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November 28, 2007
John Molori's Media Blitz
BY: John Molori

THIS WEEK:

- Celtic revival
- Rising Stars, Falling Stars: Who's hot and not in sports media?

Gorman trumpets arrival of latest Celtics' renaissance

In his nearly three decades as Boston Celtics television play-by-play man, Mike Gorman has seen more rebuilding projects than the folks from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." This season, the Green is off to one of the best starts in team history, and once again, Gorman is front and center.

"I have never seen excitement like this so early," says Gorman, a Dorchester, MA native who calls Celtics action regionally on Comcast SportsNet. " Did you see Gilbert Arenas's blog after the opening game of the season? He said it was as incredible a building as he has ever been in, and that he was not ready for that type of atmosphere."

A veteran of the New England media scene since his early days at WPRO in Providence, Gorman believes that the current Celtics are taking a cue from their successful local brethren. He states, "They have picked up the ball from the Pats and Sox and they are running with it. They are capitalizing on the success of those two teams and the organization is very conscious of that.

"This is as good an ownership as I've been around. They have shown a willingness to spend money and when Danny (Ainge) has come to them saying he needed something, they have never said no. They also never gave any indication that Danny's or Doc's (Rivers) job was in jeopardy."

Indeed, C's owner Wyc Grousbeck and company have been patient almost to a fault with Ainge and Rivers. The fruits of this heretofore-questionable support now taste pretty sweet. "The ownership has given Danny a chance to do his thing," says Gorman, whose "Gorman Points" blog and mailbag can be seen at www.comcastsportsnet.com.

"He told me three or four years ago that he was going to collect some chips. Either those young players would develop, or he would trade them for established talent.

"If they had gotten the first or second draft pick, I think they would have taken Kevin Durant or Greg Oden and blended them in with Al Jefferson and the other young players. When that did not happen, Danny did a good job of putting another plan into effect. He had players that were desirable to other teams. He was never backed into a corner. Danny would have preferred to get Oden or Durant, but this option turned out even better."

Playing the lead in this Celtic revival is Kevin Garnett. Gorman is as impressed with KG's presence as he is with his performance. "After getting Ray Allen on draft night, Danny went back to Garnett and asked, ‘How do we look now?'

"Garnett is an old soul. I didn't know what to expect personality-wise. A lot of people have said that it would have been better to get Garnett when he was younger. I think we got him at the perfect time. He is motivated to win a title and Danny knew that."

The versatility and leadership of Garnett conjures up visions of past Celtic stars. Says Gorman, "I was fascinated talking to Garnett. He is inclusive. It is we, not I. He is extremely sensitive as well. He told me that in his entire career, he has never felt so appreciated. He wants to give back.

"We have a 7'1" guy who is our best rebounder, best passer, best defender and a great scorer. Only Larry Bird and Dave Cowens come to mind in that way. In college basketball, the coach's personality dominates the team. In the NBA, your best player's personality dominates the team."

The Celtics' fast start has fans licking their chops in anticipation of a playoff bonanza, but Gorman says that the journey might be as fun as the ultimate destination. "These guys are into the process of getting to where they want to be. There are in no hurry to get to May and June. They want to enjoy every practice and game. This is probably the best team that Ray Allen, Garnett and Paul Pierce have been on and they are going to make the Garden a tough place to play again."

Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen are powerful offensive forces, but Gorman focuses more on their defense and team philosophy. "The goal of really good players is to make the other guys around them better. With KG and Ray, guys like (Brian) Scalabrine and (Kendrick) Perkins can focus on their strengths.

"This team is so much better defensively. (Assistant coach) Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for coaching defense. I asked Tommy (Heinsohn) about the defense and he said that it is so much easier when the best player (Garnett) buys in.

"The top 8 players on this team can all play defense and they have all bought into this. I spoke to (WEEI midday host) Dale Arnold and he said, ‘Let' s see how things are 30 games into the season.' I told him that he has not been around Kevin Garnett too much."

One guy who is benefiting from being around Kevin Garnett is Paul Pierce. In the past, Gorman has stated that Pierce is not built to be a vocal leader. With Garnett's arrival, the Celtics captain can focus on playing, not public speaking.

"Sometimes, you love your job, but there is one part of it that you don' t like," Gorman relates. "That's how I see Pierce. With Garnett, Paul does not have to do that anymore. Paul tried to be the vocal leader, but it is not in his nature to stand up and speak in the locker room. Ray Allen is a great leader, but he is not very demonstrative. Garnett would give me a glare if he heard me say this, but ultimately, he will be the defining guy on this team."

With success comes pressure. Gorman recognizes that the great start has raised the bar for this team as the season progresses. "Doc welcomes the expectations. It's great to develop players, but you look up and you're 100 games under .500. Doc would rather hear people say that the Celtics should reach the Conference Finals as opposed to saying they might be an 8th seed and get knocked out in the first round."

"If this team loses a few games, they are not going to question themselves and turn it into a long losing streak. That's what happened with the young players last year. People have asked how many games I think this team will win this season. I tell them that the number for me is 72. If Garnett, Pierce, Ray Allen and Rondo can play 72 games, they will be great."

History shows that past Celtics teams put a strong emphasis on the point guard, whether it was Bob Cousy feeding Bill Russell inside, Jo Jo White whipping down the court to start the fastbreak or the late Dennis Johnson firing a laser to Larry Bird for an easy layup. This year's quarterback is Rajon Rondo, a veritable babe among the seasoned vets.

"Rondo is going to be fine," says Gorman. "He is scoring, but that's not even an issue. He is a strong defender and very smart with the ball. People ask if he can make shots. This team has three Hall of Famers. With KG and Ray, the Celtics are pushing the ball up the floor. If they get an early shot, they take it, but if not, these great players can get their touches and make teams defend.

"Doc wants to play 8 guys, 9 at the most in key games. One of the Big 3 (Pierce, Allen, Garnett) will always be on the floor, maybe even two of them. Rondo can tape his fingers together and the team will be fine."

Fine would be an understatement in describing the talent, class and consistency of Gorman's work. The man whose career began at WNBH in New Bedford, MA has won five Emmy Awards and was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Gorman perfectly balances his role as narrator, pace setter and straight man for the explosive personality of Heinsohn, his longtime partner. Gorman and Heinsohn are recognized as the longest running broadcast team in television sports history.

"I try be non-intrusive, hopefully adding to the viewing experience without interrupting it," says Gorman, who has also called Connecticut Sun WNBA hoops. "A little humor every now and then helps, and knowing when to be quiet is all important. Play-by-play announcers who think they are the show are all too common these days.

"There are too many guys who are just trying to get on "SportsCenter." Play-by-play is supposed to be spontaneous, not planned. With the possible exception of Keith Jackson on college football, I can't think of ever tuning into a game just to hear the play-by-play guy."

In addition to his legendary status as Celtics announcer, Gorman has also worked the Olympics for NBC. The 1992 Summer Games hold special meaning. "I got to spend a month in Barcelona with my wife Teri and our daughter Kristen (age 7 at the time). That was the year of the original basketball Dream Team with whom we spent a lot of time. As a family we still retell stories and adventures we had that month."

With those memories safely tucked away, Gorman, in his 27th season of Celtics play-by-play, is now experiencing a new dream. "I was spoiled to walk right in with the 1980s Celtics. Those teams were very rare and now to have it happen again, I am ecstatic. People say that Allen and Garnett are old, but come on, we are not talking about Roger Clemens here. These guys have all come together at the perfect time."

Rising Stars

Troy Aikman, Fox: Kudos to Aikman for giving credit to Bill Parcells for his role in revitalizing the Dallas Cowboys. Most of the mainstream media ignores the Tuna factor in Dallas because Parcells never bowed down to the press. Aikman's assertion that Parcells' keen eye for talent stacked this roster was long overdue.

Frank Deford, HBO: If you haven't seen Deford's latest "Real Sports" story about an organ recipient and the family of a young donor who committed suicide, you might have missed the most heart wrenching feature story of the year. It is worth seeing, and seeing again.

Andrea Kremer, NBC: Kremer continues to set the pace in sideline reporting on "Sunday Night Football." She made the impossible a reality, actually getting detailed information on injuries to Patriots players during the game vs. the Eagles. Al Michaels should have brought back his old "Do you believe in miracles?" call.

Falling Stars

Cris Carter, HBO: Carter is one of the most entertaining studio analysts on " Inside the NFL," but he did a mild flip-flop recently. Earlier in the season, Carter said that the Patriots could go undefeated. Recently, he stated that the Steelers would be the AFC's representative in the Super Bowl. So, which one is it, Cris?

USA Today: Tuesday's sports headline at USAToday.com read, "After close call vs. Eagles, Patriots are imperfect 11-0." Huh? I had no idea that a three-point win relegated a team to imperfection. I guess we better revisit the 1972 Dolphins supposed perfect season. On October 22, 1972, they beat the lowly Bills (4-8-1 season record) by only one point in Miami. Cancel that champagne order, boys.

Roger Goodell: The NFL commissioner has proven himself to be a heavy-handed despot when it comes to players toting guns or coaches taping opponents' signals, but his inaction in getting the NFL Network on basic cable packages is embarrassing. Goodell wields enough power to get the greedy cable companies (Hello, Comcast and your $7.95 a month fee) to surrender a few bucks and allow fans to see his product without sacrificing college for their children.

John Molori's columns have appeared in the Providence Journal, Lowell Sun, Eagle-Tribune, Boston Metro, Boston Sports Review, Boston Baseball Magazine, Patriots Football Weekly, New England Hockey Journal, BostonSportsMedia.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportz.com, Staatalent.com, Methuen Life and several newspapers and websites throughout New England. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.


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