When game seven ended and the wild playoff ride was over, I, and I am sure many of you thought that it was ALL OVER. Reality started to set in that the "window" had shut, Doc Rivers would step down, Ray Allen would sign elsewhere and the best three years I have ever had watching any team was like that, gone. But Doc Rivers knew that he would never, ever find another situation like this professionally again. For many fans say younger than 24 or 25 you may not fully understand or realize that the Boston Celtics are much more than a basketball team, they are a basketball family, an organization that recognizes how important it is to its city, its fans and its past players. From Red, Russell and Cousy to Havlicek, Cowens and White to Bird, Parish, McHale, DJ and Ainge and all others in between Celtic Pride got passed on from one generation to the next until we as fans and the Celtics experienced some of the darker days imaginable for a sports franchise between June of 1986 to 2007. But because of Celtic Pride, and tradition Danny Ainge jumped at the opportunity to steer this ship back in the right direction. While he got off to a rough start he did make a move that will forever go down as one of the greatest hires in the history of basketball, bringing Doc Rivers in to lead the Celtics back.
When you think about how Doc and Danny competed against each other in some extremely heated playoff battles in the 1980's between the Celtics and Hawks, and then looked at their journey's before coming together in Boston, it is pretty remarkable how this has worked so well. Danny Ainge played for the Kings, Blazers and Suns after being traded from the Celtics and then coached in Phoenix as well. Never did I imagine him taking over the Celtics while we were transitioning out of the Pitino era. Thanks to ownership, who realized they needed a CELTIC to lead the organization back, Danny took the job in the Spring of 2003. After Doc's days in Atlanta were done, he played for the Clippers, the Knicks and the Spurs. Doc was so so close to winning his first title as a NY Knick, and for someone that despised the 1990's Knicks, I always found myself saying "I hate the Knicks, but I really like Doc Rivers." He played smart, he played hard and was a great teammate where ever he was playing. As a coach Rivers had a very strange stint with the Magic, going from Coach of the Year in 2000 to being fired in 2003 thanks to Tracy McGrady essentially quitting on the Orlando Magic. But somehow, some way, Danny and Doc came together. Now, A LOT, had to happen after that personnel wise to make the last three years turn out the way they did, but the foundation of ownership, GM and head coach is what started the process. These guys understand winning, they understand the importance of the franchise history and they understand how important the Celtics are to so many many people.
When the Lakers were celebrating on the Staples Center floor last June and my apartment where I hosted many of the playoff games for my fellow basketball-aholics had emptied and gone quiet I took a deep breath and thought wow, that was an incredible three seasons, and though I was sad I felt blessed to feel such a connection to a basketball team. I started to tell myself it will be okay, and that it will actually be much much healthier for me in the next year ahead that I will not have to put myself through another run like this as all the "experts" and rumors pointed towards the "Rondo Rebuild" starting right away. But as usual the mainstream media, who for the most part lack real basketball knowledge, was wrong, and will continue to be wrong as they are already looking past the much deeper, more versatile and very very motivated 2010-2011 Boston Celtics.
With Tuesday night quickly approaching I have been fighting to pace myself, to not get to excited and pumped up as it is a long long season. But when you look at that roster, and you look at those personalities, and you think about how last season ended it is quite a challenge not to get super hyped. At some point before opening tip Tuesday night, we should all sit for two minutes (Red is represented by the #2 in Garden rafters) and think about how damn wonderful it is to have a team like the Celtics to root for and just how much fun this season has the potential to be. The Celtics are more than a team, they are an institution that is in it's seventh decade of being passed along to the next generation, that itself is something beyond special. The ride to Banner 18 promises to be another memorable journey.