Former Boston Celtics coach was one of the toughest NBA coaches ever. He will be unable to attend his Hall of Fame enshrinement due to illness.
Bill Fitch coached the Boston Celtics from 1979-1983, winning a Championship in 1981. He was tough as nails and a strict disciplinarian. Larry Bird, who matched Fitch’s toughness, joined Bill in the mutual-admiration pairing. Other Celtics players didn’t seem to share Larry’s fondness for “Captain Video”, as Bill was called for his love of having his understudies watch game film. Now the 87-year-old Fitch may miss his enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame due to illness.
Fitch was a 2-Time NBA Coach-of-the-Year winner (1976 and 1980) and a top-10 NBA Coach. It is fitting that Bird is scheduled to be Bill’s presenter as the mutual fondness persists. Here is an excerpt from a book by Larry Bird and Jackie MacMullan, Bird Watching: On Playing and Coaching the Game I Love:
I bet we weren’t in practice 20 minutes, and Fitch starts killing us. He just ran us into the ground. I didn’t know any better. I thought it was normal. All of a sudden, Fitch blows the whistle and says, “Okay Curtis (Rowe), go on and get dressed. They’ll send you your checks.”
And Curtis Rowe was gone from the Celtics right then and there. Fitch and Bird were both no-nonsense individuals.
I always suspected that Rowe’s ejection from the Boston Celtics was partially due to (from Bird’s book) Curtis’ participation with Sidney Wicks and Cedric Maxwell in “giving me all that grief about being the Great White Hope” and being “really smart ass about it.” Fitch knew quickly in Bird’s rookie year what he had in Larry, and he didn’t see anything close to that talent in Rowe.
Bill Fitch was a tough coach, but he was needed at the time to get the Celtics team in gear. It worked nicely. We wish Bill well. He deserves the enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. I don’t think Curtis Rowe ever made it there.
Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel and @_Celtics_Center