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Robert Parish Should Be Fab Melo's Mentor for the Boston Celtics

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Robert Parish Should Be Fab Melo's Mentor for the Boston Celtics
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images
Robert Parish wants the opportunity to pass on his 21 years of NBA experience to younger players.

The objective in the resume might go something like this:

Former professional player seeks an NBA assistant coaching position. I played professionally for 21 years, was selected to nine All-Star Games, and I’m a four-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics (three) and Chicago Bulls (one). I was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. I desire a six- to seven-figure salary.

In late January The Boston Globe published an article about Robert Parish wanting back into the NBA fraternity as a coach. He’s barely worked since 1997, but Parish believes his body of work speaks for itself.

While his accomplishments deserve reverence, Parish’s expectations are delusional. If he’s willing to swallow his pride and work his way up like most people trying to get a foot in the door, there’s an ideal opportunity for Parish to earn his way to a dream job.

Coach Fab Melo.

It’s not an easy assignment and it’s less than ideal. But if Parish really wants to become an NBA assistant coach, most likely he must start at the bottom rung.

Before Parish turns his nose up to this chance, he needs to remind himself that former Golden State teammate Clifford Ray has made a successful career out of being an assistant coach for the sole purpose of coaching centers and power forwards.

Parish also shouldn’t forget that he failed to build lasting relationships with teammates during his career, as he told the Globe:

In my case, I don’t have any friends…off the court, you know, we [Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge] weren’t hanging out going to dinner, drinks, going to the movies, double dating, whatever you wanted to do. We weren’t doing any of that.

If Ainge, currently the Celtics president of basketball operations, reaches out to his former teammate, Parish should be thankful and jump at the opportunity.

From all indications, Melo is a hard worker, so teaching a willing player makes the job easier for Parish. And if Parish can turn this project into a player, it will speak volumes about Parish’s ability to coach. It wouldn’t take long for Parish to climb the ladder to better opportunities if he can mold Melo into an NBA center.

Melo has spent a majority of his rookie season in the NBA Developmental League playing for the Maine Red Claws, the Boston Celtics’ affiliate team. He started slow, but a historic triple-double was a breakthrough for Melo. Since then he’s averaged 13 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 4.8 blocks per game. He’s first in the D-League in blocks per game with 3.77.

Being a force in the D-League doesn’t mean being NBA-ready though. As the injuries mounted in Boston, Melo was returned to Boston to fill out the roster. Coach Doc Rivers didn’t have confidence in Melo to play him. Melo saw only mop-up duty in a handful of games and looked very much out of place.

Melo returned to the Red Claws last week and put up 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in his first game back. It was as if he never left.

A historic triple-double was a breakthrough game for Fab Melo.

Boston’s faith that Melo will become an NBA player seems in doubt as Ainge attempted to trade Melo with Leandro Barbosa to the Washington Wizards for Jordan Crawford at the NBA trade deadline. But Washington preferred the expiring contract of Jason Collins over Melo’s rookie deal with four years left.

Since Melo will remain with the Celtics, the organization should give Melo every resource possible to help him reach his potential. Melo was the 2011-12 Big East Defensive Player of the Year after all. Who better to teach a defensive approach to the game than one of the best defensive centers during the 1980s?

Let’s be perfectly clear. Melo’s collegiate honor doesn’t guarantee professional success. Melo is raw. If he was a steak, he would still moo. But there is potential to be extracted and refined. The right coach can do that with Melo. Would Parish be up for the task?

Melo has been playing basketball for just about six years. There’s a lot for him to learn about proper technique, form, footwork and positioning. He played zone defense at Syracuse, so Melo lags behind on how to play man-to-man defense while remaining aware about providing help.

Parish can teach Melo all of the above. It’s not a complete deconstruction and rebuild job, but Parish will have his hands full. If Melo truly is impressionable, Parish shouldn’t have much of a problem teaching the rookie the mental aspect of the game. Once that takes hold, the physical will come along.

Imagine the awkward Melo with an economy of movement, making him more efficient. Can you see him keeping his feet and not going for every ball fake? Blocked shots won’t be the result of wildly flailing at the ball, and Melo would keep the ball in play instead of swatting the ball into the third row.

Melo has shown some ability in limited minutes with the Celtics.

Offensively, Melo can become respectable after developing a feel for his spots, knowing when to cut to the rim, mastering the pick-and-roll, blocking out on rebounds, rebounding, etc.

Thankfully the bar for production was set very low by Kendrick Perkins. With career averages of 6.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, Melo has a shot at bettering those numbers. But influencing a game by playing great defense is what the Celtics want from Melo. It’s the effect that doesn’t always show up in the box score that Boston needs from the lynchpin of the defense.

Melo won’t get there overnight. Heck, the Chief might not turn Melo into El Jefe. But if Melo shows significant development while under Parish’s tutelage, Melo could find a role with the Celtics as soon as next season. And accelerating Melo’s progress would be an impressive accomplishment that Parish can put on his resume. It could be the start of Parish’s fast track toward future promotions.

But that all depends on whether Parish is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to get his foot in the door. Parish would have to give up good pay and warm weather, as well as mend fences and make connections to get the job he yearns for. Parish can get there. And it could start with Melo.

Will it happen? It’s highly doubtful. But it’s the kind of association Celtics fans can dream of that would benefit all parties involved.

 

For excerpts from The Boston Globe article, see Yahoo! Sports NBA blog Ball Don’t Lie. Questions? Comments? Send to randolphc82@comcast.net.

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