy stuff was up to the coach.
“But I learned about humility with the Boston Celtics because of that legendary organization,” Pitino said. “When you see the way Bill Russell talks about the Celtics. When you see the way Cousy, Heinsohn, and John Havlicek carry themselves, you learn that’s the way you should act. Although I didn’t give too much to the Boston Celtics, I gained so much.”
I had no problem with how Pitino handled this speech. In fact, he was pretty funny with his anecdotes.
But let's be quite clear here: just because he cracked a few decent jokes 12 years after he left doesn't mean he's forgiven for his time here.
He still was the most arrogant guy in the history of the organization. He still had Red Auerbach stripped of his title of President for no other reason than to stroke his own ego (it's not like the mere title "President" got him more money or power, Red could have kept the title while Pitino got everything else). He still drafted Chauncey Billups 3rd overall (actually a solid move) only to trade him three and a half months into his rookie season for Kenny Anderson, a good player but one who did not fit a team in the beginning of a long term re-build. He still gave Anderson $50 million to stick around. He still traded Ron Mercer for Eric Williams. He still gave Travis Knight $22 million. He still traded a first round pick (used to select Andre Miller) for Vitaly Potapenko. He still then gave Potapenko $33 million. He still quit under the cover of darkness on a January night in 2001. He still, 12 years later, makes it very clear that the ping-pong balls were the biggest culprit in his failure here.
It's not that Pitino simply screwed up the Celtics with nearly every move he made for four years. It's that he did it all while alienating fans, media members and Celtics legends along the way.
So don't let Slick Rick's collegiate success, or his jokes, or the passage of time fool you. He set back the Celtics organization a full decade and did it all while declaring himself the smartest man in the room every step of the way. He's long gone and the Celtics have won a title since he left—so there's no reason to outwardly hate him—but forgive him? Nah..not yet..check back in another 12 years.
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 9/10/2013 12:54:00 AM Tweet Edit