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Fox Sports on the Celtics
Pitino hopes new faces bring new results
Oct 4, 1999 8:02 p.m. ET
By Howard Ulman
WALTHAM, Mass. Rick Pitino has his own Y2K problem - getting a team with six
new players to come together in time to become a contender for the 1999-2000
The impatient coach of the Boston Celtics is willing to shake things up when
he thinks he can improve his team.
"When you buy a modern computer, you think you have something unique and
modern and, suddenly, two months later, something else comes out and you have
to upgrade," Pitino said at Monday's start of training camp. "That's all
we're doing right now is we're upgrading our system."
Fans with long memories know that Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Sam Jones and
Larry Bird spent their entire NBA careers with the Celtics.
Longevity has not been a cornerstone as Pitino enters his third season as
coach. Only five players from his first team remain with the Celtics.
"You don't always want to make changes but, if it's not broken, you break it
and make it better," he said. "We won't stop upgrading until we get to the
Gone from last season are Ron Mercer, Bruce Bowen, Popeye Jones, Eric Riley,
Dwayne Schintzius, Damon Jones and Marlon Garnett.
The newcomers are Danny Fortson, Eric Williams, Calbert Cheaney, Eric
Washington, Wayne Turner and Adrian Griffin.
All that change isn't surprising on a team that was 36-46 and 19-31 in
Pitino's two seasons and hasn't made the playoffs the past four years.
"We can't kid around. It may take a while for the team to get together," said
Antoine Walker, Boston's best player.
There have been so many changes since Pitino took over that he's starting to
acquire players he once discarded. Shortly after becoming coach, he traded
Williams to Denver amid concerns about his work habits.
Now Williams is back, picked up in a seven-player trade that sent Mercer to
"It's a whole new team but it also has its nucleus and we're going to have a
whole month to get it together," Williams said. "I think that's more than
Some players even know each other from college. Walker, Walter McCarty and
Turner all played for Pitino's national championship team at Kentucky in
"For us to get better we have to listen to the guys who have been here,"
Walker, entering his fourth season with the Celtics, is second to Dana
Barros in seniority with Boston.
"We need to have some type of stability," Walker said, "but I think the
changes that we had were pretty good. I think you're getting a familiar
face with Eric. Wayne Turner's a guy I played with in college so I know him.
I think Danny fits in well."
The offseason shakeup was so widespread there even were rumors that Walker
might be traded.
What next? Might Pitino even consider trading Paul Pierce, the outstanding
rookie from last season?
"You never know," Pierce said. "Hopefully, I can be a Celtic for a long time."
Not many of Pitino's current or former players can make that statement.