Ring of fire for Dickie V

Long-ago trade gave C’s 3 ti­tles

Boston Herald - - NBA/NHL SCOREBOARD/RACING - Twit­ter: @SteveBHoop

Paul Pierce right­fully had his No. 34 placed in the Gar­den rafters Sun­day, in large part be­cause of his role in bring­ing a cham­pi­onship to the Celtics.

But there was a guy at the gym­na­sium on Cause­way Street last night who had a hand in three Celtics ti­tles, and what I want to know is when is some­one go­ing to raise a ban­ner for Dick Vi­tale?

Yes, that Dick Vi­tale. Richard John Vi­tale from Pas­saic, N.J. Dickie V.

He was the coach of the Pistons in Septem­ber 1979 when the Celtics, ne­go­ti­at­ing com­pen­sa­tion for sign­ing free agent M.L. Carr, worked it out by trad­ing Bob McA­doo to Detroit for two first-round draft picks. The fol­low­ing June, seven months after Vi­tale was fired with a 4-8 record in his sec­ond sea­son, the Celts sent those two picks, Nos. 1 and 13, to Golden State for Robert Par­ish and the third pick, which they turned into Kevin McHale.

And three NBA cham­pi­onships — 1981, ’84 and ’86.

It’s no sur­prise that Mr. V, in town to work the Celt­sClip­pers game on ESPN cross­over night, has got­ten a lot of mileage out of it.

“I re­mem­ber speak­ing at an event where Red Auerbach was hon­ored,” he said yes­ter­day, “and I re­mem­ber turn­ing to Red. I says, ‘They’re hon­or­ing you here, Mr. Auerbach, and I love you. I love ev­ery­thing about you. But how come I keep look­ing in my mail and I’ve never re­ceived a cham­pi­onship ring for us giv­ing you the foun­da­tion for your cham­pi­onships in the ’80s? I gave you McHale and Par­ish.’ The place went crazy laugh­ing.”

Vi­tale can take the joke now after years as the pre­em­i­nent col­lege bas­ket­ball com­men­ta­tor. And, truth be told, he got blamed for a trade that was en­gi­neered from above his pay grade. Just as for­mer Brook­lyn gen­eral man­ager Billy King gets the heat for the Pierce/ Gar­nett trade for a bar­rel of picks when it was the Nets owner who did it, Vi­tale was on the side­line when Pistons owner Bill David­son got taken by Auerbach.

“What hap­pened was M.L. Carr signed as a free agent with Bos­ton, and I wanted to keep him,” Vi­tale said. “M.L. was a coach’s dream. He played hard all the time, great at­ti­tude, just a win­ner, al­ways a smile on his face. He was like Ernie Banks from base­ball. Let’s play three games. I mean, he loved play­ing and I hated to see us lose him.

“But the Celtics made him a heck of an of­fer, and our peo­ple didn’t want to go that kind of route with the money. In those days it was ba­si­cally a com­pen­sa­tion deal where you would get some­thing back for your free agent. Our owner loved McA­doo, his scor­ing abil­ity and how it would ex­cite peo­ple. He and (Bob) Lanier would be tough to de­fend.

“We had no gen­eral man­ager and (David­son) took over the ne­go­ti­a­tions with Red Auerbach. He came back and said, ‘I’ve given them two first-round draft choices, and we’re go­ing to have McA­doo.’ Well, McA­doo re­ally never wanted to be with us. Mac’s a good guy, too. I got to re­ally know him after, but he didn’t want to be the guy any longer. He wanted to be with a team where he could just blend in and play. He was tired of get­ting traded, and he wanted the Lak­ers, and that’s where he ul­ti­mately went and he was great for them.”

McA­doo won two ti­tles with the Lak­ers, while the end prod­uct of the draft picks won three in Bos­ton.

“You’ve got to be loyal to your or­ga­ni­za­tion,” said Vi­tale, “so what am I go­ing to do? Am I go­ing to stand in the press con­fer­ence and say, ‘I don’t want to do this?’ You take the shots. But the bot­tom line is that it worked out beau­ti­fully for Bos­ton. It didn’t work out for us.

“I got fired 12 games into my sec­ond year, and it turned out to be the best thing that ever hap­pened in my life. Nov. 8, 1979, I was down as can be when I was told I was fired. I went from coach­ing high school in 1970 to coach­ing in the NBA in eight years, and my ca­reer was ex­plod­ing. And then all of a sud­den, bam, I was fired. I was just as de­pressed as could be, and if you’d have told me on that day that I would be talk­ing to you to­day and telling you I’m in 13 Hall of Fames, in­clud­ing the Bas­ket­ball Hall of Fame in Spring­field, the col­lege Hall of Fame, the Univer­sity of Detroit Hall of Fame, the Ital­ian Hall of Fame — I mean, 13 of them — I’d say you’re wacky, be­cause that’s how down I was.

“But, you know, you look back on your life and it turned out to be the best thing that ever hap­pened to me, be­cause, I tell you this, I hated los­ing so much that if I stayed in coach­ing, whether it be col­lege or pros, I would have been dead by 55. I couldn’t han­dle los­ing. It tore my in­sides to shreds. And the owner was great to me.

“Bill David­son treated me like roy­alty. He kept say­ing to me day after day, ‘You’re your big­gest en­emy. You want to win now, Dick, but it’s go­ing to take us five years.’ But all I could think about is that we couldn’t beat Dr. J or Ka­reem (Ab­dul-Jab­bar) or those peo­ple with the tal­ent we had. And then we had ma­jor in­juries on top of it.

“But by get­ting fired and get­ting away from that, it’s given me a life that’s ex­ceeded any dream I’ve ever had.”

Vi­tale was smil­ing when he got to the Gar­den last night. He was tak­ing in the af­fec­tion of the fans. When he looked up at three of the ban­ners, he could be thank­ful for a botched trade and a fir­ing that left him free a month later to take a color com­men­tary as­sign­ment for a fledg­ling net­work.

And be­come Dickie V.


HOW DO YOU DO: Kyrie Irv­ing shakes hands with Dick Vi­tale be­fore last night’s game at the Gar­den.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.