Can you tell us your best Paul Pierce story?
“I can’t tell you the best one, you know. There’s a lot of them. When I look at Paul, I look at our first year a lot. When we had our ups and downs. And we had the big one where I took him out and – I think we lost the game – but I didn’t put him back in. But a week later, he came into my office and we had this long talk, and it was more Paul saying he was ready. And for me – I’m not going to ever say what was said, it was just a really nice, it just – that for me, will always be an emotional day, emotional meeting. Because when a great player like Paul allows you to coach him as well, good things happen for all of us. And so that’s my favorite stuff. Other than that, there’s a lot of stories I can tell. My favorite basketball moment is the – the jump ball against Cleveland. Sure, when most people think about scoring, but we won that Game 7 because of a jump ball. A fundamental play, and Paul is the King of Fundamentals. So, that’s my favorite play with him.”
When you hear the name “Paul Pierce,” what goes through your mind?
“Oh, a lot. For me, more relationships. But from a fan’s standpoint, I would say this: In this day and time, he stayed. You know? You think about it – no one sticks. Everyone wants to jump around and look for the team that they can try to win with, and Paul could’ve done that. We were pretty bad for a stretch, and even before. And yet he stayed, and then it worked out for him. So I just think his loyalty to this organization and to his team was amazing.”
What does seeing so many retired numbers mean to you, as an opposing player and a coach?
“I think – I guess, maybe the Lakers, but other than that – and probably Montreal in hockey or somewhere. But, there’s no other place in sports where you would want your number retired. As in basketball, I don’t think there’s any other place. If you could choose where you would want your number retired, it would be in Boston. When you’re in the practice facility you see it every day, all those numbers. You see the banners and the numbers. And I think it means something. I think, like I said before, before I got here I didn’t realize – you always heard about the Celtic lore; you didn’t get it, because you wasn’t in it. Then when you get in it and you see guys like Bill Russell come around, and (John) Havlicek, Tommy Heinsohn who meant the most to me, because he was just very special for me. It’s not about them. It really isn’t. It’s all about being a Celtic. And there’s no organization – I can tell you that – there’s no other organization, maybe in sports, that has that type of loyalty. And it started with Red (Auerbach.)
What did you think of Robert Parish’s comment that Paul Pierce was the best scorer (over Larry Bird) in franchise history?
“It would be one of those two. It is not a deep argument, at least. Paul was a professional scorer. He really was. I joke a lot with Paul – when I was coaching the Magic, and he had the one big game against us, and I went in the locker room and ripped my team because I was like, ‘This guy is not fast, he’s not athletic,’ I mean – and I actually called him overweight. I said, “There’s no way this guy should be scoring.’ And then when you coach him, you see that he is fast, he is athletic, but he beats you with his brain. I mean, he beats you with fundamentals and his footwork. So, I would agree. I just think Paul, for one basket, Paul or Larry. But Paul, to me, was unstoppable. In his prime, he was – he was as un-guardable as there were.”
You once called Paul a “baller.”
“You know, he could play today. Like, he beat you with his brain, he didn’t need his speed. He’s just so darn smart on the floor. And from a coaching perspective, I mean, a lot of times you have to draw up plays. With Paul, you’d come in and say, ‘Where do you want to shoot the ball?’ And he would tell you where. And that made me a lot smarter. It really did.”
What about his intangibles?
“I think what people for get about Paul is that he moved over to win. A lot of players, and I say it all the time, say they want to win and all that stuff and then they do until they have to give up part of their day. Paul was the happiest out of everybody. When we got Kevin (Garnett) and Ray (Allen) he wanted to move over, he wanted to give room and to me that’s the intangibles that I see with Paul. His brain, his winning, he wanted to win, his drive and his love for basketball. That’s why I call him the baller, he loves playing. He went to our practices and he used to love playing one on one, he would play anybody one on one. Coaching my son and Austin’s (Rivers) best memory was when he was in high school playing one on one against Paul. He thought he was playing one on one’s against Paul, he didn’t know Paul was playing. It’s amazing.”
Why was it important for you to be here today?
“I love the guy. Listen, I got a ring and I wanted more because Paul, Kevin (Garnett), Ray (Allen), (Rajon) Rondo that whole group. I think Bill Parcels said it best, when you win something with someone it’s a blood transfusion and you’re connected for life. Paul and I talk a lot, stay in contact a lot and so do all of us. This is a day that we actually talked about before we won the title. This is literally a day we talked about, as far as a whole team, that was going to happen and we all said we’d be there.”
How much did the Championship cement the legacy?
“I just think it always cements it. When you win a title you become a main man and that made Paul. He would have had this night regardless of winning the title, but winning the title makes this day pretty special. As the Celtics do, I think it was very clever who they chose to play and do the retirement on. For me, I’m going to have a ball. I’ve never been to a NBA game in 30 years where I was sitting in the crowd. I’m going to have a beer, I’m going to yell at the refs all game, and I made even boo a couple times. It’s going to be an absolute wonderful ball.”
Re: Paul raised his game in those Finals
“He raised his game during the Finals, he raised his game in Game 7 against Cleveland. LeBron (James) had a hell of a game, but Paul Pierce was amazing in that game. You think about that whole run in those big games, the game in Detroit where we clinched that, the game where we came back in LA, that was Paul Pierce at his best. He was just confident. I think when you play as much as he played and if you were telling all the young guys now doing all the training and stuff, Paul Pierce just played basketball. Maybe we should all do that a little bit more.”
Do you expect KG (Kevin Garnett) is going to be next Celtic to have his number retired?
“I hope so. He’s a tough one, he definitely should be, but he should be in Minnesota too. That will be the funniest one because he won’t want to be there (laughs). You know, knowing Kevin he’ll love the honor, but the attention and Kevin don’t go together. That would be very interesting. I would really enjoy that.”
Antoine Walker said he thought Paul was one of the best scorers, especially in the bigger games in 4th quarter, do you agree?
“I don’t know. I would say yes just from coaching him. He made a lot of big shots, but again he kind of knew where he wanted it, he was so confident. Him and Larry (Bird) in that way were very similar. Larry at the end of the games, I played in that frame with Larry I don’t know what he had but it felt like he had 1,000 in Game 7 against us in Atlanta. Larry just felt like he knew where he was going, you knew where he was going and he kept scoring and that was Paul. You heard guys every night, you’re not going to your right on the right elbow and Paul would be like we’ll see and that where he ended up.”
Being a part of the organization, you don’t get it until you are, how much did you have to learn after you left?
“I knew already. When I decided to go I knew what I was leaving and I said it actually I’ll never have anything like this, because you don’t, you don’t have it. You appreciate it even more when you’re away, but I knew it before I left. You leave this organization you know you’re leaving something special. The fanbase, the whole thing, all of you guys (media), I mean are you kidding me. You don’t get that anywhere in basketball, maybe in some other sports they have this, but this is different. It’s always been different and that’s what makes it special and you have to be a part of it to understand it.”
Do you regret leaving?
“I regret leaving you (to Bill Doyle/media – laughs). I thought it was time for me. I had a nine-year run and I just really believe you have your time, I’m just a believer in that. Do I miss it yea, I’ve always missed it. I’ve missed it from the day I left I missed it. Again, you don’t get this.”
Preview for Wednesday?
“Yeah the preview for Wednesday – all I know is that the last time we played before All-Star break both teams decided no defense, if you remember that game. I think it was like 150 and we were number one and two in the league on defense. Let’s hope that happens again it will be fun.”