Rick Pitino celebrated his second National Championship Title win last night, becoming the first coach ever to win the NCAA Championship with two different schools. Pitino has cemented his status as one of the best college coaches ever with his ability to recruit players, motivate players and bring success to multiple programs. But Pitino certainly did not succeed at all phases of his coaching career, as he failed miserably with the Boston Celtics, leaving a bitter taste for fans of the city.
The Celtics were a disappointing 102-146 in the 3 ½ ill-fated years that Pitino served as head coach. Pitino took over the head coaching duties in May of 1997 as the team prepared for the draft lottery night. The Celtics finished with the worst record in the league the season before, meaning they had a 36 percent chance to attain the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery. The Celtics, unfortunately, slipped to the No. 3 overall pick. Pitino made a smart decision by drafting Chauncey Billups but made a boneheaded move by trading the rookie guard 51 games into the season.
Pitino was distraught at how the Celtics were unable to attain the No. 1 overall pick because it meant the Celtics lost out on the sweepstakes to draft Tim Duncan. While it was a crushing blow for the Celtics, Pitino’s comments made after he resigned from his coaching duties in Boston were shameful.
“I think I do regret leaving Kentucky because I took over a team with 15 wins banking everything on the Tim Duncan lottery, and once we didn’t get Tim Duncan I realized that leaving Kentucky was not a good move,” said Pitino.
This showed that Pitino essentially had a negative mindset his entire tenure in Boston because the team could not draft Duncan. The most ludicrous part of the whole lottery debacle is that the Celtics had only a 36 percent chance of drafting Duncan (granted, that was the highest percent) and Pitino still banked entirely on the Celtics getting the chance to select Duncan.
The quote on Duncan is much less disgraceful than what he said in his infamous rant after the Celtics lost a regular season game in 2000.
“Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door … What we are is young, exciting, hardworking and going to improve. People don’t realize that. And as soon as they realize that those three guys are not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us.”
He went on to criticize the negativity of Boston fans as he referenced great players who had been given rough treatment while playing for Boston. He blamed the fans for the losing ways for all the Boston teams’ at the time, citing their pessimism and insensitivity towards players.
In the 2001 season, Pitino got off to a mediocre 12-22 start, then resigned and Jim O’Brien took over. The very next season Jim O’Brien led the Celtics to the Conference Finals, a mere two wins away from reaching the NBA Finals, behind the play of Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker.
Suffice to say Pitino was a complete disaster in Boston. But Pitino should be praised highly for one intelligent choice he made in 1998— drafting Paul Pierce.
Drafting Paul Pierce helped change the course of history for this franchise. With the Celtics recently clinching a playoff berth, “The Truth” has now led the Green to 10 playoff appearances in his 15 years in the NBA. Pierce has been the heart and soul for the Celtics for over a decade, culminating with him hoisting the 2008 Finals MVP trophy.
Paul Pierce is the leader of many Celtics all-time records, including three-point field goals made, free throws made and steals. Pierce is also the second leading scorer in Celtics history, trailing just John Havlicek, who Pierce can likely pass if he plays another two seasons. Not only does Pierce rank highly in Celtics records, he is at the top of some of the prestigious NBA records as well. Pierce is fifth all time in three-point field goals made, 10th all-time in free throws made and is 20th all-time in points scored. Pierce is arguably the greatest pure scorer to ever play for the Celtics and easily one of the top five Celtics in franchise history and for that we can thank Rick Pitino.