Boston Celtics

Dave Gavitt dies; founder of Big East, ex-Celts exec

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Dave Gavitt dies; founder of Big East, ex-Celts exec

Associated Press

Dave Gavitt had an impact on theworld of basketball. From a career as a successful coach, to changingthe face of college sports, to introducing the Olympics to a Dream Team,to running the Boston Celtics, Gavitt's touch was everywhere.His death Friday night after a longillness was confirmed by his family Saturday. He died in a hospitalnear his hometown of Rumford, R.I. He was 73.Gavitt coached Providence to the NCAAtournament five times, including the Final Four in 1973. He was thedriving force behind the formation of the Big East Conference and wasits first commissioner. He was selected to coach the U.S. Olympic teamin 1980, but the United States boycotted the Moscow Games. Gavitt waspresident of USA Basketball and oversaw the introduction of NBA playersonto the U.S. Olympic roster, including the Dream Team at the 1992Games."He was not only a great basketballcoach and organizer of the Big East but he was a great, great statesmanfor basketball, college and international," former St. John's coach andfellow Naismith Hall of Famer Lou Carnesecca said Saturday.Gavitt was the Big East'scommissioner from 1979 until 1990. He served on the NCAA's Division IBasketball Committee from 1980-84 and was its chairman from 1982-84when the tournament expanded to 64 teams and the first of its TVcontracts with CBS was negotiated.When he left the Big East, Gavittjoined the Boston Celtics front office as a vice president, succeedingRed Auerbach in running the franchise. He was fired in 1994.Gavitt served as chairman of theBasketball Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 2006. He waspresident of the NCAA Foundation and worked as tournament director ofthe Maui Invitational from 2005 until 2009.His biggest impact, however, was in the lives he affected during his decades in basketball."While he was changing the face ofcollege basketball with the Big East and NCAA Selection Committee, hewas still able to influence so many, including me personally,"Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Saturday. "He never didn't have timeto talk about the game. His legacy will always include his kindness aswell as his greatness. He will be greatly, greatly missed."Born Oct. 26, 1937, in Westerly,R.I., Gavitt played basketball and baseball at Dartmouth, graduatingfrom the Ivy League school in 1959. He was an assistant coach to JoeMullaney at Providence for two years before starting his head coachingcareer in 1967 at Dartmouth, where he was 18-33 in two seasons.He succeeded Mullaney at Providencein 1969 and led the Friars to a 209-84 record over 10 seasons for a.713 winning percentage that is still the best in school history. HisFinal Four team in 1973 featured Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes. Hebecame the school's athletic director in 1971.The Big East formed in 1979, withProvidence, Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John's, Seton Hall, BostonCollege and Connecticut the original members. Villanova joined the nextyear. One of Gavitt's biggest moves was to have the new league becomeworking partners right away with another new entity, ESPN."That ESPN came along when we did was very fortunate for us, and how we worked together benefited both tremendously," Gavitt said.He also moved the conferencepostseason tournament to New York's Madison Square Garden, where it hasplayed before sellout crowds since 1983. The conference's high pointcame in 1985, when it became the only league to have three teams in theFinal Four."We were so fortunate in so manyways at the outset," Gavitt said in 2006. "We put together a solidfoundation with a good plan, but we were fortunate to have four coacheswho were going to be at their schools for a long time in John Thompson,Louie Carnesecca, Jimmy Boeheim and Rollie Massimino, and having themstay in place was very significant."On the day Gavitt died the news insports was about Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse possiblyleaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference as the landscape of collegesports faced its biggest change in decades."It is especially sad, consideringtoday is certainly one of those days, with everything in the news aboutour league, I would love nothing more than to call him and ask himsimply, What do you think and what should we do?' " Calhoun said."Sadly, we cannot do that."Gavitt led USA Basketball from itsdays of a strictly amateur organization to one that would bring the NBAand its players to a worldwide stage every four years starting with the1992 Barcelona Olympics. Gavitt knew he needed the NBA to be a partnerwith USA Basketball."I wanted USA Basketball to be the28th NBA team, outside the family," Gavitt said. "I wanted NBAProperties, who are so good at what they do, to take our mark andrepresent us as our licensee and to help us get sponsorship."Gavitt's business acumen drew as much praise as his coaching."The rest of the world has learnedmuch from Dave Gavitt about basketball and he has taught us much morethan just on the court," said Alexander Gomelsky, coach of the SovietUnion's 1988 gold medal team. "He understands basketball as a businessand has shown many countries the right way to do things. Everybodystudies this because it is a fantastic business."Mike Tranghese was an assistant toGavitt at the Big East from the start and he succeeded him ascommissioner, retiring from that position in 2009."I wish I had the ability toproperly express my feelings," Tranghese said Saturday. "We lost agiant. He helped so many people in the game of basketball and had sucha profound influence . . . I think he's the most influentialcommissioner in the history of college athletics and at the same timewas a Hall of Fame basketball coach who quit at age of 40 to spend timewith his family. He had the ability to get things done and above allthat he was your friend and it wasn't just to the powerful people."Gavitt is survived by his wife, Julie, and two sons, including Dan, an assistant commissioner with the Big East.

Photo of Celtics' 1963 White House visit recalls a simpler time

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Photo of Celtics' 1963 White House visit recalls a simpler time

As the controversy raged Saturday over President Donald Trump's tweet rescinding the White House invitation to Golden State Warriors' star Stephen Curry, a tweeted photo recalling a simpler time for sports team's presidential visits appeared. 

The nostalgic Twitter account @the_60s_at_50 posted a photo from the Celtics' visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and its principal occupant, John F. Kennedy, on Jan. 31, 1963. JFK had invited his hometown NBA team into the Oval Office for what seemed to be a spur-of-the-moment visit.

A newspaper account of the visit was also posted. The defending NBA champion Celtics were in the Washington area to play the Cincinnati Royals at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House that night and had been taking a tour of the White House when Kennedy invited them in. 

All the team members were there except for star center Bill Russell, who, of course, experienced incidents of racism in Boston that were well-documented. However, Russell's absence was blamed on him oversleeping. His teammates said they didn't know they would meet Kennedy on the tour.  

And yes, that's Celtics legend - and CSN's own - Tommy Heinsohn second from right. Coach Red Auerbach is next to the President on the left, Bob Cousy is next to Auerbach and John Havlicek is the first player in the second row on the left.