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

539261.jpg

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.

After up-and-down rookie season, Hunter looks to get stronger

celtics_r.j._hunter_110415.jpg

After up-and-down rookie season, Hunter looks to get stronger

WALTHAM, Mass. – R.J. Hunter no longer has to worry about summer days spent with his nose inside a textbook (or tablet) while taking summer school classes.
 
But make no mistake about it.
 
The Celtics rookie knows he has a lot to learn in what will be an important offseason in his growth as an NBA player.
 
There were many things to like about Hunter, who was selected by Boston with the 28th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
 
But like most rookies, Hunter’s play was an up and down affair throughout the season.
 
He appeared in 36 regular-season games, averaging 2.7 points and 1.0 rebounds in 8.8 minutes per game. In the playoffs, he appeared in five games and averaged 1.0 points, 1.2 rebounds in 8.2 minutes.
 
He had flashes of big-time talent like the 12-point performance against the Atlanta Hawks in November. But those type of games were few and far between as that would serve as his only double-digit scoring game of the season.
 
“It was up and down, but a lot more ups than downs,” Hunter said following his exit interview on Friday. “I was further along than I thought I would be. It’s kind of cool to see what I have to work on for the summer and not have summer school or any other summer obligation. I think it’ll be a fun summer.”
 
The big thing for Hunter this summer is to, well, get bigger.
 
He came into the NBA amid concerns that his lithe frame would not withstand the physical rigors of the NBA.
 
And while there’s no question Hunter had his problems at times defensively due to not being stronger, he seemed to know where he needed to be and what to do most of the time when he was no the floor.
 
That’s why for him to solidify himself as a viable option for the Celtics next season, it’s important that he put in the time to improve his overall strength.
 
Hunter said he will be doing that throughout the summer with half of his time spent here in Waltham.
 
“That takes time and a lot of dedication,” Hunter said. “But I’m definitely up for it.”
 
In addition to strengthening his body, he’ll also look to improve his understanding and knowledge of the game through studying video.
 
Among those he will study is Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver, a player Hunter said he has been watching video of all season.
 
“You look at how hard Kyle Korver cuts all game long,” Hunter said. “It’s things like that. It’s about getting conditioning, getting stronger and doing a lot of preparation before the shot.”
 
Hunter said this will be the first time he has watched video in the summer months.
 
“That should put me two or three steps ahead to when the season starts,” he said.
 
Which would then put Hunter in strong contention to see his role next season expanded, especially when you consider his strength – shooting the ball – is arguably the biggest weakness on this Celtics’ roster.
 
 

Turner wants to return, but other teams will be in pursuit, too

turnerpost428_1280x720_676005443842.jpg

Turner wants to return, but other teams will be in pursuit, too

WALTHAM, Mass. – Evan Turner will have a number of teams in pursuit of him this summer, all presenting different opportunities to win along with much fatter salaries than what he was looking at two years ago.
 
But Turner is hoping for his free agency to be a short process that ends with him returning to Boston.
 
“It [free agency] starts July First, hopefully it’s over July First,” Turner said.
 
When asked about his preferences for a team next season, Turner has a couple items that stack up near the top of his list – and money wasn’t one of them.
 
 “I want to go somewhere and have an opportunity to win,” he said. “Money’s cool, but I don’t want to sit there getting our brains beaten in and doing all that. I want to go somewhere ideally where the staff and front office [are] big on winning. Hopefully it’s back here. Other than that, winning and great fit are going to be the most important things.”
 
Regardless of where Turner winds up playing next season, he has positioned himself for a significant pay raise after accepting Boston’s two-year, $6.7 million contract he signed in 2014.
 
Several teams will make a run at Turner with most likely to offer him a contract with an annual salary of at least $10 million.
 
“It’s going to be way better than it was two years ago,” Turner said of his free agency. “It should be cool. I haven’t really thought about it. I don’t know really what I think about during the day, but I know it’s not that. I’ll once again stay out of trouble until then and try to keep bettering myself and growing.”
  
It is that approach to the game that has served Turner well during his two seasons in Boston.

When the Celtics signed the former No. 2 overall pick, there were plenty of questions as to how he would fit in considering how things didn’t work out in Philadelphia or Indiana.
 
But in time, Turner proved himself to be a valuable asset for the Celtics with his ability to score off the bench as well as be a facilitator offensively.
 
His play off the bench this season was so strong that he was among the top vote-getters for the league’s Sixth Man of the year award, won by Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford.
 
And while the decision as to whether he’s back will ultimately come down to his camp and the Celtics coming to terms, there will be at least one member of the Celtics organization – coach Brad Stevens – who will be pushing for a deal to get done so that his favorite player in the fourth quarter of games remains with the team.
 
“It’s definitely huge to be out there in deciding moments,” Turner said. “Once again, you try your best to not let your team down, not let your coach down.”
 
Still, even with the Celtics having a clear interest in him returning and Turner’s desire to remain with the team, Turner knows getting a deal done won’t be an easy thing to do.
 
“It’s a lot of stuff going on now,” Turner said. “I understand it and I understand what’s going to occur with the Celtics and the draft picks and the young guys they want to develop and get a superstar, I comprehend it.”

Thomas to represent Celtics at NBA draft lottery

isaiah_lottery_1280x720_676408387832.jpg

Thomas to represent Celtics at NBA draft lottery

WALTHAM, Mass. – Isaiah Thomas has been beating the odds for about as long as he has been playing basketball.

The Boston Celtics are hoping he can do the same for them during next month’s draft lottery when the Celtics learn exactly where their first round pick from Brooklyn will land in the lottery (top-14).
 
Because of the Nets' regular season record (21-61), the pick which came to Boston via the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade in 2013, has the third-best chances of becoming the No. 1 overall pick which would presumably be used to select LSU’s Ben Simmons.

Thomas was asked about representing the Celtics at the draft lottery during his exit interview on Friday.

“I’m going to do it,” Thomas said. “I’m definitely going to be that guy, hopefully bring some luck.”

When asked if he had any particular good luck charms he will bring with him, Thomas responded, “Nah. But I’m going to do my research and find something.”

Thomas was selected with the 60th – and final – pick of the 2011 NBA draft, and has exceeded all expectations of player drafted so late.

Most players selected at that point are fighting just to make an NBA roster.

But the 5-foot-9 Thomas has been among the top scorers from his draft class, and this past season was named to his first all-star team.

This past season he averaged a career-high 22.2 points per game along with 6.2 assists. While the playoffs ended on a sour note for Thomas, he still wound up averaging a team-best 24.2 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.

While some might think being asked to be at the lottery isn’t that big a deal, Thomas sees it as yet another moment that speaks to how far he has come in beating the odds that for most of his basketball career were stacked heavily against him.

“Coming from where I’m from and the story I have, you would never think I would be asked to represent an NBA franchise at the lottery,” Thomas said. “It’s a blessing for him (Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) to even ask me that. I’m excited to do it. Hopefully I can bring some luck.”