Greener Pastures for Celtics?

Jason Campos

So the Boston Celtics have new owners, Irving and Wycliffe Grousebeck and Stephen Pagliuca. My initial reaction when I heard the news (over the airwaves on a sports talk show) was “What’s the big deal?”

Perhaps it was the lack of a storyline that made me so disinterested in the transfer of ownership from one Paul Gaston, the ex-Celtics owner, to the sleek looking triumvirate of venture capitalists, who look like they were cut from the same swath that Mitt Romney was. There were no months of a fervent media circus, no clandestine bid process, no intrigue, nor any other enticing characteristic that is usually inherent in the sale of sports teams. It was cut and dry: one team of enviable lore and mystique for a check of 360 million dollars.

Despite my less-than-ecstatic reaction to news, I shed no tears for the departing Gaston. Over the years, Gaston developed a reputation that is second only to Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs. A hybrid between a money-hungry miser and aloof yuppie, Gaston placed financial restrictions on the Celtics that, if nothing else, guaranteed that the team would not be able to compete perennially with other elite squads in the NBA.

However, Gaston must be given his due for selling the Celtics at this point in time. If nothing else, he is a shrewd businessman. Coming off a season that saw the team go to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston sports scene once again recognizes the existence of the hardwood men. Ticket sales have increased due to the recent success and there is some optimism about the team’s chances to capture its 17th championship. A group of local businessmen come to him and offer him a price that was well suited to his taste, and voila, a sale is done.

I don’t know a lick about the new owners. We could be getting a three-headed Mark Cuban (the Dallas Mavericks owner who knows no end to money when it comes to improving his team) or another Gaston, only with more engaging personalities.

Those that are the skeptical kind (including yours truly) would be more easily won over if the new group brought a certain basketball legend from French Lick, Indiana on board to oversee player personnel. This would work for two reasons: 1) Bird conjures up instant nostalgia of glory days of yore and this psychological tactic would ensure a more passionate following, filling the stands and turning the televisions on to watch the game at the same time. 2) The man has an eye for talent and, even better, an eye for players. One of the biggest problems that the NBA has today is that the league is filled with too many athletes and not enough basketball players. Bird knows what it takes to win, and he’ll see that special quality in others.

These three gentlemen could be a blessing for the franchise, but that remains to be seen. The NBA is structured so that it is very difficult to improve a team through free agency and the draft in recent years has turned into a veritable crapshoot unless a team secures one of the top three spots, and even then it guarantees nothing.

While I embrace the new owners, I find nothing that leads me to believe a new ownership regime will result in championships. Perhaps it’s a pessimistic outlook due to the disappointing season of the Boston Red Sox (whose season is mercifully over), but I can’t stir up the enthusiasm and excite to make me go stand atop a roof and shout with unbridled joy.