Rule No. 4: Go
very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble
says Parish. "I've never been real big on socializing."
career has been that of a wallflower, too. It's almost as if, when he first put
on number 00—because they had run out of jersey numbers back at Union Junior
High—he signed an obscurity warrant. The game has conspired to deprive him of
attention ever since. When he chose to stay in Shreveport and attend tiny
Centenary College, the unusual combination of a no-name school and a big-time
prospect prompted the NCAA to mobilize. Investigators discovered that Centenary
officials had used a table to convert Parish's ACT score into an SAT
equivalent—so he might be eligible to play. It didn't seem to matter that
Parish had chosen the Methodist school, enrollment 750, because he had two
young daughters and felt an obligation to be near them.
knowing that it might never again attract a player of such talent, argued that
nowhere in the rules did it specifically say you couldn't convert exam scores
for admissions purposes. The NCAA, being the NCAA, argued that nowhere in the
rules did it specifically say you could. Arguments like these are inevitably
won by you-know-who, which offered Parish a deal. He could transfer to any
other school and be instantly eligible, and Centenary would suffer only a
two-year probation. Woe be unto him if he stayed, however. Then Centenary would
be banned from postseason play for his four years, and two more thereafter.
He stayed, and he
might as well have disappeared. Centenary's schedule vanished from NCAA
publications, and Parish's statistics never appeared in NCAA releases. (If they
had, he would have led the nation in rebounding in 1976.) Parish regrets only
that he didn't have the chance to play in the tournament against such centers
as Walton of UCLA, Kent Benson of Indiana and Leon Douglas of Alabama, all of
whom were rated ahead of him. The NCAA never realized that, rather than
punishing Parish, it was doing him a favor of sorts. The publicity ramble ain't
In Boston, too,
Bird and McHale get most of the attention and the endorsements, but Parish has
never resented or begrudged them that. On the contrary. "I think it's
great," he says.
This is not to
say that Parish doesn't, when approached for his views, share small gems. The
Celtics' 30-point loss on Feb. 26 to the Chicago Bulls—the kind of thing that
happens every now and then on the NBA road—was, to his mind,
"despicable." When there was talk last summer of his being packaged in
a trade to the Seattle SuperSonics, he pronounced the prospect of playing again
for former Boston coach K.C. Jones as "lovely." Celtics senior
vice-president Dave Gavitt had coached Parish for two months before the 1975
World University Games, and on the eve of Boston's first preseason game last
October, he asked Parish to reciprocate with a little advice of his own.
"What's the secret to surviving in this league?" he asked.
"Patience," Parish said. The Chief may traffic mainly in one-word
answers, but he sure makes them count.
Only once in his
NBA career has Parish called attention to himself. When you hide your emotions
from the world, you can end up gunnysacking them, and Parish is not without
strong feelings about Bill Laimbeer, the Detroit Pistons' center. He has long
believed that Laimbeer deliberately tries to injure opponents, not just
intimidate them, and to Parish, the basketball professional, this constitutes a
threat to his livelihood.
So it was that,
in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, Laimbeer nailed Parish with an
elbow. By Bad Boy standards, the shot was small-bore. But Parish snapped. He
let loose a three-punch barrage; the punches weren't really worthy of that
name, because tendinitis had kept Parish from forming a real fist, but they
sent Laimbeer to the Boston Garden parquet.
precincts, Parish's outburst was looked upon as vigilante justice. Bird even
called it "that good deed." The Chief, however, was ashamed—not at what
he had done but at what Laimbeer had gotten him to do. He had allowed the
Parish reserve—the key to his game, the source of his strength—to be publicly
stripped away. "The fine [of $7,500] was worth it, every cent of it,"
Parish says. "But I let the team down by getting suspended for a game. It
was the first time I'd ever allowed someone to break my concentration. Even
Bill Fitch couldn't do it. And that's saying a lot."