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.

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

Celtics-Sixers preview: Road has been kind to C's lately

BOSTON – For most teams in the NBA, road games are a necessary evil. 
 
Not for the Celtics. At least, not lately.
 
The Green Team hits the road for its next three games, and that has been a good thing – a real good thing – lately. 
 
Boston (11-8) has won its last four road games, the kind of success that breeds a heightened level of confidence heading into this current trip which begins tonight at Philadelphia. 
 
And it only helps that they hit the road coming off a 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday. 
 
“We have to carry that momentum with us,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “You know how...anytime in this league, the momentum, you have to stay with it. We’ve been having success away from home. It was big for us to get this win (over the Kings) to start the road trip off.”
 
A big part of Friday’s victory was the play of Al Horford who finished with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six blocked shots. The points and rebounds for Horford were both season-highs.
 
Horford’s breakout performance came on the heels of a 121-114 loss to Detroit, a game in which Boston’s $113 million man (Horford) only took five shots.
 
“Coach [Brad Stevens] didn’t say anything about going to him just specifically,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “We just found him and made the right play and when he got it he was very aggressive.” 
 
Part of Horford’s success was that he was in more of an attacking mentality. But he also benefited from a Kings defense that didn’t double-team him nearly as much as the Pistons did. 
 
“I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said [following the Pistons loss] I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. [Friday night] I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”
 
Facing a Sixers team that ranks among the NBA’s worst in several defensive categories, Horford and the rest of his Celtics teammates should have ample opportunities to make plays offensively. 
 
And in doing so, they will be able to add on to what has been an already impressive stretch of play this season away from home.
 
“I think it will be good,” Horford said. “[Tonight] it’s a Philly team that plays hard and we just want to keep building on [Friday night’s win over Sacramento] and just try to be better.”
 

 

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”