- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Rule No. 4: Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain't restful.
"Yes," says Parish. "I've never been real big on socializing."
His basketball 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.
Centenary, 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 restful.
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.
In green 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."