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clips from SI

Something's wrong with Pitino and the Celtics
                                        By Dave D'Alessandro - The Sporting News
                                        I caught Rick Pitino's rant last week, which was alternately pitiable and pitiful. It almost seemed like something
                                        inside of him flared and died, like a star going into nova, and you couldn't help but wonder whether this was a man
                                        who has lost his perspective, his composure, his grip on reality and, perhaps, his mind.
                                        It's one thing to say that he never would have left Kentucky had he known that the Celtics weren't getting Tim
                                        Duncan in the draft -- which he's done three times now -- and I don't even mind him whining about how he has to
                                        watch the bottom line more than most CEOs in his business, because that is true.
                                        But Rick's puerile thesis about how this Boston team is mistreated by the fans and media is going to buy him
                                        neither time nor sympathy. Victories are elusive enough. Mutual understanding is now difficult, however, because
                                        the guy sounds bats.
                                        The two games leading into his bitter soliloquy crystallized Pitino's agony, while leading his audience to believe
                                        that his team is without hope.
                                        One night, the Celtics blew a 20-point lead in the third period and lost by eight to Dallas. Two nights later, Vince
                                        Carter tore Pitino's heart out at the buzzer. In both, the FleetCenter crowd morphed into an army of enraged
                                        leprechauns holding their noses and shouting insults.
                                        That was too much for Rick, and if you missed it, here's the unexpurgated version:
                                        "You're the people being negative," he told the media. "And some of the fans. Larry Bird is not walking through
                                        that door. Kevin McHale's not walking through that door. Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if
                                        you expect them to walk through the door, they're going to be gray and old. What we are is young, exciting,
                                        hard-working and we're going to improve. People don't realize that, and as soon as they realize those three guys are
                                        not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us because there are young guys in that (locker)
                                        room playing their asses off.
                                        "I wish we had $90 million under the salary cap. I wish we could buy the world. We can't. The only thing we can do
                                        is work hard. And all this negativity that's in this room sucks.
                                        "I've been around when Jim Rice was booed. I've been around when Yastrzemski was booed and it stinks. It makes
                                        the greatest city in the world lousy. The only thing that will turn this around is being upbeat and positive like we
                                        are in that locker room . . . And if you think I'm going to succumb to negativity, you're wrong. You've got the wrong
                                        guy leading this team."
                                        So help us, he went on like this for 10 or 15 minutes, like some Middle Ages theologian discussing
                                        transubstantiation. Religious times we live in, even without the religion.
                                        Anyway, just to make sure everyone understood that he was in earnest, he went off again after practice the next
                                        "Understand this, I'm not blaming any fans. I'm not at all doing that. What I'm telling you is you have two choices
                                        with a young basketball team -- and this is what we are. Get upbeat and positive, help us win, cheer some fragile
                                        self-esteem up. Or go the other way and watch them tank every shot. That's what I'm telling you.
                                        "Look, we have great fans because they're showing up. In 50 percent of these arenas, they're not showing up. So
                                        we've got great fans along those lines, but as I said in my statement, Bird, McHale and Parish, Cousy and Russell
                                        are not walking through those doors. What is walking through those doors are young players who are going to be
                                        prone to mistakes at times until they get experience, who are going to play hard and try to play exciting basketball
                                        --- and not always succeed at doing that.
                                        "This is what we are, and that's it. So you have two choices. You can get upbeat and positive for the future, or you
                                        can get negative. And I'm saying getting negative and being frustrated is not the best solution. Being positive and
                                        upbeat and having hope for the future is the best."
                                        Now I get it: He's selling the boolah-boolah for the ol' Eli approach.
                                        Won't work.
                                        I'd be more understanding if this were a college program, if there was some indication of progress, or even if Pitino
                                        would stop trying to sell his team like a new car that won't be broken in until 50,000 miles are on the odometer. It's
                                        hard to accept his argument that our lack of understanding is making their growing pains more acute, however,
                                        because these are professionals he's talking about, and they're paid to handle criticism as long as it's fair.
                                        Do I have to go through it again? Fine: Pitino overpaid Walker ($71 million). He overpaid Travis Knight ($30M),
                                        Chris Mills ($36M), Vitaly Potapenko ($33M), Eric Williams ($26M) and then complained he didn't have enough to
                                        overpay Mercer and Danny Fortson. He overpaid himself ($50M, 10 years). He even overpaid his 12th man, Walter
                                        McCarty ($8M). He turned the roster over twice in three years. He gave the impression that he was building
                                        something while all he was doing was dismantling it.
                                        It almost makes you wonder what's keeping Walker, Mercer and Chauncey Billups from holding a press conference
                                        of their own, to complain that they left college early because they were under the impression that Red Auerbach
                                        would be running the Celtics when they arrived in Boston.
                                        Make no mistake: Pitino is a very great coach, one of the best in the business. But as an executive, he has failed the
                                        Celtics far more than all those negative forces he has chosen to pin the blame on. The day he is willing to admit it
                                        may be the first one in which he'll recover his credibility.
                                        Sorry if that sounds negative. It happens to be the truth.