The 76ers don't have many dogs, just horses. "The first thing Billy told me was I'll play," says Joe (Jelly Bean) Bryant, who sat on the bench for Shue. "That means so much—knowing, not hoping. He knows what's inside a player. He's more a leader than a coach." Bryant rewarded the leader when he scored 19 points in 13 minutes (11 in the fourth quarter) to lead a comeback 127-111 win over the Knicks.
"I'm already comfortable," Cunningham says. "Maybe I don't feel the pressure because I know that coaching doesn't have to be my life's work. But I also know I can do this job."
The job was just what the Boston Celtics were not doing, especially during a particularly galling 129-114 loss to the San Antonio Spurs after which, to turn a phrase, the cigar hit the fan. It was Red Auerbach's stogie, of course. Immediately following the debacle the Celtic general manager roared into the locker room and did everything but rub ashes into the eyes of his once-imposing champions, who had just lost their third straight at home and been humiliated by the Spurs, who had never beaten the Celtics. That's never, as in lifetime.
Auerbach fumed and spat out words like "ashamed" and "quitters," but the truth is that the Celtics have been sabotaged by a lack of foresight in the front office; they are victims of a dearth of young blood as well as of spirit. In that room Auerbach did not see Clarence Glover or Steve Downing or Glenn McDonald or Norm Cook, Boston's wonderful first-round draft choices of recent years who may now be selling pencils for all Auerbach knows. Nor did he see Paul Westphal, whom he traded to Phoenix, where Westphal promptly became All-Universe.
This may come as a shock, but since he drafted Cowens in 1970, Auerbach has received less value from his draft choices than any GM in the NBA. Instead, the Celtics have relied on trades, free agents and fat cats who have grown ancient and listless in a hurry.
Boston scored just nine points in a quarter against Detroit, squandered a 14-point lead against New Jersey and was handed a gift victory by Atlanta. A weak outside-shooting team, the Celtics had no fast break, no offensive rebounding, no effective press, sometimes no defense.
The Boston team's love affair with the masses and media seemed over as well. While the boos cascaded around them at home, the Globes Bob Ryan, a Celtic observer for years, lashed out at the team. He called Wicks "useless," Cowens "not recognizable on defense" and Havlicek "a mercenary." "The team is boring and lifeless," Ryan wrote. "For over 20 years the Celtics have stood for something. The only thing they stand for now is the anthem."
Responding to Auerbach's locker-room tirade, White, who had taken himself out of the game in disgust with his play, promptly folded up his Savile Row wardrobe, said he was quitting the team and, indeed, skipped practice the next day.
"Every time anything goes wrong, I get the blame," said Jo Jo. "I'm the quarterback of the club, so I get the abuse. I'm tired of being the whipping boy."
Such a gripe is commonplace in Detroit or Chicago or, for that matter, in the zoo called the New York Yankees, and White's outburst would have been a real yawner except that these were the
. Celtic pride, Celtic green and all that. Celtic Schmeltic. "I really haven't seen this 'Celtic spirit' around here." said Bing, the old newcomer.