Sunday, May 05, 2002

In 1997, the once-great Boston Celtics were on the rocks, with pretty much the worst record in the league, playing in the muffled, funereal air of a cavernous, half-empty new arena, divorced from the spirit and history of the old Boston Garden, which was sitting vacant next door. Desperate to revive the team, management fixed on Rick Pitino as their salvation --- and gave him everything he wanted, which was just about everything. Pitino was coach, general manager, president. At the event now known in Boston sports circles as the coronation, he was alone on the dais, refusing to share the spotlight with even Red Auerbach.

Last year, dismayed by his team's continual failure to even make the playoffs, much less contend for a championship, Pitino quit --- announcing his resignation in Florida, though he promised to fly back to Boston for a press conference. Conventional wisdom at the time was that Pitino the coach (and self-proclaimed master motivator; "Success", quoth the title of his book, "is a choice") had been failed by Pitino the GM, who had made several ill-advised trades trying to win immediately, at all costs, and saddling the team with overpaid players who he couldn't motivate, who would be a boat anchor on the teams' performance for years to come.

When Pitino quit, the team went on a quick winning streak, and defied expectations by at least contending for the playoffs. This year, the same basic team, augmented by a few excellent trades, is in (so far) the second round of the playoffs. The crowd in the New Boston GardenFleetCenter is loud and wild.

We're still waiting for that press conference. Rick, are you ready for your close-up?


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