The following contribution comes from the shenanigan’s younger brother Ken, now residing in Florida, and himself an avid sports fan, most particularly when it concerns hoops. Stick with him, it turns out he has a lot to say:
So Sugi needs a guest columnist. Given that she’s desperate, she’s pretty picky about the requirements. Apparently, you have to have 80 years of experience as an obsessed sports fan. Well I can only claim to have 78 in actuality, but Sug gave me extra credit for being run over by Joe Nuxall (fortunately on the playing field not route 4) when he was playing fullback for the Hamilton High freshmen. Not so incidentally, the following June at age 15 he pitched a couple of innings for the Reds.
I also wanted points for remembering that Dick Heekin, fullback for Ohio State, was on the cover of the 1939 College Football Magazine; however she refused, claiming it was a form of nepotism, whatever that means.
Still, you’ve got to admit she has a pretty thin bench. Think “Hoosiers” (apparently I’m coach’s only choice, the uncoordinated short guy with the matching haircut trying to avoid his gaze.) By the way, if you don’t know that film, rent it forthwith. Even so renowned a critic as Paul Pierce said it was his favorite movie. I’m padding here. Sugi said make it pretty long, and I really don’t do long. Big on pithy though.
What I’m pretty sure that Sug was looking for is a column on my current obsession and single area of expertise, the Boston Celtics – on the other hand she likely didn’t have a homily in mind. Nonetheless, Ken had an epiphany and surely that is worthy of note. Even St. Paul had only one that I know of. What happened was I came across a manifestation of Christ where I just wasn’t looking for it. So that’s my story:
When he played for the Celtics, Danny Ainge was considered a colossal pain in the ass. I’m using pain in the neck in deference to Sug and her readers, but it doesn’t really capture the totality of his obnoxious attitude and conduct. Tommy Heinson, Hall of Fame player and coach and 30 year announcer for the Celtics, reported once that Red Aeurbach, his mentor and patron saint of Celticdom, said if you’re going to harass the opposing player be the instigator. The retaliator will always be the one called for the foul. Apparently Danny took Red’s advice to heart, and pushed, poked, elbowed and harassed his way to infamy. Even today on his office door the motto reads, “In Red We Trust.”
So imagine my surprise to discover Danny is a Bishop in the Mormon Church. It seems that certain lay people in the Mormon Church, on a volunteer basis, carry out many of the pastoral duties that are the responsibility of, well, the pastor in the Catholic Church. They are elected Bishop by their congregation and Danny Ainge was one. Who would have guessed.
In 2009 Danny Ainge has a heart attack. By then, he’s the extremely hard working GM of the Celtics, and the father of a family of six children. Just his travel schedule is mind boggling. He watches games of every college player his scouts think might be interesting and all the prospects in the European leagues as well. In the current year he has two NBA ready players, playing on the Celtics D League team in Maine, as well as a Frenchman stashed in China and a Croatian playing for the Israelis. Besides the above activities he was with equal vigor carrying out all of the many and varied activities of a Mormon Bishop.
The heart attack was a powerful message. There would have to be accommodations. So many were counting on him. Friends, family, fans, players, owners, and the Church. He could organize and delegate, but the one thing he would not mitigate was his commitment to serve as Bishop.
In his 2015 article titled “Danny Ainge’s Balancing Act,” ESPN’s Ian Thompson quotes him as follows:
“So when I was called to be Bishop, it was like, oh my gosh … I wondered can I do this? It’s probably 500 people in our congregation. The basic responsibilities of a Bishop are to watch over and strengthen the families and individuals, and take care of the needy. To watch over the flocks so to speak. I spent most of my Sunday’s going from church to homes to minister and visit the needy and the sick, and visiting hospitals and those that were sick.
And I spent time counseling people, mostly on Wednesday nights and most of my Sundays. You’re just helping those in need. And there is a great satisfaction in life that comes from that. And the great perspective to life that you learn from that. And a great gratitude, to see so many people that can still be so happy through all of this. It helped me to understand that Christ lives. And that his priesthood is here on earth. And every time I laid my hand on someone’s head to give them blessing, I could say I felt really inspired every time; but that’s not true. There were times that things came out of my mouth that were not mine; but there were also times when the human side of me probably didn’t do as well communicating.
But every time I felt this increased amount of love toward the person that was receiving the blessing. Whether they were going through a struggle in their marriage, whether they were going through addictions. Whether they were sick, or getting ready for major surgery or cancer or whatever it may be. There was this amazing increase in love toward the person that was receiving the blessing.
And you really come to understand that love is endless. I remember the feeling when I had my first daughter, like, how could you love someone more than that? Then having my son: How am I going to love my brand-new son as much as I love my first daughter? But then as you get older, you realize there is no limit on love. Love is for everybody.”
Who knew? Who even suspected? Who even talks like that? A real stunner. A revelation. And a welcome one.
For me it also explained why he drafted Marcus Smart. For Danny, Marcus was a twofer and maybe even a threefer. What the Celtics needed in the summer of ’14 was a shooter or a rim protector. Marcus Smart was neither, which surprised and disappointed a substantial number of fans, and, furthermore he also represented a considerable risk. In February while playing for Oklahoma State he had been suspended for 3 games for shoving a Texas Tech fan. Other GM’s were reluctant to touch him.
At 12 years old, “dead or in jail” was the predictable outcome for Smart. USA Today wrote, “Rage burned inside him after seeing one older brother die of cancer and another almost killed by cocaine. Anger boiled inside him while he confronted a neighborhood south of Dallas he called a war zone amid duplexes. He desperately sought to inflict others with the pain that incessantly gnawed at his 12 year old heart.” The support of his mother, her moving her family to the suburb of Flower Station, Texas, the outlet provided by sports, and classes in anger management enabled him to turn his life around.
At 6’4″ 225 he became a formidable point guard for Oklahoma State. He was a defense and pass first type of player who made others better. He was a team leader and of particular interest to coach Brad Stevens, because of his size he could guard the 1, 2 and 3.
This is all speculation on my part, but I’m pretty sure Danny Ainge found him irresistible. Not only did he get the kind of hard-nosed, chip on his shoulder, type of player that he loved, but one who could still benefit from guidance, and the positive environment of the Celtics team first approach to the game. Yeah, he’s twofer. A player and a project. Maybe even a threefer – the heart and soul of a future championship team.
Is Danny happy? You have to watch a few games to make a judgement. 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas is king of the 4th quarter, and he’ll give you 10, 15 points, whatever it takes. But he does have to have the ball to do that, and Marcus considers that his job. He’ll steal opponents passes, grab defensive and offensive rebounds amidst players six inches taller, he’ll yank the ball right out of their hands, and fifty/fifty balls are all his. He’s still a work in progress. Recently an obscene gesture cost him $25,000. But, yeah, on the whole I think Danny’s pretty happy with his decision.
One reason l think that is the case is that the following year he drafted in most particulars the same kid. Until he was 10, Terry Rosier grew up in Youngstown, “the murder capital” of Ohio. In Terry’s case it was his grandmother who after a custody battle with his mother moved him from the mean streets of Youngstown to Shaker Heights outside Cleveland. There, as in Marcus’ case, Terry found his outlet in basketball. Danny drafted him only to receive more criticism than he did with Marcus. Fans actually booed at the announcement on draft night.
As I write, Terry Rosier is proving himself NBA valuable in the second round of the playoffs. How he and Marcus will finally work out will be fun to follow. Because of NBA cap rules, the Celtics probably won’t be able to keep both of them, but if one of them helps propel the Celtics to their 18th championship, and if both enjoy long and fruitful NBA careers, Danny will have all the satisfaction he needs.
“Soft you now, a word or two before I go.”
About Sugi’s bona fides. Sugi was always a sports freak. At 11 she had a crush on Ernie Lombardi, catcher for the Pennant winning 1939 Cincinnati Reds. Sure, young girl swoons over male athlete. No big deal unless you know his nickname (well deserved) was the Schnoz. Ugly was appropriate only if you’re in to understatement. No, it was the pre-steroidal home runs.
Furthermore, even at that age she could throw a perfect spiral. Today we have unbelievable female athletes. Serena, Ronda, and Lindsey to name a few, but I’ll bet my Isaiah Tee they can’t throw a perfect spiral. Up to 30 yards she was as good as Brady. Hey, I should know, I was her Edelman.
Finally. yeah, yeah, whatever happened to pithy? I didn’t get my basket over the garage door till we moved to Glendale. No doubt, in part because we didn’t have a garage. In any case, I worshiped at that particular altar with a devotion worthy of a hermit saint, and came to feature myself, as well, not bad.
The one cloud on that horizon was try as I might, I simply could not beat Sug at 21. Preposterous. Not to mention ego diminishing. Sugi played girls basketball, a remarkably ladylike endeavor. Six players, three offense, three defense, each confined to its own half court, the two handed one bounce dribble, and I can’t beat her at 21. Sweet Mither of Mercy. Finally at age sixteen I took a game. No more, “Hey Sug, you want to shoot a few.” Quit while you’re ahead.
Good advice when you’re writing too. Oh – So who said you were ahead.