North Station lies in the heart of the Italian-American community of the North End in Boston. The original station stood on an overhead platform and as the trolley track curves, you used to be able to see the old Boston Garden.
Every championship memory etched in its bricks stoked by Red's cigar. I used to work in a fast food restaurant across the street from the Garden. One day my manager gave me tickets to go and see M.J. and Bird play; I was so excited.
I figured, "Wow! My manager gave up tickets; they must be great seats." I proudly walked up to the usher and asked for directions to my seat. He simply pointed up the stairs. Needless to say, I had the ultimate nosebleed seats in the old garden.
I sat in those narrow wooden seats that were every uncomfortable. The players were mere specks on the court, but I got to see two of the top 50 greatest players in NBA history in their prime play.
At that moment, all of that was lost on me because my butt hurt. I stayed because I was a teenager who had nothing better to do.
To tell you the truth, at that time, I was not a big Celtic fan. They had gotten rid of my favorite player Cedric Maxwell, and they were my sworn enemy. I never went to the championship parades of the 80s. I was that vexed.
I find it ironic that I became a fan after I saw the team struggling. I saw Sherman Douglas and his pudginess himself, John Bagley, run the parquet. I remember the short tragic Celtic history of Charles Smith when I crossed the BU bridge.
I watched a young Glen "Doc " Rivers bring his Atlanta Hawks to town as a second round pick. Rivers was never a star, but he was a solid point guard who knew how to run a team. After his playing days were over, his charismatic smile and honesty made him a natural as an NBA analyst.
Shortly after, he got a coaching gig with the Orlando Magic, where he had a young Tracy McGrady and an injured Grant Hill. He garnered Coach of the Year honors and the farthest he got was the semifinals with that group. Orlando unceremoniously dumped him, even though he never had a full complement of players.
I never liked Danny Ainge as a player; to me, he was a whiner and a cheap shot artist. Who can forget when he fought Tree Hollins.
I would think a guy from Utah would not be that feisty. I was wrong.
After his playing days, Ainge followed a similar path as Rivers, sans Coach of the Year honors. Ainge was the unwitting accomplice in aiding the Lakers run to three-straight championships. Robert Horry threw a towel in Ainge's face when he coached Phoenix.
They ended up trading him to the Lakers.
I thought it was great. In fact, I laughed at it.
In 2003, Ainge was hired as Director of Basketball Operations for the Celtics and immediately hired Doc Rivers as the head coach with Red's blessing off course.
Auerbach believed in Ainge and Rivers. It was unfortunate he could not be there to see the handy work of the man he stuck by.
Doc and Danny were not stars as players, but their basketball acumen shine as architects of Banner 17.
Both coach and GM have combined for the Auerbachian move of going from worst to first in one season.
They are now two years removed from that banner year, and the way they handle the 2009 draft will be critical to keeping that championship legacy alive.