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Jersey Red Offering Valuable Insight Into Rick Pitino

               Wed., April 14, 1999              
               RED'S WORLD: He loves him, he loves him
               not... Rick and Jersey, together again
               By KEN 'JERSEY RED' FORD
               This is a story of two visits to the Fleet Center. My
               first two of this year, a year in which the Celtics and
               their coach have been a disappointment to say the least.

               The coach and I have been friends for approximately 27
               years, not without a few periods of silence by two very
               stubborn people, especially me, but even though we
               weren't speaking I did watch every game and suffered
               through every loss.

               But I was excited to get up there and see exactly what
               was going on.

               Yes, the "feud" between the Celtics coach and yours
               truly is officially over and I did make up for a couple
               of games last week and got to see this team up close and
               personal on my first visit. The Celts won easily over
               the Wizards and I liked what I saw.

               I was accompanied by a local fella named Angelo
               Fillippi. I first introduced Rick to Angelo when he was
               coaching at Boston University and they hit off
               instantly. Angelo's best memory of Pitino in those days
               was how "driven" he was to win.

               One night, we made the trek to Keaney Gym at URI to
               watch them play. At halftime, Rick's Terriers were down
               by about 20 and went on to defeat the Rams by pressing
               and trapping and never giving up, with Pitino going
               "ballistic" on the sidelines.

               Driving back to Fall River, Fillippi said to me that if
               Pitino didn't slow down he would self-destruct in a
               couple of years, that no man could be that intense. I
               just laughed because I knew better. I knew better then
               and I still do.

               Despite the Celtics record, the Exorcist is even more
               driven than ever. This was Angelo's first visit ever to
               an NBA game. Given a choice, he would opt for a quiet
               evening at Fenway watching his Red Sox, poor guy.

               But he's Italian and he's a friend of Pitino's and that
               combination spells "loyalty." So, when Rick requested
               that he came to the game was an offer "he should not

               Angelo is also close to Nick Zito, and when comes to
               horses there is no one whose advice I listen to more
               than Angelo except, naturally, Zito!

               Pitino pulled a great one on us.

               When we entered through the press gate, the security
               guard got on his walkie-talkie and said Jersey and
               Angelo are entering the building. Fillippi's eyes lit
               up. From there, we were escorted to the locker room,
               walking right across the parquet floor. It was about a
               half hour before tip-off and the Wizards were warming up
               inside the locker room.

               The Celtics were behind closed doors. There was another
               visitor in town and he was speaking to the team -- some
               guy named Bill Russell -- and when one of the three
               greatest players in the history of the game speaks,
               players listen. More about that in a minute.

               When they walked out, Angelo, Rick and I spoke with
               Russell for a couple of minutes and the coach told him
               that was an honor to have him speak to his team and that
               he felt he had truly gotten to them. He then turned to
               Angelo and said, "I've pulled out all the stops for you.
               You're going first class tonight."

               We wished him good luck and walked out of the locker
               room, where our escort was to take us to the two best
               seats in the FleetCenter. I was grinning like a Cheshire
               cat and Angelo was actually semi-excited.

               Well, the escort took us to an elevator. The door opened
               and was jam-packed, so we barely squeezed in.

               I naturally figured we were headed for one of the luxury
               boxes, but when the escort said, "Seven please," I got
               my first sense that something was up. But to be
               truthful, I still wasn't sure.

               The elevator started up, and you guessed -- stopped
               between floors, causing everyone to gasp. Thankfully,
               started moving again slowly, very slowly. Up we went,
               two ... three ... four ... five ... six ... and finally
               seven. There is no eighth floor, so we were as high as
               goes. We were also the only three people left on the
               elevator -- the escort, Angelo and me. Now I knew
               something was up.

               After a short walk, we found ourselves at our seats.
               They were at the very top of the FleetCenter in the last
               row and they were directly behind the basket. Looking
               down, the players looked like ants.

               Angelo turned to the escort and said "Tell Rick,
               arrevedici. I'll see him at Saratoga." He then said this
               is what he called first class.

               The escort apologized and said that the game was a
               sellout and Rick, not knowing that he and I would patch
               things up, could not come up with anything better.

               As we started to walk away and head back to Fall River,
               the escort started laughing hysterically and said to me
               "April Fools!"

               Rick and I have been playing jokes on each other for 25
               years and this was one of the best. He got me good But
               that was not enough.

               In the middle of the third quarter, the Jumbo Iron
               flashed a message on its four-sided screens to those in
               attendance: "The Boston Celtics welcome back Jersey
               Red!" It was the only time all night that the crowd

               After the game the team was headed directly to the
               airport for a trip to Toronto, but I did get to catch up
               with several of the players, in particular with Walter
               McCarty, Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker. I've known these
               guys for about six years, since they were recruited and
               played for Rick at Kentucky.

               Several years ago I traveled with them to Italy for two
               weeks, so was great to share a few memories and laughs.
               Then Angelo and I sat in the coach's office for about 20
               minutes and shot the breeze.

               He then headed for the airport and we traveled back to
               Fall River. It wasn't a good night. As Angelo would say
               on the way home, was a great night!

               The following evening the Celtics dismantled the
               Raptors, so when the phone rang around 1 a.m., was a
               happy coach Pitino telling me that there would be two
               tickets for the game that night against Philly.

               This would be the Celts' third straight game in as many
               days and a "W" in front of the home crowd would be huge
               in this season from hell.

               This time I traveled up with another local friend of
               Rick's, Father Jay Maddock, and even the padre's prayers
               didn't help as the Sixers crushed the Celtics. It was
               ugly. The "Boo Birds" were out in full force, as they
               have been for most of this year.

               After the game, we went to a North End restaurant with
               Ralph Willard, the new head coach of Holy Cross and a
               former assistant of Pitino's with the Knicks and

               Father Jay asked Rick how he was holding up under the
               negativity that has been swirling around the team and
               him. He said that he was fine, even though he had never
               faced a year like this in his entire career.

               He did voice concern over what the boos were doing to
               this young team. On the road it's a given, but when the
               home team fans turn on you it's disheartening to say the

               Naturally, the subject of talk radio and what Pitino
               calls the "fellowship of the miserable" came up. The hot
               story last week was that Glenn Ordway of WEEI called
               Pitino a coward on his show, leading several Boston
               media guys to crucify Ordway in print for clearly going
               over the line.

               I joked that Vinny Pazienza was fighting that night and
               I would give 10 years' pay to see Rick and the Big "O"
               on the undercard, but Pitino brushed off. He does not
               ever, and I mean ever, listen to talk radio call-in

               Pitino was at his best that night when he spoke of the
               Celtics' future and about their brand-spanking new
               multi-million dollar training facility in Waltham, and
               how he couldn't wait for this aberration of a season to
               end so that the very next day he can get to work on
               turning those jeers into cheers.

               He was extremely positive. This was not media spin. This
               was a guy talking to friends, a guy who hates to lose
               more than anyone I've ever met in my life and a guy who
               does not lie and "is not a coward!"

               He is the same guy who said when he took the job that
               the fans should make the journey with this team, not
               root against it.

               Sadly, that has not been the case in this era of instant
               gratification. It's all or nothing, especially in
               Boston, and that's the reason I begged him not to leave
               Kentucky. But what's done is done and I'm telling you
               right now that Pitino is not done, folks. He hasn't even
               started. And all I have to say to anyone who doubts is

               As far as Bill Russell, Pitino said his speech to the
               players was unbelievable and Big Bill didn't pull any
               punches. He let a few of these new-era Celtics have it.
               He said that he had an ego as a player, but was a "team"
               ego. There wasn't any room on those teams for guys who
               were into individual stats. The Celtics were a "we"

               He went on to say that if he took a breather during a
               game would be on the offensive end of the court, never
               on defense, and that's a problem he sees in today's NBA.

               He then showed them his championship ring and said he
               had 11 more and was mad that wasn't an even dozen.

               Russell then reminded this group of youngsters of the
               banners that were hanging above courtside and the hard
               work that took to get them up there. He told them that
               the uniforms they were wearing were special, belonging
               to an organization called the Boston Celtics, and that
               they should be honored to be wearing them.

               Russell was preaching like he played, and after the game
               several of the players told me that was a night they
               will never forget.

               Russell has had his moments since leaving the Celtics,
               but on this night he was bleeding green when the game
               started. Russell was sitting in the row in front of me.
               Every once in a while I would look up at the No. 6
               hanging in the rafters and then look at this man
               approaching his 65th birthday and just wonder if there
               would ever be anyone who could play the position of
               center the way he did. The answer is never.

               As for the Celtics, as of Monday night they had won four
               out of the last five, but that did not stop the booing
               from the meanest, rottenest fans in sports. In the third
               period, one guy screamed at Pitino, "Put Patapenko back
               in, you idiot."

               The guy didn't have any championship rings on his
               fingers and if he ever goes to Springfield, he will have
               to pay to get in the Hall of Fame. And if he ever writes
               a book, will be called "Born to Lose!"

               (Jersey Red writes a weekly column for The Herald News.)


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