Celtics react to Pitino's involvement in recruiting scandal

Celtics react to Pitino's involvement in recruiting scandal

NEWPORT, R.I. – The FBI investigation that has rocked the college basketball world has had a rippling effect that has been felt in all corners of the basketball world – even here in Rhode Island where the Boston Celtics are holding training camp. 

Among those affected by the investigation was Louisville head coach Rick Pitino who was put on “administrative leave” without pay. 

Multiple reports indicate that the former Celtics head coach and team president will not return as the Cardinals’ head coach. 

But Pitino’s connections to Boston extend beyond his short-lived time as the basketball czar of the Celtics franchise. 

Celtics assistant coach Walter McCarty is a former assistant coach for Pitino in Louisville and played for him at the University of Kentucky.

And Boston’s third-year guard Terry Rozier spent two seasons at Louisville under Pitino before the Celtics drafted him with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. 

 Rozier spoke about his former coach prior to the team’s afternoon practice on Wednesday. 

“Just a great guy,” Rozier said. “He was tough on us, but it was all love at the end of the day; a guy that I respect.”

The 65-year-old Pitino will leave a Louisville program as one of the most decorated coaches in NCAA history, having won national titles at Kentucky (1996) and Louisville (2013) as part of seven trips to the Final Four.

 It remains to be seen if Pitino can resurface somewhere else as a coach, or whether that’s something he is still interested in. 

Speaking about the FBI investigation which involved 10 assistant coaches as well as at least one shoe apparel maker, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said, “It’s sad to see that stuff.”

Stevens, who spent six seasons (2007-2013) as the head coach at Butler University which included a pair of national runner-up (2010 and 2011) finishes prior to coming to Boston, still has close ties to the college game.

So there’s no question, while his focus remains steadfastly on the Celtics, there’s no escaping how much he still deeply cares about the college game. 

“Clearly, there’s an issue,” Stevens said. “I think that there’s a lot of guys that are going to be not talked about, that are doing it right and have been doing it right for a long time. Certainly, I don’t think you can paint college athletics with a broad brush. Certainly, there’s a lot of guys doing it the other way too.”

One of the underlying issues in all this is the issue of whether college players should be paid. 

Here’s Stevens’ take on that topic. 

“There’s a top, small percentage (of athletes) that really brings a lot of attention to their programs and … probably have some market value themselves at that age,” Stevens said. “And then there’s a large number of players on scholarship that don’t bring their scholarship amount to the table from a marketing perspective, right? The hard part from an NCAA perspective would be determining how you divide that, how you decide that.

Stevens added, “But ultimately, that’s somebody else’s job. I have to coach the Celtics.”

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Celtics draft big man Robert Williams in first round

1:24 - A. Sherrod Blakely, Brain Scalabrine and Kyle Draper break down the Celtics' selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and are joined by the man who made the pick himself, Danny Ainge.

7:49 - The Nets and Dwight Howard have begun buyout talks, which means the veteran center could soon be a free agent. Michael Holley, Danielle Trotta and Luke Bonner debate if Howard would be a good fit in Boston.

11:59 - Brad Stevens fields questions from the media immediately following the Celtics selection of Williams.



Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

Ainge stays patient in draft by standing pat at No. 27

BOSTON – Danny Ainge went through his customary routine of making calls up and down the draft, looking for any and every opportunity to make a deal that would strengthen the Boston Celtics roster. 

And while he was open to getting a deal done and move away from the team’s late first-round pick, Ainge said he went into Thursday night’s draft intent on standing pat with the 27th overall pick that was used to select Robert Williams.

The past few weeks were spent by Ainge and his front office staff examining what the price would be for them to move up in the draft. 

That price proved to be too steep for Ainge’s liking. 

His assessment afterward?

“We were preparing for the 27th pick,” Ainge said. “We were preparing for opportunities to move up; not all the way to the top of the draft but somewhere in the middle and we were preparing for guys we didn’t like, and move back in the draft. It’s the same thing we do every year, prepare for any situation that comes up.”

But this draft felt different, in part because the Celtics were beginning further back than recent years in which includes Boston having the No. 3 overall pick in back-to-back drafts. 

And just like Boston seemed to get great value out of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum from the last two drafts, they are hoping for continued draft success in adding Williams who at one point was considered a player with lottery (top-14) pick talent. 

“Robert will have opportunities to play, but that will depend on how well he plays, what he does,” Ainge said.

Williams’ head coach Billy Kennedy echoed similar sentiments.

“He’s a special talent,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy told Boston Sports Tonight. “He can do things some of the other guys in the draft can’t do.”

Which made staying patient and not aggressively trying to move up in the draft, a worthwhile decision for Ainge in Boston landing a player that they did not go into the draft anticipating would be available to them if they stood pat with the 27th overall pick.