Boston Celtics: Steve Pagliuca
On the eve of training camp last season, the ownership group celebrated their 10th anniversary and reveled in delivering Banner 17 to Boston while ending a 22-year championship drought. Now, ownership is digging in for another rebuilding process that started with a roster overhaul this summer and the installation of Brad Stevens as head coach.
As the ownership group is toasted for what they've done in revitalizing the Celtics over the past 11 seasons, a few thoughts on why they've been successful:
* PAY TO PLAY: The way the NBA is structured now, teams must nimbly navigate the luxury tax line. But one thing is certain: In order to play, you can't be afraid to pay (right, Brooklyn Nets?) Since taking over in 2002, Celtics ownership has paid $47.3 million in luxury tax, according to data logged by salary site ShamSports.com. That's the fifth highest total in the league behind only the Knicks, Mavericks, Lakers, and Trail Blazers. Boston has been in the tax in each of the past six seasons -- and seven of the 10 years overall when tax was paid during their tenure -- showing a willingness to field the most competitive team possible. The Celtics likely would have paid the tax again during the upcoming 2013-14 season if they had kept a veteran core intact, but will now attempt (and that's no guarantee) to avoid it this season in order to reap the competitive advantage (and cash rebate) the new collective bargaining agreement affords teams that below the tax line.
* STRENGTH IN LEADERSHIP: Ownership has put a premium on putting the right people in control of their basketball operations. While ownership has been a visible presence, they appear to have been largely hands-off after hiring Danny Ainge to run basketball operations and Doc Rivers to coach the team. Once Ainge zeroed in on Stevens as Rivers' potential replacement this summer, Wyc Grousbeck and Pagliuca flew to Indiana with Ainge and assistant general manager Mike Zarren to sign off on the deal. Like Ainge, ownership came away gushing about Stevens and their faith and trust is reflected in the six-year deal he signed in July. That allows Ainge and Stevens to navigate this rebuild process without the pressure to deliver immediate results.
* COMPETITIVE NATURE: Just watch Grousbeck and Pagliuca courtside and you can tell they are as fiery as Ainge or their players. They also understand the ultra-competitive market in which they reside. "The thing I've learned with [this ownership group] is they encourage me to spend money," Ainge told ESPN in 2008. "All I can tell you is Steve and Wyc and Irv, they're very competitive. I think there's competition in the market. The Patriots are winning [three Super Bowls], the Red Sox are winning [two World Series]. We love the fact that the Red Sox and Patriots have set a standard for this city, just like the Celtics set a standard in the 60s, 70s and 80s."
* HOW BANNER 17 LLC CAME TO BE: This would be a good time to revisit Greg Garber's fantastic 2008 story on how Campbell Grousbeck was a driving force behind the creation of this ownership group. As Wyc Grousbeck noted during Boston's 2008 title run: "[The Grousbeck family] would be out in California, probably, and my golf game would be a little bit better, but I wouldn't be getting ready for a playoff game [back in 2008]. If not for Campbell, we wouldn't be here."
CEO Wyc Grousbeck, along with fellow managing partners Steve Pagliuca, H. Irving Grousbeck and Robert Epstein, announced on this day 10 years ago that they were purchasing the Boston Celtics, and the venture became official on Dec. 31, 2002, after receiving NBA approval.
"We sat right here 10 years ago, to this day, looked up at the coaches in the perch. We hadn't even met them, announced that we were going to buy this team and try to win Banner 17 and here we are now, with a ring, one banner, counting for more," Grousbeck said at the team's media day. "But I want to thank my partner, Steve, and my other partners for a great run, and thank the fans for supporting us."
Grousbeck and his group cleaned house almost immediately, bringing in general manager Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers, and started with a fresh roster of younger players. While the club certainly had its fair share of down years (consider the 24-58 record of the 2006-2007 team), patience won out, and the trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007 propelled Boston into the championship conversation. After winning their first title since 1986 in 2008, Boston has remained at that same competitive level.
That ascension to championship status sticks out to Pagliuca as one of the highlights of the journey.
"Doc, who had taken us through a year when we lost a lot of games in the 2007 season, and seeing that coach -- as you know, that was a rough year, and the roughest position as a coach (is) when you're losing, you're not winning. But he had faith in the talent, faith in the program, and we had faith in him. And to see him get that Gatorade poured on him with the championship and win a championship coming from Orlando, that was a great moment."
Grousbeck said the path wasn't laid out when they first took over, but acknowledged the perseverance that has since won out.
"I know that we didn't know how it would go. We didn't know if we could add to the legacy of the Celtics, run it the right way," said Grousbeck. "We had the best intentions and we had a great ownership group behind us. But that doesn't always translate into being able to go from being an investor to being a CEO of a pro sports team, or managing partner of a pro sports team. We had been investors, and now we're running a business. And it's a business that's important to millions of people.
"It's worked out great. We're not done. It doesn't always work out great. We've had down years. But we're really happy to be here and hope to be here for years to come."
Pagliuca finished well off the pace in the Democratic primary to fill the Massachusetts US Senate seat vacated by the death of Edward M. Kennedy. In the four-person race, Pagliuca finished last, according to the Associated Press. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Pagliuca had 12 percent of the vote, just behind City Year co-founder and fellow political novice Alan Khazei, who had 13 percent. Pagliuca reportedly spent about $9 million of his own money on the campaign.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, no stranger to tough losses in his long NBA career as a player and coach, knew how to ease the pain for one of his bosses. As he stood to leave his press conference following Boston’s 98-89 win over Milwaukee at TD Garden, Rivers joked to reporters, “Obviously none of y’all voted for Pags.”
Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley won the primary with 47 percent of the vote, with US Representative Michael Capuano second at 28 percent.
Coakley will meet Republican State Senator Scott Brown in the general election on Jan. 19.
"No, I vote in Florida," Rivers told reporters before Tuesday's game against the Bucks. "I'm off the hook. I did do some campaigning. I hope [Pagliuca] does well. I don't know what the results [will be], but I did [campaign]. I don't know if anyone listened to me, but if they did, good."
Pagliuca, a co-owner and managing partner of the Celtics, was one of four Democrats running for the seat vacated after the death of Edward Kennedy. Early returns had Pagliuca running well behind the lead.
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