Brian Scalabrine, who was the featured guest at a party Tuesday night welcoming him back to Boston, says the Celtics are one player away from being one of the East’s top teams. (Courtesy 2 Gingers)
Boston, he’s home.
Brian Scalabrine announced his homecoming in LeBron James-esque fashion in August, as the former Celtics power forward will handle the bulk of color commentary for Celtics road games this season for Comcast Sports New England.
“LeBron really set the template for me,” a smiling Scalabrine said. “But I put that letter together once I knew I was going back to Boston and I wasn’t coaching anymore.”
Scalabrine returned to Boston on Tuesday night for a welcome home party at Battery Park hosted by 2 Gingers Irish whiskey, and he sat down with WEEI.com to share his thoughts on why he’s no longer coaching, Rajon Rondo‘s future in green, and his memories playing with the NBA champion Celtics.
Although he was demoted last season from his job as a Warriors assistant coach after having a falling out with then-coach Mark Jackson, Scalabrine said he left coaching — despite having offers — to spend more time with his family, including three children under the age of 8.
“It’s better for me, right now in my life, to have a much better balance in my life with my family and basketball,” he explained. “It looked like leaving coaching was not my decision, but in reality, it was my decision to leave the Warriors.”
While Celtics fans will enjoy the opportunity to hear Scalabrine analyze games and banter with Mike Gorman during road trips, he said he did have opportunities to join an NBA staff this season, including that of new Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
“I could have gone back to Golden State,” he said. “I could have coached with Doc [Rivers], and could have coached with Thibs [Tom Thibodeau] in Chicago.
“But I still have an opportunity to coach. I had an opportunity to work out players before the draft, and I worked out Marcus Smart, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. This job is a great opportunity to be around the game without the grind of film and all the other major commitments.”
Scalabrine isn’t shy to admit the Celtics — as currently constituted — are a fringe playoff team. But he says they’re not as far away as some might think.
“The Celtics are one really good center away,” he said. “And I’m talking about a guy who can plug the lane or roll down the lane, get the ball from Rondo and rise up. This team has Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, two really good stretch 4’s that also rebound and defend their position. But if you add a 5 to the mix — a Steven Adams type or Omer Asik — this team goes from fighting to make the playoffs to a team fighting for home-court advantage.”
Scalabrine played with Jason Kidd in New Jersey and Derrick Rose in Chicago, and he coached Stephen Curry in Golden State, so he knows a great point guard when he sees one.
“Rondo is one of the top three passers in the game,” he said. “When Rajon comes off the pick and roll, all four guys are an option.”
There is almost no chance, in Scalabrine’s eyes, that Danny Ainge moves his star point guard.
“Unless you’re getting an All-Star-caliber player with a draft pick, you’re not trading Rajon,” he said. “The Celtics still look at him as the guy who can lead them to a championship if they put the right pieces around him.”
Rondo is a lightning rod for criticism among the media, and Scalabrine understands why.
“Everyone wants this guy to be superior every night,” he said. “Then, when he’s disconnected, people are upset. But we have to realize it’s very difficult for a 6-1 guard in the NBA to do that every single night with the pounding you have to take. We should be more excited about what he can do and stop harping on what he can’t.
“This year, I really want Rondo just to shut up all the critics. He’s the smartest player I’ve ever played with, and Rondo needs to teach these guys what to do. He can’t get frustrated that his teammates aren’t where he thinks they should be.”
Happy to be back in Boston, Scalabrine couldn’t resist sharing a story about former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett.
“Before the game — there’s 65 minutes on the clock — and there’s Kevin watching ‘Family Guy,’ ” Scalabrine recalled. “Then ‘Family Guy’ ends, there’s 60 minutes on the clock, and he is this totally new guy, all about winning. His ability to lock in for every game — whether it was a Tuesday night in the preseason or a national game against the Lakers on TNT — he was always locked in and ready to go. His mindset never changed, and that’s the most special thing I’ve ever seen in a player.’
Before mingling with the crowd and serving up drinks, Scalabrine thanked the Boston fans for their continued support.
“I’m here tonight with 2 Gingers Irish whiskey,” he said. “And they’re all about following your passion. It’s such a perfect fit — especially with me back in Boston, a place I love.”