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Wyc Grousbeck: "This is magical right now"
I’m so proud of the amazing turnaround for the Celtics this year. Congratulations! I am a lifelong Celtics fan originally from NY. Given current success of the Celtics, how active will you be in free agency? The key players are all in their 30s and I want to make sure that the Celtics are successful for years to come. It would be great to pick up another marquee player, e.g. Antawn Jamison.
Wyc Grousbeck: As you know, we can't talk about other teams' players. But we will be as active as we can, although we are over the salary cap and the luxury tax line. With Kevin, Paul and Ray all signed for multiple years, and playing so well together, it makes sense for us to bring in as much supporting talent as possible. League rules restrict what we can offer to free agents financially but we can offer the chance to be part of a contending team in a great sports city. By the way, we put a few playoff tickets on sale yesterday and got over 780,000 phone calls in less than an hour. Thanks to all the Celtics fans, sorry if you didn't get through.
I would love to get into sports business as that is my real passion. I was a tennis player in college but I have a passion for all sports mainly tennis, soccer and basketball. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions as to how I could get into the sport industry. How did you work your way up to eventually owning the Boston Celtics?
WG: Jason, I had a career as an investor originally and thanks to some great partners, and some good luck, I was able to build up some capital and organize the purchase of the team with my Celtics partners. That's different than becoming a team employee, which can almost be more difficult sometimes. I tell recent graduates that sports teams really mostly hire sales professionals. We need to sell tickets and sponsorships to fans and corporations. We don't need much marketing expertise since our brand and our "product line" is essentially set in stone. So getting direct sales experience, cold calling people, and excelling at it is a good choice. Another method is to work for one of our sponsors, like Anheuser Busch, SAB Miller, Pepsi, or Adidas, and focus on their sports team relationships. You will meet many team representatives, you will already have a career in the sports world, and you might be able to join a team eventually.
I'm a Celtic fan from Iceland and the Celtics have a lot of supporters here. I want to ask to ask Wyc Grousbeck... Which one of the three All-Stars has been the team's best player this season?
WG: Stefan, I could say Paul Pierce – his defense has been amazing, and his offensive production leads the team. Paul has been here since we bought the team and he is a personal favorite of mine for that reason. I could say Ray Allen – his shooting has won many games and he consistently spreads the floor for the rest of the team. He too is playing defense at a very high level and is working with the younger players on the team to make sure they can contribute. And I could say KG – his intensity is off the charts, he can bring the Garden crowd to its feet in one second, and he is the dominant leader of the league's best defense. You choose! I can't. One thing you might not know is that all three of those players are also doing incredible things off the court with charities in our community. I am proud that they are Celtics.
If you could have any additional kind of analytical or statistical computer program to help you, one that is not currently available, what would it do? What is your ideal, dream basketball software?
WG: Phil, we have a "skunk works" of advanced statisticians and computer people who basically work 24/7. They focus both on game preparation, offensively and defensively, and on the draft. They are doing some analytical things that we don't even talk about. Let's put it this way, our coaches and scouts can't think of a question that our statisticians can't answer. I had better leave it at that...
At Celtics home games, why do you sit way down at one baseline? If I were you, I’d be right at midcourt.
WG: I have some seats at midcourt too. I agree, they are great. But I like being under the basket for one reason... When there is a last second buzzer beating shot heading towards the rim, you can tell as soon as it leaves the shooter's hand whether or not he is going to make it. That's just how it is when you sit right under the hoop. It is the best seat in sports.
We all know the Big Three is the franchise for now but down the road do you see Glen Davis as a building block for the future? Or who do you see the future of the franchise being?
WG: The first name that came to mind is Rajon Rondo – if I had to pick one young guy as a building block. As Chris Paul and Deron Williams are showing, you can build around a great young point guard. On the other hand, we don't need to pick one name. We have Rajon and Big Baby, as well as Perk, Tony, Leon, Gabe, let's keep them all together and see what happens.
How you going to make sure that in three years the Celtics don’t turn into the Miami we’re seeing today?
WG: I don't have anything at all bad to say about the Heat – they have championship rings, do a great job in the community, and are owned by a great guy, Micky Arison. Injuries hurt them this year like they hurt us last year. Our long-term hope is to keep our veterans together while we build up the talented young guys we have – and when the vets retire hopefully the younger guys can take over.
Are you looking to see the Celtics and the Lakers in the Finals?
WG: I'm looking at the first round... We have a lot of work to do. We can't look ahead. If we ever get to the Finals – any year – we will play whoever they send us. And if we have home court, our Boston fans will make it real tough for them.
What was it like over the summer of 2007? Rumors of Paul Pierce wanting out, getting close to getting KG but falling short, then making a move for Ray Allen and thus opening the door for KG to arrive. Did you expect such a transformation after losing the draft lottery and only ending up with the No. 5 pick in the draft?
WG: No, I didn’t expect a season exactly like this – this is magical right now. But Paul committed to us to come back strong, and we committed to find him some help. So Paul was not a worry. He's a true Celtic. Then once we traded for Ray Allen, we knew that we still had enough trade pieces to get another great player. Danny Ainge was confident we could make another move, and we did. When I was in the lottery ball room, I knew before any other Celtic that we had gotten pick No. 5. I had about 55 minutes to sit there and think how disappointed everyone was going to be. Now – it looks a lot different.
A few music questions... You are the drummer of French Lick. What do the players and Celtics staff think about it? Who's your favorite rock band of all time? Do know Queens Of The Stone Age, the #1 rock band nowadays? Did you name yourselves French Lick because of Larry Bird?
WG: I don't bother the players and staff with my band too much – we don't play at Celtics games or anything like that. We have a lot of fun playing Led Zeppelin, Who and Rolling Stones songs at charity events and in rock clubs. "Who's Next" has to be my favorite album, and Led Zeppelin or the Who my favorite band, but I will listen to Dire Straits, Pearl Jam, Black Crowes, Sister Hazel, Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, and 1,000 other bands very gladly. I like "Little Sister" by Queens of the Stone Age but don't have a lot of their stuff. French Lick – you got it right.
What's the funniest part of being the Celtics owner?
WG: The most fun part is bringing kids to meet their favorite player – especially kids with "special needs". It can really make a kid smile. Our players are so great with them. The funniest part is hearing some of the things the players say to one another, or to the refs, and being right there able to chime in from my seats.
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